New partnership targeting the most ‘untreatable’ cancers

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The CSIRO has announced a new $5 million partnership with GenesisCare for research into targeted new cancer treatments.

GenesisCare is one of Australia’s largest cancer care providers through services like radiation oncology.

The new research project forms part of CSIRO’s Probing Biosystems Future Science Platform.

“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,” said CSIRO project lead Professor Stephen Rose.

“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.”

Theranostics is a combination of diagnostics and therapy, said Professor Rose, adding the project will aim to discover the unique signatures of cancer cells then design molecules that target those cells.

“These molecules can then show us exactly where the cancer is located in the body, and deliver radiation directly to the cancer cells,” he said.

Almost 50,000 Australians are expected to die from cancer in 2019, including around 3,000 deaths from pancreatic cancer, 1,500 from brain cancer and over 1,000 deaths from ovarian cancer.

The investigative therapies will be trialled in Australia through GenesisCare’s clinical network.

According to Associate Professor Peter O'Brien, chief medical officer at GenesisCare, 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.

“There has been incredible progress in improving outcomes for many tumour groups, however there’s been very little change in mortality rates for some complex cancers, like brain and pancreatic cancer, over the past 35 years.

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

“The potential for theranostics is huge. Radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery have long been the three core pillars of cancer treatment, and in years to come theranostics could be another major weapon in our fight against cancer, alongside other emerging treatments like immunotherapy.”

GenesisCare said it 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. 

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