Mesothelioma gets research boost

Friday 28 October, 2016

Cancer Council Victoria has announced a much-needed injection of funds into mesothelioma research today, providing hope for the future in the fight against the devastating form of cancer.

160 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year in Victoria, and 726 nationally. It remains one of the deadliest cancers, with a 5-year survival rate of just 7%.

Cancer Council Victoria hopes this can be improved with more research.

Thanks to the philanthropy of the late Lyall Watts, his partner Gary Kenny and Lyall's sister Sandra Harbison and mother Marjorie Watts, Cancer Council Victoria has been able to award $700,000 for two new research grants.

Dr Peter Janes at Monash University and Prof Andrew Scott and A/Prof Tom John at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute have received funding to continue their work into targeted antibody therapies for malignant mesothelioma.

"We developed antibodies against two cancer targets abundant in malignant mesothelioma, which are currently in trials for other cancers," Dr Janes said.

"We will screen mesothelioma patient tissues to define eligible patient populations and use mesothelioma mouse models to develop effective therapy strategies. Our team of translational cancer researchers and clinicians, with collaborative ties to trial sponsors, is uniquely positioned to develop strategies that allow rapid translation into clinical trials."

At the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Associate Professor Kieran Harvey and his team hope to decipher the role of the Hippo pathway in mesothelioma.

"The Hippo pathway is an important group of genes that relays messages from the surface of the cell to the nucleus to change the cell's behaviour. Normally it controls how big our organs grow," A/Prof Harvey said.

"The activity of Hippo pathway genes can change and cause cancer and this occurs in at least half of mesotheliomas. We will use cutting edge technologies to investigate the causes of mesothelioma and search for possible new treatments of this disease by using our unique knowledge of the Hippo pathway."

"The Lyall Watts Mesothelioma Research grants are an important contribution to helping improve treatments and provide hope for those affected by this insidious disease," CEO Todd Harper said.

Both projects will be funded for three years.

Updated: 28 Oct, 2016