World First Project Gives Hope to Prostate Cancer
Your generous support of world-class research through the RAH Research Fund is providing a boost to research undertaken by Professor Gary Wittert, who is playing a key role in the fight against prostate cancer, a heartbreaking disease impacting the lives of one in five Australian men.
As part of a group of collaborative researchers led by Associate Professor Lisa Butler from the University of Adelaide, Professor Wittert is working on a world-first research project looking at new ways to determine which cases of prostate cancer are life-threatening and which ones may not require treatment at all.
Based at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), A/Prof Butler and the research team are doing this by focussing their research on lipids (fat), which are the building blocks of cells.
They are looking at lipids in prostate tumours as a completely new way of predicting the cancer’s future behaviour.
With an extensive background in men’s health research, Professor Wittert joined this project to play a very important role by examining a protein called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) and its role in lipid metabolism in the prostate. SHBG is a glycoprotein (protein with a sugar attached to it) that is made in the prostate and binds together the two sex hormones, androgen and oestrogen, an important process for testosterone regulation.
“The funding from the RAH Research Fund allowed us to bring on a new PhD student, Prabin Gyawali, to help us to establish if there is a relationship between this protein and the aggressiveness of prostate cancer,” Prof Wittert explained.
“Being part of A/Prof Butler’s group gives us access to an amazing culture system where we can use fresh prostate cancer (and non-cancer) tissue from patients who have had surgery.
“Then we can look at the different tissues and find out what SHBG looks like and see if SHBG in the prostate is linked to lipid metabolism.
“We have to find out if this protein gives us a new way of diagnosing prostate cancer, or assess if it is a new way of determining how aggressive the prostate cancer is.”
What does this mean for future patients? Prof Wittert says if clinicians can look at a prostate biopsy, they want to be able to tell someone if their cancer is aggressive or not. SHBG could be a marker for helping them do this.
As the previous chair of the RAH Project Grants Committee, Prof Wittert is a strong believer in the importance of community fundraising for vital medical research and says even smaller grants have shown to be of immense help to researchers, enabling them to deliver outcomes to the community.
“I think the research that is achieved from support from everyday people making donations is remarkable,” he said.
“When people contribute money they’re not just advancing science, they are not just impacting health immediately, they are impacting health on subsequent generations and they are also investing in the economy in our state.
“I am very humbled that donors are able to support our research that could ultimately lead to a breakthrough in prostate cancer.”
Thank you for supporting this vital research, we could not do it without you!