Cancer Council funded researcher Dr Madelé van Dyk is leading an Australian first research project aimed at perfecting personalised treatments for cancer patients.
Dr van Dyk, together with her team at the Flinders Centre for Cancer Innovation, are working every day to find ways to use cancer medicines in a more efficient and safe way, and understand why people react differently to cancer medicines.
Her particular focus is to move away from the ‘one-size fits-all’ approach to a more personalised approach that considers every person’s individual characteristics.
Every person is different in so many ways, so it makes sense that each person reacts differently when undergoing cancer treatment, said Dr van Dyk.
“Selecting the right drug and selecting the right amount of drug is the ultimate goal in Precision Medicine. We’re selecting the right type of drug really well, but are only half-way there, because we’re still using a ‘one-size-fits-all’ dose. I believe we can do better.”
Working with oncologists and cancer patients, Dr van Dyk and her team have set up Australia’s first Therapeutic Drug Monitoring Program, ensuring that every eligible patient in South Australia can have their drug levels tested through their oncologist, at any hospital, public or private, including those in remote areas.
Currently, the team are able to test the levels for six cancer drugs used to treat multiple types of advanced cancers of the lung, stomach, liver, kidney and blood. By the end of her research project, Dr van Dyk’s aim is to increase the list to as many drugs as possible and offer the service Australia wide.
By monitoring drug levels throughout treatment, Dr van Dyk and her team can ensure that patients are receiving the right dose to make the biggest impact.
For Dr van Dyk, her inspiration to make a difference comes from the incredible patients she meets every day.
“I’ve been privileged to work with a number of patients throughout my career. All of them are inspiring, but two patients, Ryan and Peter, had particular cases that scientifically stood out to me. Both were in their 30s, fit and healthy with one having a young family. At the peak of their lives, Ryan and Peter received a life changing cancer diagnosis, terminal cancer with a short life expectancy. Since those moments, my research interests and career were no longer just a job.
“I saw what both Peter and Ryan went through, the challenges they faced and thought that patients like them, and all patients, deserve better. It’s their stories, and the hope that we can do better, that motivates me every day.
It’s only through the incredible support of Cancer Council that this research is even possible. Through your support, I believe I can make a real difference to the future of cancer treatment and give more Australians diagnosed with cancer the precious gift of time.
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