Chris O'Brien Lifehouse's Dr Kate Mahon has received the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia's 2015 Movember Clinician Scientist Award.
PH News spent five minutes with her to talk about her work and the award.
PH News: Why is this award useful to you?
KM: This award will fund my research salary and part fund research costs for the next three years. This will allow me to spend half of my week pursuing my prostate cancer research goals, many of which have arisen out of my PhD which I completed last year. The other half of my week will focus on clinical work at Lifehouse. Having secured funding for three years will give me time to develop my career as a clinician scientist as it is often hard to secure funding in the early stages of a research career.
PH News: What are you working on currently?
KM: I am currently working on validating my PhD findings in a larger group of patients with advanced prostate cancer. This involves testing blood markers before and after the first dose of chemotherapy to see if the changes in the levels of these markers correspond to which patients get a benefit from chemotherapy. Only 50% of patients with advanced prostate cancer will respond to chemotherapy and we can only measure this after two to three months of treatment so many men receive treatment (and experience the potential associated side effects) without getting any benefit. My study is aimed at identifying which patients are not responding earlier in the treatment course so that they are spared the side effects if it is not helping them and also so that they can go on to have other treatments that might be beneficial sooner. In my PhD I identified a range of blood that was able to do this in 60 to 100 patients but now we must prove it in bigger independent groups of patients.
PH News: What do you hope this will change?
If these markers prove to be useful, we may use them to save men from unnecessary toxicity from treatment and allow them to progress to more effective treatments sooner. This will improve our ability to tailor treatment for individual patients and move towards more personalised cancer care.
PH News: What is the need for prostate cancer research?
KM: In Australia last year, over 3,000 men died of prostate cancer and many more are living with this disease, causing significant morbidity. In the setting of advanced prostate cancer, the number of therapies available has recently increased significantly but resistance to these drugs remains a big problem. Early markers of response to treatment will allow us to cease ineffective therapy earlier and move on to other potentially effective treatments.