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Lisa Butler is taking the world of cancer research by storm

Associate Professor Lisa Butler is bringing in the grants for prostate cancer.

In the past few months, Lisa has been awarded:

Almost $600,000 from Cancer Australia’s Priority-driven Collaborative Cancer Research Scheme (Lisa’s was the only team in South Australia to take out a grant from Cancer Australia in this round)

A Beat Cancer Project Principal Research Fellowship worth $600,000 supporting senior cancer researchers, plus a further $600,000 matched funding from the University of Adelaide

Pretty impressive, right? We spoke to Lisa about her research, her success, and her vision for the future… 

What are you tackling with your grants?

Prostate cancer is the most common male cancer in Australia, and unfortunately the advanced form of the disease remains incurable. We think that the complexity of prostate cancer means that combining different drugs will be necessary to treat this disease. However, designing optimal combination strategies is very difficult and few have been approved for clinical practice. This project will be the first to identify the ‘driver genes’ of prostate cancer cell survival in cultured patient tumours. We think that this approach will identify more clinically relevant drug targets that can be used to design more effective combination treatments. 

How is your approach special?

My group is quite unique in our focus on using clinical tumours from prostate cancer patients for our research. We believe that using this approach—rather than traditional lab models—might give us more useful information about how prostate tumours grow and survive, and how they become resistant to treatment. It is only possible for us to do this because of the generosity of so many of the patients in Adelaide who give their consent for us to use their tumour samples for research, with the hope that this will yield better outcomes.

What excites you most about this study?

Metastatic prostate cancer currently remains incurable, so the impact of a novel treatment regimen that increases the survival of men who have been diagnosed would be enormous. My research encompasses the clinical journey of patients from surgery (bedside), to laboratory research (bench), through to novel clinical trial design (bedside). By developing more sensitive, non-invasive tests to monitor tumour behaviour, new therapies can be tailored to the patients who will benefit from them the most. I’m excited about the possibility of discovering some completely new treatment targets that might achieve more long-lasting remissions, and one day turn this disease into a chronic—rather than deadly—condition.

Part of your Beat Cancer Project Principal Research Fellowship involves mentorship. Who are your mentors?

I have a number of important mentors in Adelaide, among them long term mentors Professors Wayne Tilley, Doug Brooks and Gary Wittert and, more recently, Professor Sarah Robertson. Their support to date and going forward will be critical for my success, and I hope that I am in turn mentoring an exciting new generation of scientists.

How have you been celebrating your success?

I took some time off over the Christmas break with my family. Last year was a very busy year for me, so it was wonderful to kick back and give my family the time that they deserve!

What is your ultimate research career goal?

I’m privileged to head a talented and dynamic team of young researchers, students and medical fellows. Ultimately my goal is not only to perform internationally-leading research that helps men with prostate cancer and their families, but also to ensure that my team go on to achieve success in their own right and run their own research groups in the future. The Beat Cancer Fellowship, in concert with the University of Adelaide, provides the necessary support for me and my team to achieve these ambitious goals.

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