Every day, scientists, researchers and health professionals across the country work tirelessly to save and change lives. Every year National Science Week is our opportunity to highlight their efforts and celebrate their achievements.
To celebrate National Science Week 2022 (13-21 August), we spoke to Cancer Council SA funded Beat Cancer Project researcher Associate Professor Luke Selth, from Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute and Freemasons Centre for Male Health and Wellbeing, about his research and why he is passionate about finding better treatments for the more than 2,000 South Australian men diagnosed with prostate cancer every year.
What first motivated you to become a prostate cancer researcher?
Like most people, my life has been influenced by cancer. My mum passed away from leukaemia when I was 22 years old. I was doing a PhD in plant molecular biology at the time, but the experience of losing my mum to cancer motivated me to go into cancer research instead.
I ended up working on prostate cancer, at least partly because my grandpa died from this disease. Prostate cancer is very common and has a huge impact on patients and their loved ones. I’ve been working in prostate cancer research for 12 years now and over this period my passion to improve outcomes for patients has only increased.
Why is prostate cancer research so important?
Currently the standard treatment for advanced prostate cancer is hormonal therapy, which deprives the tumours of androgens that are required for tumour growth. Hormonal therapies have been effective in increasing survival rates, but they cannot cure prostate cancer and are associated with significant side-effects.
All men will eventually relapse with a disease state that we refer to as castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), which unfortunately can’t be cured. We desperately need new treatment options for CRPC to decrease the number of men killed by this disease which is currently estimated at more than 3,300 Australian men per year.
What do you hope to achieve through funding from Cancer Council’s Beat Cancer Project?
We believe that immunotherapy is going to be a really important way forward in developing a curative therapy for prostate cancer.
Immunotherapy harnesses the body’s own immune system to treat cancers, which has been effective in other cancer types. But, to date, it has been pretty unsuccessful as a treatment for prostate cancer.
I have been very fortunate to have had three research projects funded by Cancer Council SA’s Beat Cancer Project. One of these projects is specifically looking at how we can make immunotherapies more effective as a prostate cancer treatment.
Our aim is to find ways to make prostate tumours more sensitive to a specific type of immunotherapy. We hope that this will eventually lead to an entirely new treatment for advanced prostate cancer that will save lives.
Daffodil Day (25 August) is Cancer Council’s most iconic and much-loved fundraising campaign to raise funds for vital cancer research, like A/Prof Selth’s, that is saving lives every day. This Daffodil Day 2022, there are a range of ways that you can choose to get involved, including:
- Visit a location – Visit one of our Daffodil Day stalls across Adelaide where you can make a donation, purchase fresh daffodils, and buy merchandise. Find your nearest Daffodil Day stall here.
- Buy a daffodil – Pre-order or purchase our iconic fresh daffodils on Daffodil Day. You can pick up your fresh daffodils at any one of our stalls, at the Cancer Council SA office or order online.
- Fundraise – Register to host a Yellow Fundraiser event at your school, workplace or with your friends and family while raising money for cancer research. For more information visit daffodilday.com.au or phone 1300 65 65 85.
- Donate – Visit daffodilday.com.au this August and give to Cancer Council’s Daffodil Day Appeal to fund life-saving cancer research.