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Cancer research helping COVID patients

Wednesday 09 June 2021

Dr Lisa Philp has her sights set on giving more time to our grandfathers, fathers, brothers, and uncles diagnosed with prostate cancer and her research also has the potential to help Covid-19 patients.

Based at the Translational Research Institute (TRI) at the PA Hospital campus, Dr Philp is a lead researcher in the Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre of Queensland's (APCRCQ) Adipokine research team. The team is looking at adipocytokines, hormones secreted from body fat tissue, and the role they play in cancer progression, to develop treatments for patients with advanced prostate cancer.

"We know that men who undergo androgen deprivation therapy, which is a normal course of prostate cancer therapy will have metabolic alterations, and some of those changes evolve from their altered fat and muscle mass. We also know that these adipokine hormones are altered and are playing a role in treatment resistance," Dr Philp said.

"We're really interested in targeting those hormones to try and put the brakes on the progression of advanced prostate cancer."

While Dr Philp's research is focused on helping late stage prostate cancer patients, her work does have broader implications and the potential to aid in the treatment of other forms of cancer as well as in battling Covid-19.

The Queensland University of Technology researcher said the key to success in advancing medical science so that it can both save lives and extend survival is collaboration and funding.

"We're trying to in advanced stage disease, come in with new alternative therapies that could prevent treatment resistance, which is ultimately what men with advanced prostate cancer would succumb to," she said.

"We want to try and extend survival. Often lots of different treatments are thrown at these men, but as the disease has progressed, they resist those treatments, so we're trying to find ways to prevent tumour growth and prevent progression.

Funding like that which we have been fortunate to receive from the PA Research Foundation will help us develop novel therapies, which we're hoping to translate into future clinical trials for prostate cancer patients."

According to Dr Philp the knowledge she gained from working in the prostate cancer space has informed and aided her Covid-19 research.

"The main aspect of people being really ill with Covid is the acute respiratory distress syndrome, which is where your lungs and your body basically launches an immune attack on its own tissues because of the virus being in that area," she said.

"We know through our data, but also through our collaboration with our industry partners, that the work we're doing with novel drugs could really have a great effect in a COVID space.

"We're using two novel drugs that we are working with in the prostate cancer setting to target inflammation, to reduce that inflammatory environment or the cytokine storm within the lungs of Covid patients to hopefully prevent their immune systems from attacking them and also hopefully reduce the need for ventilators and critical care if we can treat them early on."

As a member of the (APCRCQ) Dr Philp said given the opportunity to speak with prostate cancer patients she would impress upon them the fact that there are dozens of researchers just like her who are dedicating their careers to finding new ways to treat and improve the prognosis of prostate cancer patients.

"So many advances have been made to create the treatment regimes that are currently available, but there are so many people working towards developing new regimes or new drugs that are going to change the face of the way prostate cancer is treated and give hope to prostate cancer patients," she said."

"But also, it's a constantly changing environment as medical research understands the disease more fully and there are people who have dedicated their lives to creating change for men with advanced prostate cancer."

Dr Philp said the support of PA Research Foundation's MANDATE campaign and the funding it has provided will help her research to continue to progress.

"We are so grateful to receive funding from PA Research Foundation that allows us to continue working on these really important new treatments and to understand how advanced prostate cancer can be managed to improve survival in men who are undergoing therapies for that late stage disease."

"The Foundation's support is really important to us. It allows us to continue working towards new treatment regimes and novel drugs, which were striving to translate into the clinic. A lot of our work is very translational in trying to find new ways to treat in a treatment resistant context, which is the more lethal aspect of prostate cancer."

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