1 in 2 Australians will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage.
Research is our only chance of conquering it.
Cancer is a leading cause of death in Australia, accounting for roughly three in every 10 deaths. By age 85, one in two men and one in three women are diagnosed with some form of cancer.*
There are a number of treatments for cancer; one of the most common is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells, which rapidly divide. Unfortunately, this means chemotherapy kills rapidly dividing healthy cells as well as cancer cells.
One of the worst side-effects of chemotherapy is damage to the person’s stem cells in their bone marrow. Bone marrow regenerates blood and the immune system, so patients treated with chemotherapy are left vulnerable to infection.
But a team of Mater researchers, led by Associate Professor Ingrid Winkler, have made a breakthrough discovery that could significantly reduce the suffering and recovery time for chemotherapy patients.
They’ve discovered a new way to protect healthy bone marrow stem cells from chemotherapy. Their research can be likened to flicking a biological switch to make bone marrow stem cells either ‘go to sleep’, resisting the effects of chemotherapy, or ‘wake up’ and regenerate the blood and immune systems.
The research to date has been so successful that it has progressed to phase two clinical trials on leukaemia patients. Mater’s researchers now aim to make an important step forward to apply their learnings to other cancers such as breast cancer and prostate cancer.
This important work has the potential to promote faster recovery from chemotherapy, reducing the terrible impact cancer treatment can have on patients.
It was painful for her husband James to watch, who said: "with every needle, it felt like she became more of a shell. She is still coping with some of the effects, even now several years on."
By Climbing for Cancer, you are helping to fund research projects like the 'Making chemotherapy safer project', to find new ways to reduce the side-effects of chemotherapy for people like Simone, making it a safer treatment and speeding up the recovery process.
Will you rise to the challenge?
Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2015