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5 cancer research breakthroughs at Sydney

4 February 2019
Reducing the impact of cancer through research
For World Cancer Day, we've taken a look at the most recent cancer breakthroughs coming out of medicine, health and science research at the University.

Last year in Australia, there was an estimated 138,321 new cancer cases diagnosed and a shocking 48,586 deaths resulting from cancer. With such concerning figures, cancer continues to be the world’s most deadly and costly disease. Thanks to research, survival rates for some cancers are on the rise.

World Cancer Day unites the world’s population in the fight against cancer, with the goal of encouraging people to make a personal commitment to educate themselves and reduce their cancer risk.

Find out what our leading researchers are discovering in the fields of cancer prevention and treatment, and listen to the podcast on the future of cancer - held as part of the University of Sydney’s Sydney Ideas program.

1. Low-cost cancer test could improve treatment of breast cancer

A low-cost test to more accurately predict which breast cancers are at higher risk of relapse and thus inform better treatment decisions, is being pioneered by researchers at the University of Sydney.

Lead investigator Dr Dinny Graham said that by measuring the molecular expression of a small handful of genes, the test predicts which tumours are more aggressive and less likely to respond to conventional treatments.

“The result should be improved treatment outcomes, longer patient survival, improved productivity and the economic benefits to the public health system that will flow as a result from those gains."

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2. Birth defect predicts testicular cancer, infertility in adulthood

University of Sydney medical researchers are urging greater compliance with guidelines recommending surgery for undescended testes (UDT) before 18 months of age following evidence that UDT more than doubles the risk of testicular cancer and increases infertility in adult males.

“In addition to an increased risk of testicular cancer, we found that boys with undescended testes had decreased paternity and increased use of assisted reproductive technologies for infertility in later life,” said Professor Natasha Nassar, the study’s senior author.

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3. Detecting breast cancer with a blood test

Despite the alarming rates of breast cancer in Australia, which show 1 in every 8 women will be diagnosed with the disease before they are 85, existing breast cancer detection methods have a number of worrying limitations.

The current gold standard for breast cancer screening is mammography but this is only available to women between the ages of 40 to 74 years old - providing a pressing need to produce a more accurate breast cancer detection method.

After pioneering a breakthrough association between a person’s fat profile (lipids) and breast cancer, University of Sydney alumus Dharmica Mistry is working with BCAL Diagnostics to commercialise a revolutionary early detection blood test, which has the ability to revolutionise the way we screen for this disease.

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4. Sunscreen reduces melanoma risk by 40 percent in young people

A world-first study led by University of Sydney has found that Australians aged 18-40 years who were regular users of sunscreen in childhood reduced their risk of developing melanoma by 40 percent, compared to those who rarely used sunscreen.

“Sunscreen should be applied regularly during childhood and throughout adulthood whenever the UV Index is 3 or above, to reduce risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers,” said lead researcher Associate Professor Anne Cust.

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5. Scientists unlock path to use cell's nanoparticles as biomarkers

Researchers at the University of Sydney have established a method to identify individual nanoparticles released by human cells (known as extracellular vesicles, or EVs), opening the way for them to become diagnostic tools in the early-detection of cancers, dementia and kidney disease.

“The human body naturally directs EVs from stem cells to damaged tissue to assist in its repair. By harnessing this knowledge, we could create a new generation of cell therapies,” said Associate Professor Chrzanowski, who is the industry theme leader for Health and Medicine at Sydney Nano.

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