Dr Jessamy Tiffen, the head of the Centenary Institute’s ‘Melanoma Epigenetics Laboratory’, has received a $447,000 project grant from Cancer Council NSW.
The grant will be used by Dr Tiffen to investigate new treatment approaches for patients with advanced-stage melanoma.
Dr Tiffen said that new immunotherapies and targeted treatments provided hope for patients with advanced melanoma. However, for many patients, these treatments were ineffective or only worked for a limited time before the cancer developed resistance.
“Sadly, the majority of advanced melanoma patients will suffer relapse and die from the disease. There is an urgent need to identify new drugs for those individuals with no treatment options and to develop new drugs that can prevent recurrence of tumours,” said Dr Tiffen.
The focus of Dr Tiffen’s project will be the investigation of the histone methylation process that she believes plays an important role in driving treatment resistance in melanoma.
“Histone methylation involves protein activity around your DNA that can change the way your genes are expressed and can lead to changes in cell behaviour,” said Dr Tiffen.
“We believe that abnormal levels of histone methylation in both melanoma cells and dysfunctional immune cells could be causing resistance to treatment.”
In the laboratory, Dr Tiffen will be testing different approaches to control histone methylation in melanoma. Dr Tiffen said she hopes the research will lead to new drug treatments to stop melanoma growth or reverse the deadly treatment resistance.
Professor Mathew Vadas AO, the Centenary Institute's executive director, said the successful grant was a "superb outcome" for a vital project.
“The Centenary operates at the very forefront of this exciting aspect of melanoma research in Australia and I congratulate Dr Tiffen who has been awarded this important funding. I look forward to seeing the outcomes of this research which has the potential to help reduce the tragic loss of life associated with melanoma in this country.”