Patients helping researchers to advance treatments for prostate cancer

Researchers at Monash University have established one of the world’s largest collections of living tumours from prostate cancer patients, accelerating the testing of new treatments for prostate cancer and leading to faster patient benefit.

One of the most common cancers, prostate cancer is also one of the most difficult to study in the laboratory, with the frequently used models derived more than 40 years ago.  With the establishment of the Melbourne Urological Research Alliance (MURAL), hundreds of Victorian men have generously donated samples of their cancer tissue, enabling the team to study a greater diversity of live tumours and test the efficacy of a larger variety of therapies for their ability to stop tumour growth.

The PDX collection (patient-derived xenografts), developed by a multidisciplinary consortium and led by Professor Gail Risbridger and Associate Professor Renea Taylor at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI), now comprises 59 tumours, collected from 30 patients between 2012 – 2020 and is now one of the largest collections of prostate cancer models in the world.

Full characterisation of the PDX collection is published in Nature Communications.

MURAL PDXs are an enduring resource of new cancer models that can be shared with other academic investigators or pharmaceutical companies.  The patients and their families are directly embedded in this venture, including the EJ Whitten Foundation who have been pivotal over the last 10 years in providing over $1M in donations enabling this resource to be developed and the program to come to the forefront of the international field.

“This project begins and ends with patients like EJ Whitten. We take patient tissue – do testing in the laboratory – and the discoveries then advance treatment for patients,” said Professor Risbridger. “Our new models of prostate cancer have attracted interest from scientists and the pharmaceutical industry worldwide.”

Ted Whitten, Executive Director and Founder of the E.J.Whitten Foundation congratulates the Monash University Biomedicine Discovery Institute on its recent findings in regards to Prostate Cancer research. “We believe that Monash University is a leader of Prostate Cancer Research and we have been delighted to have been able to financially support many of their important programs over the past ten years.”

Dr Mitchell Lawrence, also from Monash BDI and a senior author, says: “This resource provides an opportunity to link the molecular changes in prostate cancer to pathology, grow organoids and test functional responses to therapies, which have rarely been applied to prostate cancer given the lack of suitable models.”

The success of this program is based on collaboration between scientists and clinicians such as surgeons and oncologists at Monash, Cabrini Institute and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, as well as patients and their families who generously donate cancer tissues. Other organisations who supported the PDX program include Victorian Cancer Agency, Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and Movember.

Read the full paper in Nature Communications titled: The MURAL collection of prostate cancer patient-derived xenografts enables discovery through preclinical models of uro-oncology.DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-25175-5

About the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University

Committed to making the discoveries that will relieve the future burden of disease, the newly established Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University brings together more than 120 internationally-renowned research teams. Spanning six discovery programs across Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Development and Stem Cells, Infection and Immunity, Metabolism, Diabetes and Obesity, and Neuroscience, Monash BDI is one of the largest biomedical research institutes in Australia.  Our researchers are supported by world-class technology and infrastructure, and partner with industry, clinicians and researchers internationally to enhance lives through discovery.

Read more on the Prostate Cancer Research Group at Monash BDI