Cutting-edge cancer research
At GRIDD, we’re exploring a range of treatments and technologies to help combat various types of cancer, such as breast cancer, prostate cancer and brain tumors.
Advancements in personalised medicine
As researchers and clinicians recognise what may heal one person may not work for another, personalised medicine grows in importance. The transformation of cancer care toward personalised medicine allows clinicians to select tailored treatments that can greatly improve chances of survival and quality of life. While clinicians rely on diagnostic tests to determine whether targets for the selected chemotherapy are present in the patient’s cancer, medical imaging agents used in hospitals are not very specific. GRIDD has developed an agent to identify cancers using Positron Emission Tomography (PET). A proof-of-concept imaging agent was able to differentiate those cancers with the drug target from cancers without that target. This research was published in late 2016.
Designing better drugs
Breast cancer progression and metastasis often results in dissemination to the bone, thus cancer cells interact with a new microenvironment. These cells may remain quiescent for prolonged periods rendering existing therapeutics ineffective. Deciphering the milieu surrounding these cells in the bone microenvironment requires more detailed characterisation to improve drug discovery efforts. Building on our 3D imaging models, we are establishing new 3D models for metastasis to further our understanding of how the cells interact with one another, and the key factors that influence this. The more we understand about this environment, the more effectively we can design new drugs which target it.
Doxorubicin is a standard-of-care therapeutic for the treatment of breast cancer. Resistance to this drug occurs frequently, making it less effective against the cancer cells. Using advanced 3D cell models, we are investigating the mechanisms and factors within the tumour microenvironment, which reduce the effect doxorubicin has on breast cancer cells.
Metastasis to the bone also occurs with the advancement of prostate cancer. The specific factors surrounding this event and the establishment of the tumour in the bone have yet to be fully elucidated. Understanding the events which take place, and the role of the different immune cells in this process, will provide insights into how best to address and treat metastases.
We are exploiting small molecule libraries to identify new specific inhibitors against multiple different targets.
Professor Avery also heads the Queensland node of the Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx) based at GRIDD. The CTx mission is to discover new small molecules with potential for development into pre-clinical drug candidates, for the next generation of cancer therapies. The Avery team plays an integral role within CTx, providing expertise in molecular and cellular biology, high-throughput and high-content imaging capabilities for hit identification, and to support lead generation and optimisation.
Potential to impact cancer treatment
The Davis team has recently discovered three novel and potent natural products from Australian biota that have unique mechanisms of action. These compounds inhibit or stop topoisomerase II and/or microtubule dynamics, which are validated cancer drug targets and have the potential to impact cancer research and future oncology treatments. Further studies are underway, with the intention of undertaking preclinical studies.
The team is also creating analogue libraries around specific bioactive natural products. This approach involves the semi-synthesis of 10 to 20 derivatives of each prioritised natural product compound and may lead to significant gains in potency in the drug discovery process. Should further research verify improved activity in the analogues, the next step is partnering with industry for clinical testing and commercial development.
Dr Yun Feng aims to combine age-old knowledge of Traditional Chinese Medicines with modern drug discovery techniques to better understand how the traditional medicines work, and ultimately introduce the ancient medicine to the western market. Dr Feng’s disease focus includes tongue and breast cancer, as well as neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinson’s disease. Dr Feng also investigates bioactive natural products from Australian plants and marine organisms. In 2015, Dr Feng received a Queensland-Chinese Academy of Sciences Science Fund grant. You can read some of Dr Feng’s recent high-impact publications here: