$1 million in Cancer Council NSW project grants
Two University of Newcastle (UON) cancer researchers from the School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy in the Faculty of Health and Medicine have been awarded more than $1 million in Cancer Council NSW project grants for 2015.
Professor Xu Dong Zhang has been awarded close to $675,000 for two research projects.
One project will investigate RIP1 as a novel therapeutic target in melanoma. In this project, despite recent advances in targeted therapy and immunotherapy, curative treatment of metastatic melanoma remains an unmet health problem. Professor Zhang and his team will potentially demonstrate that a protein called RIP1 is abnormally expressed at high levels in melanoma cells, and plays an important role in melanoma cell survival and resistance to treatment, thus identifying inhibition of RIP1, either alone or in combination with other drugs, as a novel approach in the treatment of melanoma.
The other project will investigate elevated INPP4B as a biomarker and therapeutic target in colorectal cancer. Although early-detected bowel cancer is potentially curable, fewer than 40% of bowel cancers are noticed at early stages. Patients with late-stage bowel cancer being treated with drugs eventually die of the disease due to drug resistance. In this project, Professor Zhang and his team will identify inhibition of INPP4B that is increased in bowel cancer cells, either alone or in combination with other drugs, as a novel approach in the treatment of bowel cancer, thus improving treatment benefit.
Dr Nikki Verrills has been awarded just under $360,000 for her research into a novel biomarker for luminal B breast cancer. With almost 3,000 Australians dying of breast cancer each year, this project will test if a new 'gene marker' can predict which patients won't survive and therefore should be offered new therapies. Importantly, Dr Verrills and her team have discovered that breast cancer cells with this gene marker are sensitive to a drug already in clinical use for other cancers. Therefore, if successful, their study could lead directly to human trials, with the ultimate goal of curing those patients for whom no cure exists.