Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in Australia and the risk of developing it only increases as men age. The average age of diagnosis is 70 and one in six men are expected to be diagnosed by the time they are 85.
This makes it a major contributor to mortality in older men. Prostate exams and other screening tests are useful for early diagnosis and prognosis is typically good at this stage. However, at the moment, there are only a few treatment options available for it.
In a quest to transform the current landscape, researchers aspire to address the challenges in prostate cancer treatment. Recent years have witnessed the emergence of novel therapies for different types of cancer, and now, scientists are exploring the potential adaptation of one such treatment to target prostate cancer.
In line with this objective, the Albanese Government has allocated a $5 million grant to Professor Gail Risbridger and her team at Monash University. The funding, facilitated by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), aims to support the development of CAR T cell therapy specifically tailored for prostate cancer.
CAR T cell therapy is a cutting-edge immunotherapy. It involves taking immune cells from a patient, and providing them with genetic instructions to find and fight cancer cells in the body.
This therapy has been successful in treating some blood cancers, even in advanced stages and where other treatments have failed. However, it has not been as effective in treating solid cancers like prostate cancer.
Professor Risbridger will use new integrated methods of generating CAR T cells, a range of models to test them, and state-of-the-art imaging tools to bring this therapy to the clinic. The aim of her research is to be able to adapt the CAR T cell therapy to attack prostate cancer.
“We are living through a supercharged period of discovery, especially in CAR T cell therapy,” Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler said.
“CAR T cell therapy is an immunotherapy that promises to turn medicine on its head, by unlocking the ability of a patient’s own immune system to find and destroy cancer and other disease. This is world leading health research and the Albanese Government is proud to fund this important work,” he said.
Professor Risbridger’s project is among 10 initiatives awarded a total of $50 million in funding through the NHMRC’s Synergy Grants. These grants encourage researchers from different fields to collaborate on answering big questions that go beyond what a single researcher can achieve.
NHMRC CEO Professor Steve Wesselingh spoke of the importance of grants such as these to help address “complex research questions and improve human health.”
“These grants offer opportunities to foster collaboration between diverse researchers to ensure a range of skills and perspectives are brought together to solve a problem. This research is so important, and NHMRC hope to meet these health challenges now and into the future,” Wesselingh said.
While an effective treatment may soon be on the horizon, in the meantime, it’s important to remain vigilant when it comes to prostate cancer in order to improve health outcomes.
Prostate cancer is often referred to as the ‘silent killer’ given that in the early stages of the disease, there are rarely any obvious symptoms that may indicate the onset of cancer.
Although symptoms may not be obvious, Senior Research Fellow and Prostate Group Lead Prof. David Smith from Cancer Council New South Wales previously told Starts at 60 that “if symptoms do occur they might include frequent or sudden need to urinate, blood in urine, feeling like your bladder is not empty after passing urine or unexplained weight loss”.
“These are not always symptoms of prostate cancer, but you should see a doctor if you are worried or the symptoms are ongoing,” Smith explained.
Smith further explained that “even people diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer may not exhibit symptoms”, highlighting just how important being aware of risk factors is and the need for regular testing and early intervention.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.