Imagine treating cancer with a puffer?
That’s one unique treatment being investigated by researchers at the Centre for Cancer Biology (CCB) as a therapy for hard-to-treat lung cancer – and it’s not as farfetched as you might think!
The CCB’s Dr Joanna Woodcock is taking on the fight against lung cancer. It’s an unpopular fight though, hindered by the smoking stigma that still lingers with lung cancer despite one fifth of patients never having smoked.
In fact, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in Australia and fifth most commonly diagnosed cancer.
“Less than 20 per cent of lung cancer patients survive five years post diagnosis and we rely heavily on chemotherapy for treatment which causes serious side effects,” Dr Woodcock says.
“There is a huge need for new therapies to eradicate lung cancer cells without side effects and improve the outcome for lung cancer patients.”
Research leads to breakthrough
Dr Woodcock and her team, which has links to Thoracic Medicine at the RAH, have made an exciting breakthrough in the treatment of Non-small cell lung cancer which represents more than 80 per cent of all lung cancer cases.
It involves a family of proteins called 14-3-3 which are found in abnormally high numbers in cancer cells. Dr Woodcock has discovered a way to inhibit these proteins and stop the cancer cells from working the way they want to.
“This group of proteins is in all cells, but in solid cancers they have been found to be much more abundant than normal,” she says.
“We have designed a chemical compound which interferes with how these proteins help cancer cells survive and grow. If their growth is inhibited, then they can’t work as well and might die or can be killed with chemotherapy.”
Delivering the treatment
The next step for Dr Woodcock, which is being supported by a generous donation from private donors VONBRI Foundation and facilitated through THRF, is refining the chemical compound treatment and working out a way to administer it directly to the cancer cells.
“With the help of Professor Clive Prestidge’s Nanomedicine research group, which helps develop drug delivery solutions, we are looking for a delivery method which protects the compound and helps it be more targeted, therefore getting a more effective dose to the tumour.
“One way we’re looking at doing that is through inhalable forms. Imagine if we could tell a patient to go home and take a puffer, and that would help inhibit the cancer!”
This could revolutionise treatment for lung cancer patients, plus be transferrable to treat other solid cancer tumours!