Cancer Research at the Faculty of Pharmacy
Cancer is a common major health issue in Australia today. At current rates, the Cancer Council of Australia expects that by the age of 85 one in two men, and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer. Faculty research projects are tackling this disease from many angles, from personalised anti-cancer therapy to drug resistance to using honey bee propolis and herbal medicines to design new therapies.
- Human pharmacogenetics and personalised anticancer drug therapy.
- Drug resistance in cancer
- UV induced skin damage treatment
- Regulation of Epidermal Growth Factor Receptors (EGFR)/Ras pathway in breast cancer
- Molecular mechanisms of the tumour microenvironment.
Human pharmacogenetics and personalised anticancer drug therapy
Up to 50% of cancer patients are either under-dosed or experience toxicity at standard doses of oncology drugs. These problems are due largely to different rates of drug elimination, which are controlled by liver enzymes and transporters. Our research evaluates how inter-individual variation in the genes encoding these proteins influence the outcomes of therapy. With this pharmacogenomic information we may be able to tailor therapy to the individual.
Drug Resistance in cancer
Multiple Drug resistance (MDR) in cancer treatment is predominantly attributed to the overexpression of multidrug efflux transporters in cancer cells. These transporters maintain sublethal intracellular anticancer drug concentrations in cells by virtue of a remarkable capacity for ATP dependent drug efflux. Consequently the cancer cells survive the cytotoxic insult and are rendered unresponsive to many different classes of anticancer drugs.
UV induced skin damage treatment
Australian propolis, in particular propolis from Kangaroo Island, contains novel chemical entities never before found in other propolis varieties. Researchers at the Faculty will continue to research the Kangaroo Island propolis to further investigate bioactive constituents and to discover new sources of propolis in Australia. By identifying the bioactive compounds the group can then evaluate their ability to rescue and protect cells from damage by UV radiation, making cancerous cells undergo programmed cell death while increasing the defensive mechanisms in normal cells.
Discovery of such medicinally beneficial compounds could lead to the development of new therapies to address the major concern of the prevalence of UV-induced skin cancers, particularly melanoma, that is on the rise in Australia.
Regulation of Epidermal Growth Factor Receptors (EGFR)/Ras pathway in Breast Cancer
Mutations affecting EGFR expression can lead to various types of cancer. This research focuses on the regulation of the EGF receptor, which is commonly de-regulated not only in breast, but also ovarian, head and neck, esophageal, bladder and cervical cancers and human glioma, leading to oncogenic Ras activity (cell proliferation) and cell transformation.
Current treatments against EGFR and Ras have only shown limited success. Thus, the identification of alternative strategies and targets are of great interest to the field. Together with Dr. M. Koese, we are particularly interested in Annexin A6 (AnxA6), a scaffolding protein with tumour suppressor activity that inhibits EGFR/Ras activity. This research is currently funded by the NHMRC and provides opportunities to develop AnxA6 as a marker for cancer subtypes, but also strategies to reduce the oncogenic potential of EGFR and Ras in various cancers.
Molecular mechanisms of the tumour microenvironment
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids produce significant benefits in cancer. They decrease the rate of tumour growth and spread. Our research has been aimed at capturing these effects and in studying the underlying molecular mechanism. Specific metabolites of these fatty acids interfere with the tumour cell cycle by activating signalling pathways in cells. We are designing new molecules with optimal properties that could be used to decrease tumor expansion.