Olivia Newton-John’s charity makes major cancer breakthrough
Olivia Newton-John’s latest gift to the world: the late star’s research institute discovers a major breakthrough in pancreatic cancer treatment
The cancer research charity, founded by the late Olivia Newton-John, has made an important discovery in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
Professor Matthias Ernst, the director of the ONJ Cancer Research Institute in Melbourne and head of La Trobe’s School of Cancer Medicine, led a study that solved the difficulties of treating one of the most aggressive forms of cancer.
The study, published Wednesday in the scientific journal Cell Reports, suggests that a new drug target could improve the response of pancreatic tumors to immunotherapy.
Cancer research charity founded by the late Olivia Newton-John (pictured) has made an important discovery in pancreatic cancer treatment
Professor Ernst warned that the research is still in its early stages and that more research is needed for years to come before it moves into human clinical trials.
However, he is hopeful that the ONJ Institute can send the findings to clinical trials in the future, saying the study has “strong rationale” for moving forward with development.
“Because we work in the same building as our oncology colleagues at Austin Health, our discoveries in the lab can quickly be translated into patient trials,” he said.
Professor Matthias Ernst, the director of the ONJ Cancer Research Institute in Melbourne and head of La Trobe’s School of Cancer Medicine, led a study that solved the difficulties of treating one of the most aggressive forms of cancer. (Newton-John is pictured with husband John Easterling and daughter Chloe Lattanzi)
Professor Ernst’s research shows that inhibition of hematopoietic cell kinase (HCK), a protein found in a type of immune cell, improves the response of pancreatic cancer to immunotherapy in preclinical models.
The drug has also been theoretically proven to limit the process of metastasis, reducing the spread of cancer cells to other parts of the body.
Another member of the research team, postdoctoral researcher co-lead Dr Ashleigh Poh of the ONJ Institute, said this could mean big things for pancreatic cancer treatment, as most patients who suffer from it do not respond to existing cancer drugs.
“The survival rate of pancreatic cancer has not improved in recent decades,” said Dr. poh.
“We hope to eventually translate these findings into the clinic and improve survival outcomes for patients with pancreatic cancer.”
The pancreas is an organ located behind the lower part of the stomach that aids in digestion and metabolizing sugars.
Pancreatic cancer is almost completely unresponsive to current immunotherapy, which reactivates the immune system so it can recognize and remove cancer cells.
It shows no symptoms during the early stages and spreads quickly throughout the body, with other treatments involving surgical removal of the pancreas, radiation, or chemotherapy.
About 4,260 new cases are diagnosed in Australia each year, with a survival rate of just 11 percent five years after diagnosis.
The study, published Wednesday in the scientific journal Cell Reports, suggests that a new drug target could improve the response of pancreatic tumors to immunotherapy. (Newton-John is pictured here with researchers from her cancer institute)