Prostate cancer treatment given new hope with MRFF win

Dr Mahendiran Dharmasivam.

A Griffith University team with the aim of developing a new generation of anti-cancer agents for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer is among the 110 health and medical research projects awarded a share of nearly $230 million by the Federal Government.

Under the Government’s Medical Research Future Fund scheme, Griffith University researcher Dr Mahendiran Dharmasivam (CIA), Dr. Busra Kaya (CIB) and mentor and supervisor, Professor Des Richardson have been awarded a 2023 Early to Mid-Career Researchers Grant valued at $524,762.

The team from the Centre for Cancer Cell Biology and Drug Discovery will work on the project ‘Development of Bespoke Chemotherapeutics that Target Advanced, Drug-Resistant Tumours by a Novel Mechanism’.

“There is no effective treatment for advanced prostate cancer and drug resistance is a major therapeutic obstacle for many advanced tumours, including prostate cancer,” Dr Dharmasivam said. 

“Docetaxel is a clinically used drug but only provides a modest survival advantage prostate cancer patients, with many advanced prostate tumours acquiring P-glycoprotein (Pgp)-mediated resistance, which can lead to death.

“Strikingly, advanced prostate cancer results in 13.3% of all male cancer deaths in Australia and a man has a 1-in-5 risk of developing advanced prostate by the age of 85, with 55 men being diagnosed each day. These statistics highlight an urgent need for more effective drugs.

“As one of few Australian examples of anti-cancer drug development from bench-to-bedside by a single lab, our Centre have been successful in translating our discoveries. The current studies will lead to new anti-cancer agents with marked anti-tumour selectivity that exceeds our previous clinically-trialled drugs.”

This proposal addresses two priority populations that are the focus of this Stream 1 MRFF Early to Mid-Career Researchers Grant, which is people experiencing diseases of aging – such as cancer – and also people with untreatable diseases like those with aggressive, resistant advanced prostate cancers.

Minister for Health and Aged Care The Hon Mark Butler MP said: “I am pleased to announce that nearly $230 million in funding will help Australia’s researchers to discover new ways to tackle many of the health and medical issues that impact people every day. Emerging researchers will be helped to develop their skills and grow their careers in Australia, while promising new treatments will get to market earlier and fulfill their promise of new hope for Australian patients.”