Dr Laura Edgington-Mitchell

Finding new strategies for the relief of cancer-related pain

Laura’s research grant is co-funded with Cancer Australia.

Dr Laura Edgington-Mitchell is a scientist at the University of Melbourne’s Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute. She obtained her PhD in Cancer Biology from Stanford University, California, in 2012.

Laura’s Cure Cancer research project focuses on investigating the causes of cancer pain. Much of Laura’s drive and passion is inspired by her late mother-in-law, who succumbed to metastatic breast cancer. She experienced great pain and was on sedating doses of morphine at the end of her life.

The Research

Most cancer patients experience pain that worsens as the disease progresses. It is largely managed by administration of opioids, but these lose their effectiveness over time and have debilitating side effects.

A growing body of evidence shows that enzymes called proteases can activate a receptor called PAR2 (protease-activated receptor-2), which results in pain. Laura’s research will investigate in depth how this pathway contributes to cancer pain, with an overarching goal of finding new strategies that can provide relief, especially for patients with advanced disease.

The team will use oral cancer, one of the most painful forms, as a model for study, but hope that their findings will translate to other painful cancers, such as bone and pancreatic. If her pre-clinical studies are successful they could pave the way for future clinical trials. ‘Ideally, the same drugs that provide pain relief would simultaneously prevent or halt the growth of tumours.’

The Importance of Funding

“As a new lab head, my administrative load is ever-growing. Finding time to write grants, manuscripts, and patents is essential,’ says Laura. ‘This Cure Cancer opportunity will allow me to hire my first post-doctoral fellow, who’ll be able to accelerate this project towards meaningful outcomes that will hopefully improve quality of life for cancer patients.’

‘It’s fantastic that Cure Cancer provides support for early career researchers. We cannot do the work we do without such generous donations. I’m extremely grateful for Cure Cancer’s support and confident it’ll help drive my research towards clinically meaningful outcomes. Having this grant will no doubt make me more competitive for future funding.’

Laura is a firm believer that researchers should never be afraid to take risks and be ready to seize opportunities when they arise.