Canberra scientist ‘on verge’ of cancer breakthrough

A TREATMENT to help stop the spread of recurring cancer could be less than a decade away, according to a Canberra scientist. Lab1

Dr Sudha Rao, an associate professor in molecular and cellular biology at the University of Canberra, and her team of researchers have identified critical proteins, that if blocked, can neutralise the cells that spread primary cancer around the body.

“We aim to demonstrate that a combination therapy of chemotherapy plus the inhibition of cancer stem cells could prevent cancer recurrence,” Dr Rao says.

Focusing on breast cancer, which remains the leading cause of cancer-related death in women, Dr Rao built on previous work which identified a group of cells that are resilient to current cancer treatments and spread the cancer to other parts of the body, called the cancer stem cells, which are also responsible for recurrence.

“There is very little therapy to fight aggressive cancers such as breast cancer and the available treatments are harsh and in many cases, superficial and transient,” she says.

“And once they recur, there is no treatment whatsoever. We are determined to fix that.”

By looking at how these cancer stem cells are wired up at their gene level and understanding what makes them different to normal breast cells, Dr Rao and her colleagues were able to identify small molecule inhibitors that drugs can specifically target.

Dr Rao and her research colleagues received $571,894 from the National Health and Medical Research Council  for the project.



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