4 Mar 2019

Personalised medicine investigation for rare thyroid cancers

Dr James Lee
Dr James Lee from the Department of Surgery was recently awarded a $120,000 philanthropic grant from the The Aftershock Foundation, a not-for-profit  organisation in the rare cancer space. The gift agreement includes a further $100,000 in 2020, bringing the total to $220,000.

The group was founded by Suzanne Neate, following the loss of her mother to metastatic medullary thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is now the 7th most commonly diagnosed cancer in women overall, and is on the rise.
There are a number of challenges to accurately diagnosing and profiling thyroid cancers, which makes it difficult to select the most appropriate treatment. Molecular profiling of thyroid FNA (needle biopsy) samples is believed to hold some promise to reduce, if not eliminate, preoperative uncertainty. This is only available in the USA, and published evidence to date casts doubt on the current utility of the tests in their current status.

Dr Lee believes that with further research here in Victoria, the potential of FNA molecular testing will be realised. He says,

"There is no doubt that precision medicine with molecular techniques is the next frontier. Whether it is to inform diagnosis, prognosis or likely response to treatment, the integration of pre-operative molecular testing should give treating doctors more confidence that they are providing the best treatment for patients with rare cancers such as thyroid cancer."

Dr Lee is also incredibly grateful for the vote of confidence The Aftershock has shown by investing in his research.

"The support of philanthropic foundations such as The Aftershock is vital to research and development of new techniques here in Victoria. As a rare cancer, research in thyroid cancer are ideally conducted in multicenter studies, and non-institutional seed funding affords the researcher freedom to be collaborative."

Only one year into their existence, The Aftershock is already making a significant contribution to the medical research of rare cancers here in Victoria. Further funds have been pledged for both thyroid and brain cancers in the coming years.

For more information on The Aftershock, go to www.theaftershock.org

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