Mater Researcher shares in $1.8 million to fight one of Australia’s deadliest cancers

Thursday 16 November 2023

Mater Researcher Professor John Hooper will share in $1.8 million of funding from PanKind, the Australian Pancreatic Cancer Foundation, to investigate early detection and new treatments for pancreatic cancer. This round of New Treatment Grants, which were announced on World Pancreatic Cancer Day today, will see Prof Hooper receive $300,000 of this funding.

Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all common cancers – only three out of 10 people will survive one year after diagnosis and the current five-year survival rate is only 12.5 per cent – which drops alarmingly to six per cent for people living in rural and regional areas.

Prof Hooper has been a cancer researcher for nearly 30 years and leads the Cancer Biology Research Group at Mater Research. Building on discoveries made in relation to other cancer types, he will use this grant to test in preclinical models a new approach to both facilitate rapid detection and achieve targeted treatment of pancreatic cancer.

“I originally discovered a target protein in ovarian cancer. Since 2001, my team and I have been developing an agent that binds strongly and specifically to this target,” Prof Hooper said.

“We’ve spent many years working out how to attach a variety of ‘payloads’ to this agent and testing the payloaded agent for its ability to detect and treat our disease-relevant models of a range of cancers and are now applying this to pancreatic cancer.

“If the ‘payload’ is radioactive it can be used for detection of this cancer, and if it’s a drug it can be used for its treatment.”

Prof Hooper explains that although pancreatic cancer and ovarian cancer are very different, his team has found that they share some of the same proteins.

“We can target these shared proteins independently of whether they’re on the surface of a pancreatic cancer cell or an ovarian cancer cell. Because of that, our approaches could lead to benefits for people who have either type of cancer,” Prof Hooper said.

“We’re hoping that our receptor-directed precision approach will have benefits over and above the current treatment options for these patients. If the project is successful, it could justify the testing of our approach in clinical trials involving pancreatic cancer patients.”

To learn more about Professor Hooper, click here.

To learn more about PanKind, click here.