Exploring new therapeutic targets in the prevention of drug resistance and relapse in multiple myeloma

Dr Kate Vandyke

Dr Kate's grant is funded by Cure Cancer, The Snowdome Foundation and Cancer Australia through the Priority-driven Collaborative Cancer Research Scheme

She is based at The University of Adelaide and South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute.

Dr Kate Vandyke investigates multiple myeloma, the incurable blood cancer that claims around 100,000 people globally each year.

Dr Kate Vandyke's research

Dr Kate Vandyke is now in her second year of her 3-year Cure Cancer Grant.

In the past two decades, several new drugs for the treatment of multiple myeloma have been introduced, improving survival rates. However, despite these advances, the cancer remains incurable, with some patients not responding to initial therapy, and all patients ultimately relapse and no longer responding to treatment. One of the major concerns that myeloma patients face is that at some point their disease will relapse. Living with this knowledge represents a looming issue that can cloud their everyday lives and cause significant stress.

As there are no reliable methods of diagnosing whether a new myeloma patient is going to do poorly or not on a particular therapy, Dr Kate’s research is focused on improving these procedures.

“We are aiming to determine whether we can identify those patients that are at a high risk of poor response to therapy or of rapid relapse on particular therapies,” explains Dr Kate.

“We have identified a gene called CCR1 which is ‘switched on’ in myeloma patients who go on to have particularly poor survival. Additionally, we have shown that cancer cells which have high levels of CCR1 are particularly resistant to treatment with common myeloma drugs.”

With her team, Dr Kate will investigate whether CCR1 is a suitable diagnostic tool to identify those patients who will not respond to standard myeloma therapies.

“We will investigate the use of a drug targeting CCR1 to improve the cancer’s response to anti-myeloma treatment, to potentially provide an avenue for treatment of these high-risk patients that would otherwise have done poorly.”

The importance of cancer research funding

Dr Kate has already worked on several projects focused on regulating myeloma dissemination and its interactions with bone marrow. The ongoing funding from Cure Cancer will enable her to build on this solid base.

“Without an established track record in obtaining research grants, it can be near impossible to get one’s foot in the door in many funding schemes,” she says.

“That’s one reason Cure Cancer grants are so highly competitive, as reflected in the high calibre of their recipients. I’m honoured to have been selected – I view it as one of my greatest career achievements to date!”

“One reason Cure Cancer grants are highly competitive is the high calibre of their recipients.”

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