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21st June 2021 Latest News

Improving The Performance Of Prostate Cancer Drugs Like Zytiga

Professor Clive Prestidge

Professor Clive Prestidge is fighting back against prostate cancer – in more ways than one!

As a researcher in nanomedicine at the UniSA Cancer Research Institute, Professor Clive Prestidge and his team are focused on developing innovative pharmaceutical technologies to help cancer medications work more effectively in the body.

“Many researchers get to a point where their new cancer drug works well in the lab, but then doesn’t work very well within humans for a number of different reasons,” Prof Prestidge says.

“We have developed clever little nano-carriers which can take the drugs across biological barriers or help them target the right area within the body, and ultimately work a lot better.”

Armed with a recent grant from Australian Prostate Cancer and The Hospital Research Foundation Group, he’s got his sights set on improving a common prostate cancer drug called Zytiga, which currently requires the patient to fast for many hours prior to and after taking the drug.

“It means the drug is being used very inefficiently – literally 95% of it goes down the toilet, it doesn’t get absorbed by the body,” he says.

“So, we’ve developed technologies that can overcome this and the THRF Group grant will help us undertake key steps which will lead to human clinical trials, hopefully in the next few years.”

Prof Prestidge’s work is crucial for improving cancer therapies and patient outcomes – the importance of which he knows only too well.

A personal connection to the fight against cancer

As a former cancer patient himself, Prof Prestidge has a personal appreciation for the research and healthcare system that saved his life.

Two years ago, he received a positive result from the standard bowel cancer screening kit mailed to over 50s.

“I wasn’t worried at first because those poo tests can bring a lot of false positives, but it made me go to my GP and he suggested a routine colonoscopy,” he recalls.

“I thought it was completely routine, but I got my results back and they said they’d found a tumour in my bowel.

“My life was thrown completely upside down. Three weeks later I was having surgery, a full hemi-colectomy where I had half my colon removed.

“I was very lucky though because even though the tumour was a decent size – about an inch in diameter – it wasn’t very advanced, it hadn’t spread to the gut or the lymph system.

“So, I didn’t have to have chemotherapy in the end, but I did get knocked around by the surgery. I’ve never been to hospital in my life, I’m a very fit person; but I went to have the surgery, and then you get infections, and your bowel doesn’t work properly.”

Ironically, Prof Prestidge works on some of the bowel cancer drugs he would have been prescribed if it hadn’t been diagnosed so early! His experience has also made him a strong advocate for undertaking routine health checks as you age, even for the fit and healthy.