Funding boost for Flinders cancer researchers

Two Flinders University research projects, one tackling the mental health of cancer patients and another investigating a potential prostate cancer treatment, have received research grants in the latest round of funding announcements from Cancer Australia.

Both grants have been awarded through the 2020 Priority-driven Collaborative Cancer Research Scheme (PdCCRS) and funded by Cancer Australia.

In the PdCCRS, Cancer Australia joins with other Government and non-Government organisations to collaboratively fund national cancer research projects in areas of identified priority.

Associate Professor Lisa Beatty

Associate Professor Lisa Beatty from the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work and her team have been awarded over $545,000 for the project ‘Finding My Way-Advanced: Can a web-based psychosocial intervention improve mental quality of life for women with metastatic breast cancer?’.

The project will investigate whether an online psychosocial program can lead to improved quality of life, reduced distress, and health care use for women with metastatic breast cancer (MBC). While MBC is treatable, and some women experience extended survival of over 10 years, the cancer ultimately remains incurable. Psychological distress is experienced by 35-43% of women with MBC, which can impair quality of life and increase health system burden. Yet access to support remains problematic for the 3000 women diagnosed every year with MBC in Australia.

Previous research from Associate Professor Beatty’s team found an online cognitive behaviour therapy-based program for curatively treatable cancer patients led to immediate reductions in health service use and longer-term improvement in mental quality of life. The highest uptake of the program was amongst women with early-stage breast cancer.

The investigators have since designed a new program, ‘Finding My Way-Advanced’, the first online interactive psychological intervention for women with metastatic breast cancer. This new funding will allow the research group to undertake a national randomised control trial to test the efficacy of the program.

The project is in collaboration with the Breast Cancer Network Australia, with the national and international research team also including Flinders University researchers Professor Bogda Koczwara, Dr Emma Kemp, Associate Professor Billingsley Kaambwa and Professor Richard Woodman from the College of Medicine and Public Health.

Associate Professor Luke Selth

Associate Professor Luke Selth from the College of Medicine and Public Health and his team have been awarded over $450,000 for the project ‘Targeting CDK9 in lethal prostate cancer’’.

The project will test whether drugs that target a protein called cyclin dependent kinase 9 (CDK9), which drives the growth of metastatic prostate cancer, can be an effective treatment for this common disease.

Current methods for treating metastatic prostate cancer, including androgen deprivation therapy and chemotherapy, are effective at prolonging life but cannot cure patients and are associated with debilitating side-effects.

The project will investigate the effectiveness of new CDK9-targeting drugs developed by the team, while also determining how effective the drugs are when used in combination with current therapies. The team also aims to identify markers that could be used to predict patients that would benefit the most from CDK9 inhibitors.

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