Cancer Research at the University of Canberra

University of Canberra research is working to prevent the recurrence of cancer - and it's on the cusp of a major breakthrough to stop the spread of recurring cancer.

There is very little therapy to fight aggressive cancers such as breast cancer and the available treatments are harsh and in many cases, superficial and transient,...And once they recur, there is no treatment whatsoever. We are determined to fix that.

     Prof. Sudha Rao

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90% of the death in women with breast cancer is due to metastatic disease. That is the spread of the breast cancer from the primary site to the other organs. Within that primary tumour there are these special cells known as the cancer stem cells and what happens is these cancer stem cells are completely resistant to the chemo therapy that's done to treat it.

Therefore, what happens is the primary tumour shrinks but the cancer stem cells stay alive and dormant. These cancer stem cells then spread across the body and reseed and form new tumours.

What we've done in my lab is we really specialise in cutting edge molecular technologies. What we've been able to do is literally peel apart the cancer stem cells so we can go right into where the DNA, the core, the brains of the cancer stem cells are. We've managed to identify key proteins that cause the cancer stem cells to tick and because we've identified the key proteins then over the years we've developed novel drugs that actually completely block the cancer stem cells. Therefore, we are developing a new treatment for metastatic disease that doesn't currently exist.

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Changing the face of cancer treatment

Cancer stem cells are resistant to all current cancer treatments and spread through the blood stream resulting in secondary cancers. A UC research team were the first worldwide to discover two nuclear proteins that are critical for the identification of breast cancer stem cells.

Following this discovery the team has identified a drug combination that blocks the cancer stem cell proteins. When used in combination with existing chemotherapy drugs the resulting therapy attacks both the cancer cells, and cancer stem cells. Trials conducted to date show that the treatment eliminates the primary cancer and prevents secondary cancers forming.


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