13 August 2019

A team of Queensland researchers has found a new way to mimic the behaviour of deadly prostate cancers in the lab, in a breakthrough that could help to save lives.

The study used 3D microtissues, time-lapse microscopy, and human cancer cells to examine the behaviour of cancer tumours as they spread in the bone, an incurable condition.

The expert team was comprised of 16 biomedical scientists based in Queensland, including Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia grant recipient Dr Nathalie Bock.

"Ultimately, the results from this project will enable clinicians to choose more effective treatments to stop potentially deadly prostate cancers from spreading," Dr Bock said.

"We know from earlier research that traditional 2D cell cultures do not represent the clinical situation, and fail to be good drug predictors, so in this investigation we used bioengineering to create all-human 3D cellular microtissues that better mimic the clinical behaviour of prostate cancer in the bone.

"Up until now, our understanding had been limited by our inability to mimic cellular interactions.

"Using the latest technologies, we have found a platform for mirroring human cell behaviour, providing a research pathway for the acceleration of discoveries that can stop cancer from spreading.

"Importantly, our findings may lead to new ways of targeting and personalising prostate cancer treatment, based on each patient’s unique genetics and unique tumour microenvironment.

"It will also enable clinicians to determine whether patients are eligible for clinical trials, providing much greater hope of combatting disease."

Prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, with 20,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia CEO, Professor Jeff Dunn AO, commended the team for their discovery.

"This work demonstrates the importance of ongoing research to investigate all aspects of disease and illness," Prof Dunn said.

"Notably, Australia has one of the highest incidence rates of prostate cancer internationally, with 1 in every 7 Australian men likely to be diagnosed during their lifetime.

"While survival rates for prostate cancer are high, with over 95% of men likely to survive at least five years, we must keep up the pace of work to find curative treatments, especially for advanced disease in the bone.

"There can be no doubt that this research will build on previous discoveries to help us save lives by stopping cancer from spreading.

"We commend the team of experts and congratulate PCFA grant recipient Dr Nathalie Bock for her research performance.

"Research is key to prostate cancer survival and we are proud to support Dr Bock in her inspiring quest to help us find a cure in our lifetime.

"This is Australian research excellence at its finest," he said.

Dr Nathalie Bock