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RESEARCH OVERVIEW

The Laboratory for Cancer Medicine team is driving a program of research that aims to discover new ways of treating cancer. The initial focus was on hormone dependent cancers, such as breast and prostate, but in recent years has expanded to include other cancers which may be associated with a poor prognosis – liver, colon, melanoma and head and neck. Our goal is to discover ways to abrogate the key pathways driving the growth of these tumors, with a view to translating some of these discoveries into new therapies.

From the mechanistic point of view, we have had a long-term interest in RNA biology and human disease, and this has led to discoveries of novel RNA-binding proteins that are involved in regulating hormone action in breast and prostate cancer. One of these, SLIRP, is a repressor of nuclear receptor hormone action that we are exploring in the context of prostate and colon cancer. Several other novel regulators of hormone action have been identified (eg. PACT), which are being investigated using genome-wide approaches in the context of their role as activators of prostate cancer growth.

Our interest in RNA biology was a natural fit for developing significant focus in microRNAs and cancer. microRNAs are short non-coding RNAs that play central roles in regulating normal cell growth. They offer great promise in cancer biology, as they present new avenues for diagnostics and therapeutics. Our studies have resulted in the discovery of several “tumor suppressor microRNAs” that suppress key signalling pathways in poor prognostic tumors, such as head and neck, melanoma and liver cancer. One of these, microRNA-7 or miR-7, acts a potent suppressor of cancer cell proliferation and invasion by targeting the EGF-receptor (EGFR) pathway. In parallel with our work to explore the functional biology of miR-7 in EGFR-driven tumors (head and neck, liver, prostate, glioma) using genome-wide approaches and preclinical models, we have established a spin-out company, miReven, which is focused on developing miR-7 as a potential ‘miR replacement therapy” for these cancers which we hope to move into early phase clinical trials in the forthcoming years. 

LATEST NEWS

Perkins researcher elected as prestigious new Fellow

Professor Alistair Forrest from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research has been selected alongside 27 new Fellows of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. Professor Forrest is internationally regarded for his pioneering work, which has been driving forward our understanding of human diseases and the complex behaviour…

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Honeybee venom kills breast cancer cells

Venom from honeybees found to kill aggressive breast cancer cells – Australian research published in Nature Precision Oncology  Honeybee venom induces cancer cell death in hard to treat triple-negative breast cancer with minimal effect on healthy cells. Using the venom from 312 honeybees and bumblebees in Perth Western Australia, Ireland and England, Dr Ciara Duffy from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and…

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Going bald to battle sarcoma

Perkins alumnus, Matthew Eton, is facing an important fight. In May this year, Matthew was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma – a subtype of the rare bone and connective tissue cancer - for the second time in five years. As a show of support while Matthew undergoes chemo, his partner Max…

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