New Oral Chemotherapies to Combat Cancer Supported by Cycling Tour

Tour de Cure riders

One of the University’s most exciting and talented researchers is developing a less invasive approach of drug delivery to fight cancer through the breakthrough development of oral chemotherapies.

Internationally renowned biopharmaceutical researcher and head of the UniSA Clinical and Health Science Nanostructure and Drug Delivery Group (NADD), Professor Clive Prestidge, is striving to develop a successful new cancer treatment – delivered orally – that improves chemotherapy absorption, lower toxicity, and maximum reduction in tumour growth.

This research will be financially supported by Tour de Cure’s 2021 South Australian Discovery Tour (SADT) which Clive himself – a keen cyclist – will be onboard for. As of the end of March, Tour de Cure and the participants of the 2021 South Australian Discovery Tour have raised $400,000 to support Clive’s project at UniSA, and another one at Flinders Foundation.

In early 2019, though, Clive’s own cancer research took on personal significance when he was diagnosed with bowel cancer himself. The experience has made him even more passionate about finding a breakthrough in improved cancer treatment.


(Left) Clive and some fellow UniSA TDC cyclists on a training ride. (Right) Clive in his lab holding a pharmaceutical formulation he is working on.
(Left) Clive and some fellow UniSA TDC cyclists on a training ride. (Right) Clive in his lab holding a pharmaceutical formulation he is working on.


“I didn’t expect it. The previous weekend I’d ridden 200 kilometres in the charity ride for the Tour Down Under. I felt fighting fit,” Clive says. “Working in this field, the stories that you come across are compelling. It all feels very close to home.”

“Fortunately, chemotherapy was not part of my treatment,” Clive says. “One of the concerning issues is just how compromised chemotherapy patients’ immune systems become. They are susceptible to getting very sick from basic colds and flus, let alone something like coronavirus.”

Clive leads a drug delivery research group focused on pharmaceutical formulation and says the lipid-based technology he and his team are working on not only changes the way chemotherapy drugs are absorbed in the body but also “crosses the biological barriers and changes their distribution to make them safer.

“Current bowel cancer drugs can cause mucosal and gut damage. The cocktail of highly toxic drugs is very severe and hits the whole body. The gastrointestinal system becomes white and inflamed as the chemotherapy destroys the gut’s lining and people can get life-threatening diarrhea.”

“If our oral drug delivery enables more site-specific, targeted treatment then the cancer patient’s recovery is faster and long-term side effects are limited.”

While precision or personalised cancer treatments are very much in the spotlight, these new oral delivery systems will serve to enhance the distribution pathway of the drugs we currently use.


Professor Clive Prestidge and some of his team in their labs.
Professor Clive Prestidge and some of his team in their labs.


“It’s true, some of the best new medicines are targeted therapies,” says Clive. “But most standard practice still uses traditional chemotherapy and is likely to for some time, and so we need to improve the efficacy-toxicity balance of existing drug delivery methods.”

On the other side of his health crisis, Clive is back to cycling every week and says the things he now values most are his family, his friends, his health, and the work that he gets to do.

“If things hadn’t gone the way that they did, my story could look much different.”

In fact, the researcher – keen cyclist as well – will be on board the 2021 SADT’s three stages, cycling alongside his fellow UniSA teammates throughout Clare, Barossa, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale.

Together with Flinders Foundation and the team from Tour de Cure, April 9 will see the 2021 SADT kick off – a three-day ride two years in the making – with some very eager riders traversing through the best of the State’s Wine Region.

Over the last 12 years, Tour de Cure, their tours, and inspiring cohort of fundraisers have raised over $45 Million, funding 322 cancer projects, contributing to more than 25 cancer advances and breakthroughs, taking their message of a healthy lifestyle to 110,000 school children, and the wider public.

Each cyclist has a personal connection to cancer, whether they are survivors, supporting loved ones with cancer or paying tribute to loved ones that have succumbed to it, or are researchers or staff dedicating their careers to eradicating it.


A 2019 SADT Team peloton on Kangaroo Island last Tour
A 2019 SADT Team peloton on Kangaroo Island last Tour


Alongside Clive, a dedicated group of his fellow University of South Australia cancer researchers and staff will be donning their best lycra and hopping on their bikes in coming weeks fundraise for this vital cancer research.

Joining Professor Clive Prestidge will be fellow UniSA cancer researchers, Strand Leader and Lloyd Sansom Chair in Biomaterials Engineering & Nanomedicine, Professor Peter Hoffmann and Associate Professor Ivan Kempson of the Future Industries Institute (FII), Rob King of the Centre for Cancer Biology, and Dr Jessica Logan, research fellow within the Mechanisms in Cell Biology and Disease research group (MICBAD).

Other staff members on board will be Senior Advancement Executive Paul Finn, University Chemical Officer Charles Nelson, Director: Defence & Space Matt Opie, Institute Manager Kellie La Fontaine, International Marketing Support Officer Deanna Hall, Adjunct Professor of Law and Criminal Justice Professor Rick Sarre, Deputy Director Marketing and Student Recruitment Ryan Bailey, and Associate Professor Colin Hall of the Energy and Advanced Manufacturing Strand at FII.

The 2021 South Australian Discovery Tour will take on 450 kilometres, over three stages throughout Clare, Barossa, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale. They will also visit rural schools to share their ‘Be Fit, Be Healthy, Be Happy’ cancer prevention message, sampling some of South Australia’s finest exports, raising money for this very worthy cause.


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The University of South Australia (UniSA) is committed to tackling one of our most challenging diseases – cancer – by establishing the largest cohort of cancer researchers ever assembled in South Australia. Every day our experts are getting one-step closer to saving more lives as well as improving the quality of life for cancer survivors. But they need your help.

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