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Trial of new anti-cancer drugs at Monash Pharmacy

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03rd-Dec-2016       
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Life Desk :
Monash Pharmacy is ranked number 4 in the world (QS ranking 2016). As Australia's number one faculty of pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences, Monash Pharmacy is at the forefront of both research and education in this field. Monash research undertaken by Australia's leading pharmaceutical scientists is having an impact on health around the globe. The prostate and bowel cancers are the biggest causes of cancer deaths in Australia.  A consortium of researchers at Monash University have been awarded a $2 million grant by the Victorian Cancer Agency (VCA) to start a Phase 11 clinical trial aimed at identifying which patients with bowel or prostate cancer respond well to a new suite of anti-cancer drugs called BET inhibitors.
The trial of 24 end-stage bowel and prostate cancer patients is expected to take three years - with the aim of finding biomarker, as well as an assay to detect them, that can predict which patients (as soon as they are diagnosed) will best respond to the BET inhibitor drug regime.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the genetic mutations that cause cancer do not necessarily occur early in life. In fact genetic mutations can occur throughout life and, in cancer, can occur at any stage, caused by a range of triggers from environmental, viral and chemical causes.
Prostate cancer in particular appears to undergo a lot of genetic changes quite late in its development, according to Professor Gail Risbridger, from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) and a member of the team.
The consortium will use the VCA grant to investigate a class of drugs, called BET inhibitors, which target the actual DNA of the tumour cells that has been shown to be successful in targeting cancer cells that have undergone these epigenetic changes.
Using unique banks of prostate and bowel cancer tissue the preclinical studies, run by Professor Risbridger and Associate Professor Helen Abud, also from BDI, the research team has retrospectively looked at which patients expressed responded to BET inhibitors and found markers they believe they can predict the "best responders"  to the therapy.
Having identified these markers the research team, led by Dr Arun Azad, from the Monash Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, will conduct a three-year trial that biopsies patients to see whether they have markers associated with BET inhibitor responsiveness and then to follow these patients as they receive the treatment.
As data are collected from the patients who do and do not respond to the BET inhibitor therapy, the researchers will be able to look at the original biopsies to find markers that can predict the patients who are "good responders".
The Phase 11 trial is expected to begin within 12 months. Twenty four patients with Stage IV malignancy and the researchers expect to have a suite of markers associated with responders and non-responders to BET inhibitors within 24 months.

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