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02 February, 2024

Cure Cancer grant for mesothelioma research

02 February, 2024

Cure Cancer grant for mesothelioma research

Dr Adel Aref, a medical oncologist working in Children’s Medical Research Institute’s Proteome of Human Cancer Program (ProCan®), has been awarded a Cure Cancer Research Grant for his work on the devastating disease, mesothelioma.

Dr Aref worked as a medical oncologist for ten years overseas before moving to Australia to undertake his PhD and then join CMRI.

ProCan is a world-first research program that is building a database of the proteins in thousands of cancers of all different types, with the aim of improving cancer diagnosis and treatment outcomes. Dr Aref uses his expertise as a clinician and cancer researcher to plan and guide how the data can be used most effectively to improve clinical practice in the near future.

In the project funded by Cure Cancer, Dr Aref aims to identify a molecular ‘signature’ that would predict the likelihood of response to a treatment known as immunotherapy in patients with advanced malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM).

Australia has the highest rate of MPM in the world. This aggressive disease is usually associated with asbestos exposure. Patients often do not experience symptoms until late in the disease’s progression. This means the majority of cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage, with only 10% of patients surviving more than five years after diagnosis.

Dr Aref said, “For a long time, chemotherapy was the only treatment option for advanced MPM. More recently, immunotherapies have become an option, which has improved outcomes. However, not all patients respond to immunotherapy, and researchers need to learn more about who could most benefit from this treatment.”

Cure Cancer
Dr Adel Aref and Professor Roger Reddel meeting Cure Cancer supporters

Dr Aref’s Cure Cancer project will involve acquiring cancer samples and clinical data from organisations in Australia and France where several cohorts of patients with advanced MPM received immunotherapy and the outcome of their treatment is known.

“We will use state-of-the-art technology developed by ProCan to analyse thousands of different molecules (proteins) in the patients’ tumour tissues and deploy advanced computation, machine learning and artificial intelligence to identify patterns in cancer proteins that predict which patients are likely to respond to immunotherapy,’’ he said.

“We will also identify the proteins and biological pathways associated with treatment failure to understand why some patients do not respond to immunotherapy. and help determine possible new treatment options for these patients.

“The aim of this project is to help cancer clinicians in future to select patients with advanced MPM that are more likely to respond to immunotherapy. This will significantly benefit patients in terms of treatment success rates and quality of life. Also, by increasing our understanding of MPM cancers that do not respond to immunotherapy, it may be possible to identify new treatment options for patients in whom immunotherapy would fail.’’

Dr Aref thanked Cure Cancer for this opportunity.

“I am incredibly grateful and honoured to have received funding from Cure Cancer,’’ he said. “Advanced MPM is a devastating disease – for patients and their families. Finding the best treatment plan for each patient is crucial.

“The support from Cure Cancer will allow me to delve deeper into this complex disease and, hopefully, find new and effective treatments to help those affected. The Cure Cancer organisation inspires hope for cancer patients and researchers alike, and I am honoured to be a part of their efforts to make a difference in the fight against cancer.’’

Children’s Medical Research Institute Director and co-founder of ProCan Professor Roger Reddel said this support from Cure Cancer would give patients and their families hope. “We are very grateful to the remarkably generous donors to Cure Cancer who have provided this vital funding and the patients who have kindly agreed that we can analyse samples of their cancers to help improve the outcomes for future patients”, he said.