Professor Gail Risbridger has twice been awarded grants by the Cancer Council. In 2002, a grant helped her research the role of oestrogens in prostate malignancy. In 2006-08, another grant helped her research the early origins of prostate cancer.
Professor Risbridger, a founding member of the Monash Institute of Medical Research, currently heads the Institute’s Centre for Urological Research (CURe).
She leads a team of investigators who aim to better understand prostate disease, leading to better diagnosis and treatment of both benign and malignant prostate disease.
Her particular interests include understanding how hormones (both androgens and oestrogens) control prostate cancer and how the tumour microenvironment alters the differentiation of prostate stem cells, resulting in malignancy.
Professor Risbridger is a Fulbright Senior Scholar and recipient of the 2006 British Endocrine Society Oceania Award, given in recognition of her significant contribution to endocrinology.
Professor Risbridger has over 150 publications in the field of male reproductive endocrinology and serves on editorial and advisory boards of government, industry and professional organisations.
‘Several years ago the Cancer Council funded me when I started this program on the role of oestrogens in prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is regulated by hormones first and foremost, but it's generally thought that androgens (male hormones) were more important than oestrogens, which are regarded as hormones that are important to women rather than men. With our increased understanding of how oestrogens are important for men’s health, we have explored the role of oestrogens in prostate cancer. This was novel work back then that the Cancer Council had the foresight or intuition to support.
‘Since receiving the first grant, we've been able to continue the program and become opinion leaders in this area – evident from my invitation to submit an opinion piece entitled ‘Targeting local oestrogens for the treatment of prostate cancer’ (due for publication this year).
‘The use of SERMs or selective estrogen receptor modulators is on the agenda for several large pharmaceutical companies and it's imperative that independent research, such as this funded by the Cancer Council, can be conducted.
‘With the funding we've been able to show how oestrogens have both adverse and beneficial effects in prostate cancer and in BPH. The story is complex, but any treatment of prostate cancer based on blocking oestrogen receptor action must be done by targeting one of the oestrogen receptors called Estrogen receptor alpha. Whereas the good effects of oestrogen have to be maintained by activating Estrogen receptor beta, because this action prevents or blocks prostatic hypertrophy.
'Since men with prostate cancer often have BPH, it would not be appropriate to block all actions of oestrogen, but using selective estrogen receptor modulators it's now possible to switch off signalling through Estrogen receptor alpha but activate Estrogen receptor beta. Based on this kind of pre-clinical data this approach will be used in clinical trials of the new generation of SERMs. It's very exciting.’