This International Clinical Trials Day we are highlighting the first class research conducted at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre from bench to bedside.

Peter Mac’s Dr Luc Furic and Professor Ross Hannan from ANU have been working on a way to kill cancer cells via a new pathway for 10 years.

They are both leaders in ribosome biogenesis and messenger RNA translation, which is how cells make proteins. Both understood how cancer cells need to make a lot of proteins to survive and believed that if there was a way to inhibit this production you could potentially kill off cancer cells without impacting other cells.

Ross first worked with Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre clinician scientists to develop a molecule that could be tested in haematological preclinical models to understand if it could kill cancer cells and not impact healthy cells. This first generation molecule entered clinical trials, but is associated with some type of toxicities which may limit its use as a single agent.

Not to be deterred Ross noticed the brilliant work that Luc was conducting in the same area of research but with prostate cancer. The two knew that their theory worked and partnered together, in association with Pimera Inc, to develop a second generation molecule (PMR 116) that had the same level of effectiveness but potentially less toxicity at higher dose.

The treatment was then ready to be taken from the lab setting in an incredibly quick seven years and is currently being used in a world first cancer clinical trial run by Associate Professor Ben Tran also at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

Ben is a medical oncologist specialising in Genito-urinary cancer - and an expert in Phase I trials to test treatments in sick people for the first time.

Ben is excited to be involved in trialling new therapies in patients who have few other treatment options. Very few discoveries make it from the lab to the clinic – and while promising, it is still early days for PMR 116.

About 40% of the clinical trials at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre are “first in human” trials. These trials are challenging to conduct and require a high level of expertise to manage dosing, side effects and administration.

The progress of this work in bringing PMR116 into the clinic is also a legacy to the work of the late Dr Katherine Hannan. Dr Hannan sadly passed away from cancer earlier this year.

You can learn more about clinical trials at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre through the website.