Outcomes of the 2023/2024 Grant Round

PCFA's strategic research goal is to fund research that creates and promotes the uptake of knowledge that will improve the lives of Australian men with prostate cancer, their partners, families and carers.

PCFA recognises that funding pressures often impact junior researchers the most, with implications for long-term prostate cancer research horizons. Therefore, the 2023/2024 funding round called for applications from early and mid-career researchers under PCFA’s Priority Impact Research Award - Future Leaders (PIRA-FL) Scheme.

This scheme focuses on supporting our key and emerging talent via salaried awards to promote prostate cancer research pathways which harness the clinical and psychosocial needs and interests of consumers and the broader community.

Applications were welcome from Prostate Cancer Researchers in:

  • Basic Science
  • Survivorship/Psychosocial/Health Services and implementation research
  • Clinical Research including Nursing

All applications included a statement on how the grant will support the applicant’s development in each of the following categories:

  • Leadership
  • Impact
  • Environment
  • Multidisciplinary collaboration
  • Research Achievement
  • Consumer Engagement

Priority Impact Research Award Scheme Recipients

Dr Eric Kusnadi

Dr Eric Kusnadi, University of Melbourne

Developing novel STEAP1-targeting theranostics for personalised prostate cancer treatment.

Theranostic (“therapy” and “diagnostic”) involves using a ligand, such as a peptide or small molecule, bound to a radionuclide to reveal cancer’s spread through a PET/CT scan. The same ligand is then combined with a “therapeutic” radioisotope to specifically target and kill cancer cells. The FDA has approved PET/CT imaging of prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA)-positive cancer and Lutetium-177 PSMA radioligand therapy for patients with advanced prostate cancer. However, PSMA theranostics are not suitable for approximately 25% of prostate cancer patients due to low PSMA expression and the durability of response to Lutetium-177 PSMA therapy is often limited. This project aims to develop a novel theranostic ligand against STEAP1, a molecule that is abundantly present on the surface of prostate cancer cells (including PSMA-negative cancers). Successful outcomes of this work will expand the role of theranostics in personalised cancer management, particularly for PSMA-negative prostate cancer patients, aligning with PCFA’s priority to apply “precision approaches to therapies across the prostate cancer continuum”.

Dr Nicholas Choo

Dr Nicholas Choo, Monash University

Identifying new treatments with testosterone for prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is usually treated by reducing testosterone levels in the body, but some tumours can adapt and grow in a low-testosterone environment. Bipolar androgen therapy (BAT) is an emerging treatment where men on standard hormone therapy receive high doses of testosterone, cycling between very high and low levels of male hormones. As some tumours are more responsive to BAT alone than others, this project will investigate combinations of BAT with different compounds to improve the effectiveness of BAT. This research will identify useful BAT combinations that will advance more effective treatments for prostate cancer patients.

Dr Kevin Koo, The University of Queensland

Dr Kevin Koo, The University of Queensland

Interrogating the Prostate Tumor Microenvironment for Circulating Radiotherapy Biomarkers to Personalize Targeted Alpha-Therapy.

Despite the overall survival benefit of Prostate-Specific Membrane Antigen (PSMA)-targeted radiotherapy for metastatic Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer (mCRPC), radioresistance is inevitable with all patients eventually succumbing to their disease. To improve molecular understanding of such radioresistance mechanisms, I will work with Australian industry partner – AdvanCell, who is conducting the first-ever TheraPb clinical study of PSMA-212 Pb Targeted Alpha Therapy (TAT) in mCRPC. By undertaking cutting-edge molecular analysis of patient blood samples from the TheraPb study, the overall project aim is the world-first development of predictive molecular targets for PSMA-TAT. This project is expected to deliver direct clinical benefit by facilitating radioresistance prediction and immune response monitoring for precision PSMA-TAT delivery.

Dr Jessica Roydhouse

Dr Jessica Roydhouse, Menzies Institute for Medical Research - University of TAS

Addressing financial challenges in prostate cancer.

This project will investigate the needs and experience of men with prostate cancer who live in a regional area, focusing on the financial impact of prostate cancer and the role of employment. Next, it will examine what regional employers need to support men with prostate cancer. The research aims to inform future interventions that can help address these needs.

Dr Jessica Logan

Dr Jessica Logan, University of South Australia

EV-PRECiSE: A Multi-Centre Cohort Study to Optimise Prostate Cancer Treatment Selection in Australia.

Dr Logan’s project focuses on men who are currently identified as low-risk prostate cancer patients but regrettably, 35% will require treatment in the first 2 years, and 59% will require intervention within 5 years. Improved methods are needed to maximise early intervention and therapy selection while managing co-morbidity to reduce the socioeconomic burden of prostate cancer in Australia. The current standard in clinical assessment of prostate cancer is subjective Gleason grading of tissue sections, leading to sub-optimal treatment choices and disease progression in AS patients. Our discovery of altered endosomal biology in prostate cancer enabled the identification of precise biomarkers (Appl1, Sortilin, Syndecan-1) for primary pathogenesis. This innovative technology has been fully validated and implemented into clinical practice in the US and the aim is to further develop the technology and establish this service provision for Australian men.