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New funds for Australian researchers tackling skin cancer and breast cancer

We’ve just given the go ahead for two Melbourne researchers to move forward their vital work investigating new ways to target notoriously hard-to-treat cancers.

In two separate research projects at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research; Dr Walter Fairlie will be studying the aggressive type of skin cancer malignant melanoma, and Professor David Vaux is investigating the tough-to-treat triple-negative breast cancer.

Targeting melanoma

Melanoma, which currently affects at least 200,000 people globally every year and is on the rise*, is one of the most difficult cancers to cure.

Melanoma quickly becomes resistant to targeted treatments and Dr Fairlie and his team have been studying a protein thought to be involved in this process.

With this latest Worldwide Cancer Research funding, they will now be able to expand their studies and investigate this protein in more detail using melanoma cells from patients and mice. “There is an urgent need to identify new drug targets for the treatment of melanoma, and to understand why current treatment options usually fail,” says Dr Fairlie. “Our ultimate aim is to identify drug-like compounds that could potentially be used in the development of a new treatment for melanoma.”

Triple-negative breast cancer treatment

Professor Vaux’s team is testing a new type of targeted drug for triple-negative breast cancer. About 1 in 5 women with breast cancer will have this type, with few treatment options.

The team have gathered exciting early data which suggests that a new type of targeted drug called birinapant could be particularly effective on triple-negative breast cancer. Worldwide Cancer Research funding will now help them take this further.

Professor Vaux explains: "In this project we want to confirm our earlier birinapant findings by using a special mouse model with patient-derived breast tumours. We will also test the combination of birinapant with other drugs, to optimise its effectiveness. It's really exciting- if our work is successful, these results will provide the basis for a phase II clinical trials."

See here for other skin cancer and breast cancer projects we are funding.


* Latest melanoma statistics (link to ( from Cancer Research UK.