Prostate cancer research given a boost

Oct 18 2018

Author: HMRI Communications

Dr Jude Weidenhofer

Research and the community work hand-in-hand at HMRI. Vital funding for HMRI research projects helps researchers focus on some of the greatest health challenges that we face.

Prostate Cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men, with more than 3,000 men dying from prostate cancer every year. The factors which drive prostate cancer are complex, with researchers currently exploring ways of diagnosing this disease more accurately through less invasive means and also working on novel treatment methods.

Dr Jude Weidenhofer is addressing the riddle of prostate cancer in her work and is seeking to understand the biology of prostate cancer to enable identification of biomarkers that will aid in diagnosis and prognosis for patients. Since 2014, the CFMEU Energy and Mining Division based in Cessnock has donated a total of $400,000 to fund her vital research aimed at improving outcomes for men with metastatic prostate cancer. The membership overwhelmingly voted to support the work of Dr Weidenhofer and her team.

Currently, prostate cancer often requires invasive biopsies that can lead to unintended consequences that could impede quality of life. The holy grail of diagnosis would be the development of a blood test that could be used to identify if a patient has prostate cancer. And that’s one of the projects the team’s working on. Dr Weidenhofer has recently investigated extracellular vesicles which are ‘capsules’ that are released into the blood that contain important information about the cell they’ve come from and are used to transport molecular messages to other cells throughout the body.

Using cells grown in the lab to model prostate cancer cells, Dr Weidenhofer’s team were able to characterise certain fats that may in future be used to determine if a patient has prostate cancer. The team found differences between the samples that could be used to identify if a patient has prostate cancer, and they’re now exploring to see if these differences can be assessed in patient blood samples.

Dr Weidenhofer’s team is also exploring the way that cancer cells travel through the body (metastasis) and, examining the role that levels of a certain protein in prostate cancer cells play in interacting with their surroundings. This is helping gain an understanding of why some people with prostate cancer end up with cancer in other parts of the body, while others do not.

Existing treatments for prostate cancer currently have a high rate of side effects that impact quality of life for people living with the disease. With one in seven men worldwide affected by prostate cancer, and 5% of all new cases being diagnosed with advanced stage metastatic prostate cancer, novel treatments that inhibit or slow metastasis are urgently needed.

Dr Weidenhofer’s work has increased the understanding of the changes that occur in the body during prostate cancer progression. The work now continues to develop improved diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for prostate cancer and treatment options. Watch this space.