Researchers win $2.5 Million in Cancer Council WA funding

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Projects ranging from a world-first trial to test radiotherapy for mesothelioma patients to targeted therapies to treat those with advanced breast cancer are among those to be awarded research funding by Cancer Council WA.

More than $2.5 million of the total $3.2 million available was allocated to researchers at The University of Western Australia and its affiliates the Harry Perkins Institute for Medical Research, Telethon Kids Institute, Lung Institute of WA and Lions Eye Institute.

Radiotherapy is widely used in mesothelioma treatment to help ease pain and kill cancer cells but has not been tested in clinical trials to prove that it shrinks mesothelioma tumours, relieves pain symptoms or improves quality of life.

Professor Anna Nowak, from UWA's School of Medicine and Pharmacology, is leading a research project that aims to predict whether a mesothelioma patient would respond to radiotherapy and avoid treating some patients unnecessarily.

Professor Nowak said measuring the hypoxia or low oxygen levels in a tumour appeared to be a predictor of responsiveness to radiotherapy in other cancers. Researchers will recruit 40 mesothelioma patients who have been recommended for radiotherapy.

Associate Professor Pilar Blancafort, from UWA's School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology, was awarded a four-year research fellowship to explore new genome-based therapies for advanced breast cancer patients, who face limited treatment options.  These therapies target the cancer genes that are not functioning properly.

"We aim to use epigenetic tailoring which means modifying genes and changing the ways they drive disease by either turning them on or off," Professor Blancafort said.  "This helps the cancer cells function more like healthy cells again."

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