Alternative cancer treatments on research agenda

(Southern Health News, July 2018)

Alternative cancer treatments on research agenda

New and alternative treatments for a life-threatening form of leukaemia could be available to patients in the future, thanks to a Cancer Council SA funded research project based at Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer.

Cancer Council Early Researcher, Dr Lauren Thurgood was awarded the $480,000 Early Career Cancer Research Fellowship through the Beat Cancer Project for her research into leukaemia at the Flinders University’s College of Medicine and Public Health.

The three-year fellowship will enable Dr Thurgood to carry on with necessary testing in the Flinders Medical Centre laboratory, as well as the opportunity to present her work at international conferences and visit key laboratories overseas.

“The team I work in, led by Associate Professor Bryone Kuss, focuses on research into Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL), which is the most commonly diagnosed leukaemia within Australia,” Dr Thurgood said.

“The disease is quite complicated as around 30 per cent of patients never require treatment, experience few symptoms, and have no increased risk of mortality, whilst 70 per cent of patients require treatment and those with the most aggressive form can die within two to three years.

“CLL causes uncontrolled growth of B-Cells – an important immune cell that produces antibodies to protect the body from infections – and this excessive growth suppresses the formation of normal blood cells resulting in recurrent infections, bruising, lethargy and anaemia.

“The B-Cells rely on energy to stay alive and divide, but unlike other cancer cells they do not rely solely on glucose to source their energy and my preliminary research identified that they use lipids, also known as fats, instead.”

Clinical head of Molecular Genetics at Flinders Medical Centre, Associate Professor Bryone Kuss, said this grant will allow the team to investigate whether the B-Cells make their own fats for energy or source them from within the body.

“The team will also investigate how these fats are transferred between CLL cells, and whether these pathways can be targeted as an alternative treatment for CLL,” Professor Kuss said.

Director of Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer, Professor Ross McKinnon, said it is important to support young cancer researchers and provide opportunities for them to develop leadership.

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