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Treating cancers without creating new ones

Wednesday 13 February, 2019

Dr Mark Miles

Dr Mark Miles hopes his research will benefit those touched by cancer.

Nobody should have to hear the words ‘you have cancer’ more than once.

Sadly, about one-fifth of cancer survivors will develop a subsequent cancer later in life. This can be caused by chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which damage many healthy, normal cells in the process of attacking unwanted tumour cells.

Thanks to Cancer Council supporters, a new post-doctoral study at La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science is working to change this by researching a class of drugs that have shown potential to avoid such side effects.

This project, headed up by Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Mark Miles, aims to improve the ongoing health of cancer patients through investigating kinder treatments.

“This project focuses on tackling perhaps the most tragic and severe side effect of chemotherapy and radiotherapy: their ability to damage the genetic material in normal cells and form new cancers in surviving patients,” Dr Miles said.

These secondary cancers generally pose a higher risk for patients, as they are more aggressive and less responsive to treatment.

“We need drugs that can eliminate cancers without generating mutations that may lead to therapy-related cancers,” explained Dr Miles.

Fear of cancer recurrence

Feeling anxious about cancer coming back is a common challenge and one of the greatest concerns for some cancer survivors.

There are ways to manage the fear of recurrence, as well as some proactive steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing a subsequent cancer.

"I find it helpful to focus on what’s happening now, what is actually known – not all of the possibilities. One step at a time." – Jane, cancer survivor

If you or anyone you know is in need of cancer-related support, visit our website or talk to a cancer nurse on 13 11 20.

Dr Miles’ family has been touched by cancer, and he was surprised to learn about the impact some treatments could have on cancer patients.

Following this, the La Trobe researcher began his undergraduate Biomedical Science degree.


Every year, Cancer Council Victoria funds over $20m of research.

“I was particularly intrigued to learn about the many drugs that patients are given as treatments because three of my uncles and an aunty battled cancer.  

“Learning the causes associated with cancer development and the challenges researchers face with identifying a ‘cure’ sparked my motivation to pursue this area further into postgraduate studies,” he shared.

Dr Miles would love to somehow contribute to the long-term health of those living with cancer through his post-doctoral study and hopes it can result in gentler treatments for patients.

“Clinicians and their patients will hopefully see some of the research I have conducted over the years be put into practice," said Dr Miles.

“This fellowship will be a stepping stone to making this happen.”

Thanks to Cancer Council supporters, 14 new cancer research projects have received funding in 2019. Read more about our vital work.

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