Professor Allan Evans, Professor Stuart Pitson and Professor Bob Vink
New research from UniSA and SA Pathology’s Centre for Cancer Biology (CCB) could support more effective chemotherapy treatment for one of the most lethal brain cancers, Glioblastoma. The research will receive a boost of $68,000 from the Neurosurgical Research Foundation (NRF), allowing leading brain cancer researcher, Professor Stuart Pitson, to take his work one-step closer to clinical application.
As head of CCB’s Molecular Signalling Laboratory, Prof Pitson and his team examine the molecular mechanisms controlling the growth and survival of cancer cells with the goal of developing new agents to target these mechanisms for anti-cancer therapy.
Prof Pitson says Glioblastoma is one of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer and is especially resilient to treatment.
“This cancer affects people of all ages and has an extremely low survival rate – often from diagnosis to death can be as little as a few months – it is a devastating disease,” Pitson says.
“Treatment is generally a combination of surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible, followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and often after all of that, life is extended by just a few months.
“We have discovered that this kind of brain cancer is quite resistant to radiotherapy and chemotherapy because in Glioblastoma the metabolism of lipids is defective. We’ve found what we call a ‘survival protein’, which protects it from these treatments.
“Our research has focussed on how we can overcome this and improve the beneficial effects of the chemotherapy and radiotherapy for sufferers.
“We’ve isolated the survival protein and have discovered an agent that makes the brain cancer cells more sensitive and therefore vulnerable to the chemotherapy treatment. Our goal is to develop the agent so that it can be used with chemotherapy, maximising its attack on the tumour.”
“We are advancing this work into pre-clinical models and the results have been extremely promising and at this stage of the project we are extremely grateful for this important support from the NRF.
“Clinical trials in patients with Glioblastoma are at least four years away but this is an important advance in the treatment of a terrible cancer.”
The support of the NRF is vital and encouraging, and ensures work being done by Prof Stuart Pitson and his team can be driven to clinical application.
The NeuroSurgical Research Foundation (NRF) raises money for life-saving and life-changing neurosurgical research. It supports research targeted at new treatments, greater understanding, longer survival, and better quality of life.
University of South Australia researchers and postgraduate students are working on many fronts to find the answers to the questions that still remain in our fight against cancer. Our University's ability to combine wide-ranging expertise across many disciplines helps us deliver innovative breakthroughs using a combination of new science, new techniques and new technologies.