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Our Researchers

Our Researchers: About

Mission Statement

Professor John T Price

Mission Statement: 

To identify effective treatments for metastatic cancer through innovative approaches leading to improved survival and quality of life. 

The major reason for death and poor quality of life amongst cancer patients is not due to the growth of the cancer, but is primarily due to the spread of the cancer from the primary source to other organs, such as the brain, lung, liver and bones, a process known as metastasis. Due to the compromised function of these vital organs patients have a very poor quality of life and ultimately succumb to their disease. Although there have been major advances in the treatment and survival rates of patients that have localised cancers, there has been no change in the prognosis and survival of patients with metastatic breast cancer over the past 30 year. Although only 5-10% of cancers are metastatic when they are initially diagnosed, 30% of women diagnosed with breast cancer will go on to develop metastatic breast cancer. Currently there are no available treatments that that are considered curative for metastatic cancer although a number are able to improve the patient’s quality of life in the short term. Therefore, there is currently a great need to identify new therapies that specifically target metastatic cancer. It is estimated that approximately 2% of funds are dedicated to the study of metastatic cancer, therefore, if a cure is to be realised for metastatic cancer, specific funding is needed. 

Our research focuses upon identifying specific molecules within cancer cells that are required for the cancer cells to spread to other organs. In doing so we have determined a number of new drug targets that may aid in the treatment of metastatic cancer. Currently we are designing and testing new drug treatments towards these important mediators of cancer metastasis in the hope of isolating novel therapies for metastatic cancer. 

Our Researchers: About
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2023 Impact Update

Professor John Price and PhD Scholar Joe Polidano have developed a series of peptide inhibitors that stop cancer cells from growing and spreading.

Despite a pause in fundraising efforts during 2021 and 2022 due to COVID-19, researchers in the Cancer Biology and Metastasis (CBAM) Lab at Victoria University and the University of Melbourne have accelerated the progress of an innovative project which aims to develop highly selective anticancer compounds.

Each colour of the model is called a domain, with each domain performing a unique and important role which impacts how HSF1 works in our cells. The research project is led by Professor John Price (Principle Investigator and CBAM Group Leader, Victoria University) and PhD Scholar Joe Polidano (University of Melbourne), who have developed a series of peptide inhibitors which stop cancer cells from growing and spreading. These groundbreaking peptides target a molecule called Heat Shock Factor 1 (HSF1), which has been shown to be vital for cancer cell function and survival. “As the peptides  block the activity of HSF1, we have the opportunity to sensitise therapy resistant and advanced cancer cells to death”, Joe said. Professor Price states that “while we have shown for some time that these peptides are effective in targeting cancer cells, we have made significant inroads during the past 12 months in identifying several drugs which are currently used in patients for other purposes, however, they also appear to target HSF1 in the same way as our peptide inhibitors do.” This is very significant as the essential information regarding the safety and utility of these drugs are already known, meaning that these drugs can be ‘repurposed’ for use in advanced cancers and can be trialed in patients sooner. While it can take up to 15 or 20 years for a new drug to be approved for patient use, drugs which already have approval for use in patients can be applied into the clinic much quicker. Due to the recent findings the team have 3 major avenues of research; Continue to develop the ‘first-in-class’ peptide HSF1 inhibitors. Testing known drugs that also inhibit HSF1, to ‘repurpose’ these for use in metastatic cancers. Currently designing a novel HSF1 small molecule inhibitor based on our knowledge gained from 1. and 2. It is envisioned that this approach will lead to the generation of a therapeutic for metastatic cancer that significantly improves the plight of patients suffering with this stage of cancer.

