$2.5 million awarded to top cancer researcher

Author: Movember
Leading Australian cancer researcher Professor Wayne Tilley was today presented with a $2.5 million Breast & Prostate Cancer Linkage Grant, thanks to a ground breaking collaboration between the Movember Foundation and the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF).

This award will enable Professor Tilley and collaborators to explore an innovative new treatment path for breast and prostate cancer, which has potential to transform the lives of women and men around the world afflicted with breast or prostate cancer.

Combined, more than 6000 Australians die of breast and prostate cancers each year, making them the second biggest cancer killers in Australia.

Although at first it may not seem like the two cancers have much in common, the growth of these tumours is both driven by sex hormones, namely estrogens in breast cancer and androgens in prostate cancer.

Professor Tilley, Director of the University of Adelaide’s Dame Roma Mitchell Cancer Research Laboratories, has built an impressive research career - spanning more than 30 years - that has been focussed on improving our understanding of how these sex hormones drive the growth and spread of both cancers. His work was instrumental in demonstrating that targeting the receptors for these sex hormones, namely the estrogen receptor and the androgen receptor, inhibits the growth of breast and prostate cancer.

“Current treatments for breast and prostate cancer deprive these receptors of the hormones that activate them.  While these treatments have improved survival, a major problem is that the cancers don’t like being deprived of sex hormones and become resistant to the therapy. Additionally, completely depriving the body of estrogen and androgen action can cause a range of severe side effects, including early menopause in women and erectile dysfunction in men,” said Professor Tilley.

“Rather than persevering with this “sledge hammer” approach to inhibit the activity of estrogen and androgen receptors in breast and prostate cancer, which we’ve used for the past 70-100 years and at best yields incremental improvements, we need to be innovative and develop completely new therapeutic strategies,” he said.

This trailblazing research project will investigate a new concept for the treatment of breast and prostate cancers: instead of completely blocking the sex hormone receptors by depriving the body of hormones, the team will test whether the receptors can be “reprogrammed” so that they no longer drive cancer growth but instead function as they would in normal breast or prostate tissues.

Professor Tilley said: “On behalf of our team, I want to thank both the NBCF and the Movember Foundation for supporting this new research project, which has the potential to change the way breast and prostate cancers are treated. This collaborative funding will make a huge impact on our research, with the end goal being to improve and save the lives of those affected by breast and prostate cancer.”