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 and his team have been awarded a 2023 Early to Mid-Career Researchers Grant valued at $524,762.

Dr Dharmasivam will be Chief Investigator A for the project ‘Development of Bespoke Chemotherapeutics that Target Advanced, Drug-Resistant Tumours by a Novel Mechanism’.

Dr Busra Kaya and Professor Des Richardson from the Centre for Cancer Cell Biology and Drug Discovery will join him as Chief Investigator B and Mentor/Supervisor, respectively.

“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 shocking statistics highlight an urgent need for more effective 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 ageing – such as cancer – and also people with untreatable diseases like those with aggressive, resistant advanced prostate cancers.

“A clinical trial with our thiosemicarbazone drugs that overcame Pgp resistance by an innovative mechanism, showed that it caused muscle pain in patients due to deleterious met-myoglobin generation, which is the harmful production of altered myoglobin in muscle cells. This alteration can interfere with normal oxygen transport and storage functions, potentially causing damage to the muscle tissue.

“This indicated the need for a new generation of anti-cancer agents, which we have now designed and demonstrate exciting anti-cancer activity and totally prevent deleterious met-myoglobin generation.

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

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 fulfil their promise of new hope for Australian patients.”

/University Release. View in full here.