Re­search aims to spare can­cer pain

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Health - By CAITLIN TILLER

PAS­SION­ATE can­cer re­searcher An­nette Lim thinks her team could even­tu­ally save pa­tients from un­nec­es­sary chemo­ther­apy and ra­dio­ther­apy.

The med­i­cal on­col­o­gist from Sir Charles Gaird­ner Hos­pi­tal re­cently re­ceived a share of $933,000 from the Health Depart­ment and the Raine Med­i­cal Re­search Foun­da­tion for a study into the spread of tu­mours in head and neck can­cers.

“Our team in­volves head and neck sur­geons, plas­tic sur­geons, ra­di­ol­o­gists, med­i­cal on­col­o­gists, ra­di­a­tion on­col­o­gists, pathol­o­gists, speech ther­a­pists, di­eti­tians, nurs­ing staff, oral health spe­cial­ists, den­tists, pal­lia­tive care spe­cial­ists, ra­di­ol­o­gists and that’s just the clin­i­cal side,” Dr Lim said. “This re­search im­por­tantly also in­volves ex­pert sci­en­tists in the lab­o­ra­tory; that’s how many peo­ple are needed to look af­ter one per­son on their can­cer jour­ney if they have head and neck can­cer.”

Dr Lim said the two main ar­eas of re­search in­volved ex­am­i­na­tion of ex­o­somes and the role of the im­mune sys­tem in controlling can­cer.

“Ex­o­somes are frag­ments of can­cer that can be de­tected in the blood and they can af­fect how the im­mune sys­tem fights can­cer cells and un­der­stand­ing th­ese could help to de­ter­mine an in­di­vid­u­alised, op­ti­mal can­cer treat­ment plan,” she said.

Dr Lim said their hy­poth­e­sis was that can­cer frag­ments in the blood­stream were im­por­tant to driv­ing the way can­cer spreads and a larger study would give them a chance to con­firm that.

“One day, if we can de­sign a drug that stops can­cer spread­ing, we may be able to cure pa­tients or save them need­ing ex­tra treat­ment and this would rev­o­lu­tionise can­cer care,” she said.

Dr Lim said a re­al­is­tic out­come of their re­search would be to save peo­ple from need­ing ex­tra chemo­ther­apy or ra­dio­ther­apy.

“If we know from a molec­u­lar per­spec­tive that peo­ple don’t need it be­cause we have learnt how to iden­tify a can­cer that is not as ag­gres­sive or that the im­mune sys­tem is go­ing to kick in, fan­tas­tic,” she said.

“This could make a dif­fer­ence to so many peo­ple’s lives around the world and hope­fully not just for pa­tients with head and neck can­cer but all types of can­cer.”

St Charles Gaird­ner Hos­pi­tal med­i­cal on­col­o­gist An­nette Lim with a se­quenc­ing chip used in can­cer re­search.

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