New A$5M research project to treat ‘untreatable’ cancers in Australia

Treatments successfully designed in the project will be trialled locally in Australia through GenesisCare's clinical network, giving Australian cancer patients access to new treatments sooner.
By Dean Koh
02:17 AM

Above photo: Associate Professor Peter O'Brien, Chief Medical Officer at GenesisCare. Credit: GenesisCare

Australia’s national science agency CSIRO and GenesisCare, one of Australia’s largest cancer care providers, today announced a A$5.1M research partnership which focuses on an emerging area of science called theranostics to develop new therapies against some of the most fatal and difficult-to-treat cancers affecting Australians.

What’s it about

According to the Theranostics Australia website, theranostics uses specific biological pathways in the human body, to acquire diagnostic images and also to deliver a therapeutic dose of radiation to the patient. A specific diagnostic test shows a particular molecular target on a tumour, allowing a therapy agent to specifically target that receptor on the tumour, rather than more broadly the disease and location it presents.

Treatments successfully designed in the project will be trialled locally in Australia through GenesisCare's clinical network, giving Australian cancer patients access to new treatments sooner, rather than waiting for treatments to be developed and trialled overseas first.

Access to this form of treatment has historically been limited globally, and it is hoped this investment may help spark a new theranostics industry in Australia to ultimately improve patient outcomes.

GenesisCare is building a network of clinical centres to support research into new therapies, and is providing compassionate access to treatment for patients who have exhausted conventional treatments for prostate cancer.

Currently GenesisCare offers theranostics treatment in Hurstville (New South Wales), Perth (Western Australia), on the Gold Coast (Queensland), and in Windsor (UK), with plans to introduce the treatment to more centres in 2019.

The new research project forms part of CSIRO's Probing Biosystems Future Science Platform and builds on CSIRO's expertise in cancer biomarker research.

What’s the trend

Cancer remains the leading cause of death in Australia, with almost 50,000 deaths from cancer estimated in 2019, including 3051 deaths from pancreatic cancer, 1549 deaths from brain cancer, and 1046 deaths from ovarian cancer anticipated this year alone.

On the record

“We're targeting cancers that are currently the most 'untreatable', such as brain, pancreatic and ovarian cancers and metastatic cancers, because that's where we think we can make a profound difference,” CSIRO project lead Professor Stephen Rose said in a statement.

“We’re exploring a very exciting approach called theranostic cancer treatment, which is a type of precision medicine that finds and attacks individual cancer cells in a person’s body – rather than attacking both cancerous and healthy cells.”

Associate Professor Peter O'Brien, Chief Medical Officer at GenesisCare, said the project builds on research and ongoing clinical trials using theranostics.

"We've seen a rapidly developing body of evidence in theranostics in prostate cancer and neuroendocrine tumours, and this partnership aims to accelerate the time it takes to bring findings from the lab to the clinic for other hard to treat cancers," he said.