SUPER-NEXT study receives funding to improve treatment of cancers of unknown origin

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SUPER-NEXT study receives funding to improve treatment of cancers of unknown origin

Dr Richard Tothill and researchers at the Centre for Cancer Research looking at a circus plot displaying structural variation in a cancer genome.

Research to improve diagnosis and treatment options for people with challenging cancers collectively known as cancer of unknown primary, or CUP, today received investment from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund.

The SUPER-NEXT study is a collaboration between the University of Melbourne and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. It will enrol patients Australia-wide through an established network of metropolitan and regional hospitals.

University of Melbourne’s Dr Richard Tothill, at the Centre for Cancer Research, is leading the study.

CUP is a clinical conundrum where the cancer’s tissue of origin remains unknown despite extensive investigation. Patients with CUP have a one-year survival rate of 25 per cent, and five-year survival of 14 per cent – one of the lowest survival rates for cancer in Australia.

The funding of almost A$5 million will be used to apply comprehensive genetic analysis of people with CUP. This could help diagnose which tissue the cancer came from. It will also help to inform the development of targeted, personalised treatment options. Personalised treatment is expected to be more effective than traditional chemotherapy.

The SUPER-NEXT study will assess the clinical value of using genomics to examine a person’s ‘whole genome compared to methods that analyse only a specific portion of the cancer genome.

Dr Tothill says that people with cancers of unknown origin receive less effective and fewer new therapies than people who have cancers where the tissue of origin is known.

“CUP patients experience significantly greater psychological distress and a lower quality of life compared to people with known primary cancers,” he says.

The SUPER-NEXT study will also be analysing DNA that is released from cancer cells into a patient’s blood, known as a ‘liquid biopsy’.

“Liquid biopsies have the potential to be faster and less invasive than conventional biopsies and allow analysis of a patient’s tumour where a tissue is deemed unsafe or difficult to obtain.”

The study will also investigate a novel cancer PET imaging method to improve detection of a patient’s primary tumour. Genomic analysis will be used to predict which CUP patients may benefit from this new type of imaging.

The funding is part of the MRFF Genomics Health Future Mission for diseases with high mortality and low survivability.

The University of Melbourne received a total of $9.5 million in funding from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Genomics Health Futures Mission announced by the Minister for Health Greg Hunt today, with two further projects on achieving equity in genomic health for Indigenous Australians and using precision medicine for life-threatening infantile epilepsy.

Media Contact
Zoe Stephenson, Communications and PR Manager
University of Melbourne Centre for Cancer Research
zoe.stephenson@unimelb.edu.au or 0466 566 004

Image: Peter Casamento

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