Professor Philip Hogg and his team are developing and testing new compounds that can selectively target brain and pancreatic cancer. Their novel approach to shutting down the energy supply in cancer cells has led to highly promising treatments that are already undergoing successful trials in people with solid cancer tumours.
Every year, around 1,900 Australians are diagnosed with brain cancer and 2,600 people with pancreatic cancer. These types of cancer currently have very limited treatment options and poor survival outcomes. Over the past two decades, the relative five-year survival rate for both cancers has increased only marginally – by less than 3% for each. There is an urgent need for research that helps us better understand these diseases and enables us to create new, highly effective treatments that can successfully target brain and pancreatic tumours.
Professor Hogg has discovered that the way brain and pancreatic tumours feed on sugar is different from other cancers.
The researchers have been able to develop a new class of anti-cancer drugs that can selectively target this metabolic difference.
The researchers have invented two unique compounds that switch off a key protein in mitochondria, the parts of tumour cells that generate energy. Without an energy supply, the tumour cells stop multiplying and eventually die.
One of these compounds, called PENAO, has been successfully tested in its first trials with cancer patients with solid tumours.
A new treatment for brain and pancreatic cancers would have a huge positive impact on the communities affected by these diseases. The drugs currently in development by Professor Hogg’s team will help to improve the survival rates of these hard-to-treat tumours.
With Phase II trials planned, the work is showing exciting potential, with both higher effectiveness and fewer side-effects than traditional chemotherapy. The team’s approach to developing cancer drugs is unique, and advancing this research could lead to targeted treatments for other types of solid tumours.