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    Research home > Beat Cancer Project > Improving our knowledge of cancer and developing new treatments

    Improving our knowledge of cancer and developing new treatments

    Professor Stuart Pitson

    Characterising a highly oncogenic variant of sphingosine kinase 1

    Our research 

    Our team has established that some genetic defects in cancer lead to the hijacking of a protein called SK1 to assist the cancer cells to survive and resist chemotherapeutics, and that targeting SK1 with treatments can block the growth of some solid tumours and blood cancers. We have now identified a modified version of SK1, termed SK1b, in some breast and lung cancers and leukaemias that appears more dangerous since it can contribute to cancer largely independently of other genetic defects. We are now examining the reasons for the presence of SK1b in these cancers, how the protein is controlled, how common it is in cancer, and hope to develop new cancer treatments that target this protein.

    What we aim to achieve

    This project is directed towards advancing our understanding of the molecular basis of cancer initiation and progression, and the development of chemotherapeutic resistance. Successful outcomes in this work will not only identify a new target for treatment, but also establish which cancer patients may respond best to this type of treatment.

    Our next steps and milestones

    The findings from our project will help to understand the molecular basis of some cancers, identify a new therapeutic target for these cancers, and potentially lead to new and more effective therapies.

    What motivates me

    Cancer touches us all, with almost everyone having had family members, friends or colleagues ravaged by this disease. We cancer researchers are no exception, providing considerable motivation for our work. To be afforded the opportunity to work towards understanding cancer and developing better outcomes for cancer sufferers is a great responsibility that we take very seriously.

    My message to supporters

    Cancer is a moving target that is constantly changing, making the development of effective treatments challenging. Basic understanding of the molecular basis of cancer is the cornerstone to the development of new therapies and meeting this challenge. Funding from Cancer Council SA donors has been critical for advancing our cancer research. We are very grateful to the generous donors and supporters of the Cancer Council SA who help us to do this work.


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