27 November 2023

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Australian researchers are among the first scientists in the world to establish a living lab to help find new treatments and therapies for deadly forms of prostate cancer.

The ground-breaking project, funded by the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, aims to help end Australian deaths from the disease. 

Seed funding has been provided to establish the national consortium, with hopes of raising significantly more from community donations as part of Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia’s annual Christmas appeal. 

The lab will expand on the capabilities of the Australian Prostate Cancer BioResource, a national collaboration currently managed by Monash University.

The existing biobank will be enriched by the inclusion of specimens and data from individuals with advanced metastatic disease, and will for the first time include unique collections of patient models of prostate cancer. 

These precious resources will then be available for access by prostate cancer researchers around the country.

PCFA’s Chief of Mission and Head of Research, Professor Jeff Dunn AO, hailed the project a game-changer for men with advanced prostate cancer. 

“The living lab will accelerate medical and scientific research and transform our ability to analyse deadly tumours and test new methods for preventing and eliminating prostate cancer.”

The lab has been given the acronym ALLURe, short for the Australian Living Lab for Urological Repositories.

“This will be a world-leading biorepository of metastatic prostate cancer and will allow us to closely study and experiment with metastatic prostate tumours to try and unlock new ways of defeating the disease,” Professor Dunn said. 

“Importantly, it will allow us to break down the barriers to survival, providing us with a platform to amass population-wide data to eliminate sampling bias that often arises due to inequities in care.

“The project is exciting for many reasons, including the fact that the platform will enable tissue samples and test results to be uploaded and shared across the research community, allowing scientists to work together nationally and globally to find solutions for one of the leading causes of cancer death among Australian men.

“We urgently need donations from individuals and businesses to help mobilise Australia’s research community in the fight against prostate cancer,” he said. 

Around one in five Australian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, with 250,000 men alive today after a diagnosis of the disease.

Leading project proponent and world-leading prostate cancer researcher, Professor Lisa Butler, said the lab would spark a revolution in research. 

“We are confident the lab will accelerate research discoveries and result in new clinical trials that can be made available to patients more rapidly than ever before, extending and saving men’s lives,” Professor Butler said. 

“The lab will give researchers access to high-quality living or preserved tissue and blood samples allowing researchers to access and compare hundreds of thousands of pieces of clinical information for the very first time.

“If we are successful in our fundraising target to build the lab, Australia will stand at the forefront of worldwide research into prostate cancer, powering discoveries around the globe.”

It is hoped the project will unlock discoveries that have the power to end deaths from prostate cancer within a decade.

“Until now, Australia has lacked a national repository for metastatic prostate cancer specimens, clinical data and lab-ready models,” Professor Butler said.

“Thanks to this seed funding, all that will change, putting us on a path to find the answers we need to solve the puzzle of prostate cancer. 

“Every researcher in Australia will have the opportunity to access the lab’s data and specimens, strengthening our ability to synthesise medical and scientific investigations. 

“Our hope is to unlock new precision medicines, allowing the development of therapies that are tailored to each patient, extending and saving lives.

“We call it a living lab, and for good reason – its role is to keep men alive,” Professor Butler said.

Go to https://www.pcfa.org.au/LivingLab to donate.