Every day, scientists, researchers and health professionals across the country work tirelessly to save and change lives, and every year National Science Week is our opportunity to highlight their efforts and celebrate their achievements.
To celebrate National Science Week 2020 running from 15-23 August, we spoke with Cancer Council funded Beat Cancer Project Researcher Dr Krzysztof Mrozik, who, with your support, is helping bring a cancer free future closer.
Dr Mrozik has received Cancer Council Beat Cancer Project funding in 2020 to further his research into different drug delivery approaches with the hope of improving the quality of life and survival of patients with multiple myeloma, an inoperable blood cancer that grows within bones.
Tell us a bit about your research career to date?
After completing my undergraduate degree, I worked for several years investigating the utility of stem cells in tissue regeneration applications. In 2012, my research focus changed to cancer when I began my PhD studies into the debilitating blood cancer multiple myeloma. In 2018, I undertook a postdoctoral position in the Myeloma Research Laboratory (The University of Adelaide) based at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI).
What first motivated you to become a cancer researcher?
My interest in cancer research was driven by the huge impact that cancer has on society.
In our lifetime, it is highly likely that we, or someone close to us, will receive a cancer diagnosis, with many individuals facing a difficult and extremely challenging road ahead. As a cancer researcher, I am motivated by the opportunity and possibility that my work could make a difference in improving the long-term prognosis and quality of life of many individuals with cancer.
How did you become interested in specifically researching multiple myeloma?
Myeloma is a genetically complex, physically debilitating and largely incurable cancer. Despite tremendous advancements over the past two decades in our understanding and therapeutic management of myeloma, the cause of the disease remains unknown and almost all patients relapse following initial therapy.
There is still so much to learn about myeloma, which is one of the reasons why I became interested in it. As myeloma is a cancer that grows within bones, researching this disease may also provide valuable insight into how advanced cancers (e.g. of the breast, prostate and lung) grow, and could be more successfully treated, once they metastasise to the bone. I think this is an exciting prospect.
Can you briefly explain your research?
Much of my research involves laboratory-based work and the use of animal models. My research focuses on developing and investigating strategies to selectively increase drug delivery to sites of myeloma tumour in bone and to reduce drug exposure to healthy tissues, in order to reduce drug side effects. I am also investigating the role of ageing on myeloma development and novel strategies to delay relapse in myeloma.
What do you hope to achieve through funding from Cancer Council’s Beat Cancer Project?
Drug therapy is a mainstay of treatment for patients with myeloma. However, drug side effects represent a major barrier for optimal treatment in many patients, thereby increasing the risk of disease relapse and adverse prognosis.
If patients continue with therapy, poorly controlled side effects can cause unacceptable suffering, both physically and emotionally, profoundly impacting quality of life. As such, there is a critical need for strategies to minimise these side effects, while maintaining the ability of the drugs to optimally treat the cancer.
With the support of Cancer Council’s Beat Cancer Project, I will develop strategies to selectively increase the delivery of drugs to sites of myeloma tumour in the bone and decrease drug exposure to healthy tissues in order to minimise the incidence and severity of drug side effects. As such, this work has the potential to significantly improve the treatment of patients with myeloma, leading to better quality of life and long-term disease remission. Notably, these drug delivery strategies may also have implications in the treatment of other cancers within bone for which debilitating drug side effects are a significant problem.
What do you believe the future holds for cancer research?
With continued advancements in targeted cancer therapies and technologies such as artificial intelligence and gene editing, I believe the future of cancer research is extremely exciting.
While a cancer-free future is still some way off, I think the next 10-15 years will see dramatic improvements in cancer survival rates, even in some hard to treat cancers, with more individuals experiencing long-term remission and better quality of life.
Every breakthrough and every step we take to bring us closer to a cancer free future through advances in research is only made possible because of the generous support of the South Australian community, so on behalf of all cancer researchers, scientists and health professionals, thank you for supporting us to save lives.
August 28 is Daffodil Day and your opportunity to fund life-saving cancer research, like that of Dr Mrozik, and help bring a cancer free future closer. Make an online donation during August, head to your local Foodland store and purchase a daffodil dedication, or buy fresh daffodils at one of our three stalls in Adelaide’s CBD on the day.
The daffodil gives us hope. Research is saving lives. Donate today: https://www.cancersa.org.au/get-involved/events/daffodil-day/