Precision Medicine Outcome Research into Prostate Cancer
When you hear the name Queensland Bladder Cancer Initiative (QBCI) you wouldn't immediately know how hard the team is working on not just bladder cancer research but also prostate cancer.
The uniting factors are the field of urology and PA Hospital (PAH) surgeon Dr Ian Vela, who has brought together a team of researchers to work on precision medicine outcomes that ultimately help patients diagnosed with either cancer.
Dr Patrick Thomas
QBCI team member Dr Patrick Thomas, whose bladder cancer research is funded primarily by the PA Research Foundation, said the team, which is associated with the Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre-Queensland at the Translational Research Institute (TRI), works closely together to advance their research.
"While one of our streams is bladder, our other research area is prostate cancer because we feel that's a really important area to do research in. We are also part of the Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre – Queensland. It's a viable way of tackling two cancers at the same time, with the same skills, and the same clinical specialty," he said.
"Whether it's bladder or prostate cancer, it's the same tenet of precision medicine. We get the cancer samples from the patients (with their approval), transfer them to the research laboratory, and grow tiny tumours which we treat with drugs. We can then go back to the clinicians and let them know if the patient responds, or doesn't respond, to therapy.
"We're well established with this approach for prostate cancer research and that's informed our bladder cancer research."
For the team of Queensland University of Technology researchers, PA Research Foundation funding has kept their bladder cancer research alive and in turn, contributed to the advancement of prostate cancer research.
The team have made several noteworthy steps forward, primarily with improved diagnostic models - with the PAH campus itself also contributing to the team's success.
"We've improved on the way we collect specimens, the time it takes to get from the operating theatre to the lab, it's now down to 12 minutes. The clinicians do the surgery, and I or other members of the research team get informed, come into the surgery and get the tumour. We then race it back to the lab and start processing immediately," Dr Thomas said.
"To my knowledge, that's the quickest tumour processing probably in the state, we're getting fresh, viable tissue at all times. That allows us to do the best kind of research on it. There's little-to-no death of tissue over time.
"We've improved the way we do genetics on them to work out, "What is the patient suffering from at a molecular level?" and "What's the best therapy that patient could get?"
Dr Thomas believes men should find hope in the knowledge that teams like the QBCI are working hard every day to understand more about the disease and the best ways to treat it.
Importantly for men diagnosed with prostate cancer, the QBCI's work means their treatment, and the direction of the care is individualised and is also leading to prostate cancer patients beating the disease.
"Our advances have come from knowledge of the way that prostate cancer cells grow on a personalized level within the patients," Dr Thomas said.
"My favourite advancement is the personalisation of patient outcomes. We treat the patients tumour in the lab and visually see how it responds to therapies. Dr Vela is then able to take this information and improve the management of each patient".
We're improving on the way we are developing diagnostic tests and models to study tumour growth and drug response, to visualize the way these tumours respond to therapies.
"We can visually and biochemically see it, and we can do genomic molecular analysis to watch what's happening."
Dr Thomas had a simple message for men during prostate cancer awareness month this September and throughout the year - make a date with a mate to get your PSA (prostate specific antigen) tested through a simple blood test.
With public support through the PA Research Foundation vital to their work, Dr Thomas also reassured anyone considering donating to the QBCI through the Foundation, their money was well spent.
"We are working hard, and the more guys that go out and get their PSA tested, the more clinical cases we know about. It also helps us if you get tested because you get tested early, your cancer goes away if it gets treated effectively, that helps us as well because that's the outcome we ultimately want.
"Monetary donations go directly into our experiments, most of our funds come from philanthropy, and that funds everything we're doing, it's driving our research, in effect."
Donate to support prostate cancer research here