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NHMRC Fellowships for Two APCRC-Q Researchers

Two APCRC-Q researchers were awarded sought-after Fellowships in the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant round for funding starting in 2015.

APCRC-Q researchers were awarded over $1 million in National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grants announced in October 2014.

Dr Jyotsna Batra was awarded an NHMRC Career Development Fellowship for her project entitled: “Exploring the role of miRSNPs in diagnosis and prognosis of prostate cancer”. This study will conjoin the well-established mechanism of miRNA regulation in the prostate cancer aetiology with the unexplored area of regulatory genetic variants in untranslated gene regions to yield clinically-relevant information. Dr Batra proposes to undertake an innovative approach by combining expertise in genetic, molecular and computational biology.

“Alongside increasing our understanding of cancer biology, these results will provide an impetus for future diagnostic genetic tests for cancer risk assessment and prevention management and would be first step towards miRNA-based pharmacogenomics,” Dr Batra explains. “These results will have applicability to other hormone-related cancers including ovarian, breast and colon cancers, through our collaborative research.”

Dr Nathalie Bock was awarded a Peter Doherty Australian Biomedical NHMRC Early Career Fellowship. Dr Bock’s project, “Using Bioengineered 3D Models to Replicate the Tumour Microenvironment in Prostate Cancer” will investigate the use of bioengineered 3D models to replicate the tumour microenvironment in prostate cancer and identify factors contributing to the establishment of secondary lesions (metastases).

“The bone microenvironment is a preferential site for metastases,” Dr Bock explains, “while bone cells themselves were often considered the key players, compelling new findings that link fat cells present in the bone marrow with disease progression gave rise to our hypothesis - that fat cells are a key contributor and therapeutic target in prostate cancer bone metastasis.

“I will use bioengineered scaffolds, made of synthetic biomaterials, and combine human bone cells with fat cells, to replicate the tumour microenvironment within the bone.”

With this approach, Dr Bock hopes to provide a ‘real life’ humanised model of tumour cells relocating to bone, which will help identifying the interactions between both cell types and the impact of fat cells on cancer cell function and bone metastasis.