Did you know 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women in Australia will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85?*
This is both a staggering and worrying statistic.
“Cancer” is a scary word. But having cancer is even scarier. And for the thousands of Australians living with cancer, trying to manage their day to day pain levels has a huge impact on their quality of life.
Most cancers are treated with toxic chemotherapy which indiscriminately kills all rapidly dividing cells—cancer cells and healthy cells alike. Side effects can range from mild discomfort to life-threatening conditions and long term damage to a patient’s health, even after the patient is cancer free.
What’s more, almost one third of patients who undergo high-dose chemotherapy suffer from an infection during the course of their treatment. This is because the normal, healthy cells in bone marrow needed to replenish the blood and immune system become damaged, leaving patients highly vulnerable to infection.
This is where Mater Research Associate Professor Ingrid Winkler (pictured right) and her talented team come in. They’re devoted to improving health outcomes for cancer patients and reducing the long term complications of chemotherapy. And every time you take on a Smiddy challenge event or donate to an inspiring Smiddy athlete to raise funds for cancer research, you’re helping researchers like Associate Professor Winkler to help improve the outcomes for people with cancer.
An “a-ha” moment
In a ground-breaking discovery, Associate Professor Winkler and her team identified the molecular “switch” the body uses to make bone marrow stem cells (haematopoietic stem cells) either go to sleep (which means they are resistant to chemotherapy) or wake up and regenerate the blood and immune system. This breakthrough is particularly important for people undergoing repeat rounds of high-dose chemotherapy. These patients are most at risk of treatment-induced immune suppression which leads to infections and in some cases, treatment associated death.
What happens now?
- The research team has established patents with an industry partner for the treatment and has a clear path forward for commercialisation and clinical translation of these discoveries.
- Early phase clinical trials in normal volunteers and patients with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia are planned for late 2015.
- The team anticipates that relapse rates will be reduced, and long term cancer free rates will be higher than 25%.
So next time you’re in the saddle or the pool, training for your next big challenge, know that what you’re doing is having an enormous impact. You’re helping get the one-up on cancer, allowing researchers at Mater to take the next steps to improve outcomes for people diagnosed with cancer.