Dedicated researcher Dr Irene Zinonos is continuing her groundbreaking research at the Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research (BHI), working alongside Associate Professor Lisa Butler, to develop a completely new way to predict tumour behaviour and help people make more effective treatment choices.
Collaborating with A/Prof Butler along with the prostate cancer team at the BHI and South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, they are focusing on lipids (fatty tissue) which are the building blocks of cells and the link between them and cancer.
When prostate cancer is diagnosed, it can be difficult to tell whether it is a slow-growing, low risk cancer, that can be easily treated by surgery or whether it is high risk disease that requires a more aggressive treatment strategy.
Unfortunately because of this, many men are treated as if their cancer is high risk, leading to unnecessary surgery with associated complications and reduction in quality of life.
“Prostate cancer cells need lipids to grow and multiply and lipids influence how the cancer cells behave. By looking at the different types of lipids in human prostate cancer samples, we have uncovered an association of prostate cancer aggressiveness and the presence of certain lipid modifications in the tumours that has not yet been realised,” Dr Zinonos explained.
“Through this we can determine whether or not a cancer is aggressive by looking at the lipid profile of the patient’s cancer cells.”
The team’s primary aim is to develop a non-invasive test that can be used, when prostate cancer is first diagnosed, to predict whether the cancer is likely to be aggressive or not.
The information from this test will enable doctors and patients to make better decisions about treatments and improve quality of life for men diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“By switching off a particular gene associated with these lipid modifications that affect cancer aggressiveness, we might be able to design a new and more effective treatment for patients suffering from the aggressive form of the disease,” Dr Zinonos said.
“This is incredible progress for the prostate cancer team, making inroads in cancer treatments to change the way men are diagnosed with this heartbreaking disease. This potentially will ensure patients are treated with the correct methods, and hopefully stop those from having unnecessary treatments or surgery.
“We are at an exciting stage where we are about to publish our preliminary findings, which have proved our research can detect an aggressive tumour from a non-aggressive one.”
It is thanks to your ongoing support that this research is possible and finding treatment methods and cures are one step closer!
“Funding is so important. What people may not realise is I rely on grants for my research which comes from the generous donors from Australian Prostate Cancer, without them my research could not continue. The ongoing contributions from donors is vital in our research and we cannot thank them enough for their support.”