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    Research home > Beat Cancer Project > X-radiation and cancer: prevention and treatment research

    X-radiation and cancer: prevention and treatment research

    Professor Pamela Sykes

    Our research

    X-radiation is an important tool in cancer research, both for understanding the damage caused by radiotherapy treatment and also for studying mechanisms of carcinogenesis. My team at Flinders University is undertaking world-leading studies on protective effects of low dose radiation, studies on radiotherapy, and studies on carcinogenic mechanisms. This research has the potential to change cancer treatment regimens, reduce side effects and improve quality of life.

    What we aim to achieve

     Radiotherapy is used to treat many different types of cancer. The ability to kill tumour cells with radiotherapy is currently limited by the amount of radiation that can be given to a patient because of the damaging side effects of high dose radiation on normal tissues. Our laboratory aims to identify new anti-cancer therapeutics, both radiological and pharmacological, which can make tumour cells more sensitive to radiation and at the same time protect normal tissues from the damaging side-effects of radiation. This would improve cure rates and reduce debilitating side effects.

    Our next steps and milestones

     We have identified a chemical which in association with low dose radiation is able to substantially protect normal cells from damage from high radiotherapy doses, as well as an increased ability to kill cancer cells. The chemical also shows promise at preventing cancer cells from spreading outside of the tumour. 

    Our next steps are to perform studies where we mimic a long-term radiotherapy regime to determine if we can obtain long-term protection from side effects of radiotherapy as well as effective killing of the tumour cells. We will also study the potential mechanism of how our chemical can prevent cells from becoming more aggressive and spreading throughout the body by studying molecules that allow cells to escape from a tumour as well as molecules elsewhere in the body that can act as havens for cancer cells to grow. 

    The ultimate goal will be to perform clinical trials to determine the effectiveness of the drug as an additional therapeutic in current radiotherapy protocols.

    What motivates me

     Research has always been my passion and working in the Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer I see cancer patients every day. This continually reminds me of the urgent need to prevent and/or more successfully treat cancer.

    My message to supporters

     Funds from Cancer Council SA Beat Cancer Project provided valuable co-funding for a research dedicated X-ray machine which is located at Flinders University and Medical Centre. This has meant that researchers now have ready access to this key equipment and it is being used in many research projects, including pre-clinical studies. For our laboratory, it has opened up new research opportunities requiring low dose exposures, multiple exposures and time-separated exposures to radiation, enabling protocols that can mimic diagnostic and therapeutic clinical applications. Thanks to the generous support of Cancer Council and its donors, the X-ray machine is available for use by all researchers in South Australia.


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