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2019 Impact Update

Innovative peptides may lead to New Cancer Treatment

Thanks to the support provided by ‘Stop the Mets’, PhD Candidate Joe Polidano and Professor John Price (Group Leader of the Cancer Biology and Metastasis (CBAM) Lab, are spearheading an exciting research project which aims to develop highly selective anticancer compounds. “Using peptide technology, we have designed several peptide compounds to bind directly with a protein called HSF1 and block its activity in assisting advanced cancer cells to survive and spread to other parts of the body. The experiments we have conducted using these peptides have shown exciting results, indicating that they may block tumour growth, survival and spread.” “Stop the Mets has been vital for us to continue with this exciting project, allowing us to explore new peptide designs, and purchase new scientific equipment and materials. As government grants have become increasingly harder to win, we would not have made the inroads that we have without the support of Stop the Mets.” Joe Polidano Stop the Mets’ held its third annual fundraising event in October 2018, which has raised an impressive total of $56,010. Now in its fourth year, Stop the Mets has registered a team in Melbourne Marathon to continue raising awareness and vital funds. While it has been some time since the CBAM research team has donned the running shoes, they are all very enthusiastic to participate, and optimistic that we can make a difference”.

Our Researchers: Mission
Our Researchers: Mission
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2018 Impact Update

PhD Candidate Joe Polidano and Professor John Price are spearheading an exciting research project.

The ‘Stop the Mets’ Fundraiser held its second annual fundraising event in October 2017, which has now raised a cumulative total of $46,000, 100% of which has been directed towards a research project exploring new and effective anti- metastatic therapies.
PhD Candidate Joe Polidano and Professor John Price have made significant progress since the last ‘Stop the Mets’ update.
“The support provided by ‘Stop the Mets’ has been vital for us to continue with the project. We are very excited by the possibility of a new therapy for metastatic breast cancer, and metastatic cancers in general, which is showing great promise to provide a new treatment option for cancer patients with metastasis,” Joe Polidano said.
Previous research by the team and others has identified a particular molecule that plays a crucial role in the growth, survival and spread of cancers to other parts of the body.
“A protein called HSF1, a transcription factor, has been demonstrated to play a vital role in assisting advanced cancer cells to survive and spread to other areas of the body”, Joe explained.
“This finding gave us the idea that if we inhibit or blocked the action of this factor, it may lead to a new therapy that would be effective for metastatic cancers.”
Thanks to the support provided by Stop the Mets, Joe is exploring the effectiveness of several different compounds that could block the action of HSF1, and as a result, stop advanced cancers from growing and spreading.

Our Researchers: About
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2017 Impact Update

A/Prof John Price to purchase vital reagents to enable the PhD project entitled “Generation of Anti-metastatic Drugs by Targetting HSF1”.

As a result of the outstanding work of the Stop the Mets team, headed by Donna Ritchens, and fantastic community support, last year’s fundraising dinner raised an astonishing $29,000. 

The student who is being supported by the Stop the Mets donation is Joe Polidano (right), a molecular and cell biologist who was recently awarded an Australian Postgraduate Award PhD Scholarship at the University of Melbourne. The research work is being performed at the ‘state-of-the-art’ facilities at the Western Centre for Health Research and Education (WCHRE), a collaborative research facility between Victoria University, University of Melbourne and Western Health.

The Research

A protein called Heat Shock Factor 1 (HSF1) has been identified to exist in most cells, but is known to be higher in a number of metastatic cancers, notably breast. HSF1 has been shown to be central to cancer initiation, progression and metastasis. Consistent with this, HSF1 is strongly associated with poor outcomes in cancer patients. Therefore, therapeutically targeting HSF1 represents an exciting opportunity to inhibit fundamental pathways essential for metastatic cancer cell function and survival.

The development of a successful HSF1 inhibitor has been a keystone project of our Research Group for several years. During this time, we have made significant inroads in the development of a class of potential inhibitors.

Already, we have demonstrated extremely positive results with our peptides in a range of metastatic cell lines. Our preliminary studies demonstrate that our inhibitors directly interact with HSF1, potently block its function and decrease cancer cell growth, survival and migration, but have minimal effects upon normal cells. Thus, we are in a leading position to further develop and characterise these ‘first-in-class’ HSF1 inhibitors, the goal of Joe’s PhD project, which would represent a significant step towards isolating new and effective anti-metastatic therapies.

The exciting research projects our team will undertake in 2017 has received a significant boost thanks to the support of Stop the Mets and its donors.2017 is shaping up to be an exciting year for our Research Group and we are looking forward to sharing our progress with you

Our Researchers: About
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