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Fast-tracking the fight against cancer

HerCanberra Team

She is on the frontline of delivering hope to breast cancer sufferers in the ACT –  and across the globe. But she needs your help.

University of Canberra Professor in Molecular and Cellular Biology Sudha Rao is conducting ground-breaking work to stop the spread of recurring cancer.

Professor Rao and her dedicated team are developing new treatments to stop the recurrence of breast and other aggressive cancers as well as innovative therapies to improve cancer patients’ quality of life.

The team has identified a drug that blocks stem cell proteins in breast cancer and reverts these cancerous stem cells to normal cancer cells. When the drug is combined with chemotherapy, a lower dose of chemotherapy drugs is needed.

This treatment is proving to be more effective, with fewer side effects, and prevents the re-occurrence of cancer. Trials are continuing and it is hoped that this treatment will be available to breast cancer patients in as little as two to three years.

But to take this research to the next level, Dr Rao is seeking support to purchase a state-of-the-art imaging system. The team currently has the machine on loan for three months but requires $900,000 to purchase one outright.

The machine will allow the team to track a cancer patient’s disease so they can provide early intervention and therapy – to improve their survival and quality of life, especially for those with metastatic disease.

“When people get diagnosed with metastatic cancer, the most important thing to them becomes time. How much time they have left – one year can suddenly become a very long time,” said Professor Rao.

“This machine is a game-changer. It will have incredible day-to-day practical benefit to patients, allowing us to quickly and easily diagnose the disease by giving us unprecedented resolution to detect molecular signatures in aggressive metastatic cancer cells from patients’ bloods and tissues.”

It means Dr Rao and her team can detect the cancer cells’ molecular signatures to predict the characteristics of the cancer, predict the cancer’s response to treatment and track the treatment response and guide treatment changes – all leading to a more personalised treatment.

In the immediate term, this means the research can progress more quickly as more analysis can be completed at a faster rate.

See the machine in action here.

“If we are successful in securing this machine, it will be the first super-resolution system of its kind in the ACT and has the potential to fast track our work by 12 months,” said Professor Rao.

While the project is receiving funding through private and government sources, donations are crucial for ensuring the research and new medicines are fast-tracked.

The University of Canberra Foundation is holding a Women’s Celebration Breakfast which aims to celebrate inspiring and trailblazing women at the University of Canberra and the broader Canberra community and raise money for cancer research.

All funds raised on the day will go directly to the University’s Cancer Research Fund. The event will be MC’d by Associate Editor at HerCanberra and UC alumna Emma Macdonald with Professor Rao delivering the keynote address.


HerCanberra Associate Editor, Distinguished UC Alumna and event MC Emma Macdonald. Picture by Martin Ollman

the essentials

What: University of Canberra Women’s Celebration Breakfast
When: 7am Wednesday 11 October
Where: The National Arboretum
You can find out more about the event and the speakers, or purchase tickets here.
Can’t make it on the day but still want to make a contribution? You can donate here.

Feature image: Lori Cicchini


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