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From a young age, Mater’s Associate Professor Kristen Radford knew that she wanted to work in cancer research.
“I had dreams of curing cancer and saving the world,” Kristen recalls.
Now, Associate Professor Radford is a senior researcher at Mater Research—Mater’s own world-class research institute—and has seen first-hand the impact philanthropic support can have in advancing medical research.
For the past 14 years, Associate Professor Radford has been involved in an exciting, potentially life-changing research project. Her team’s mission was to uncover how the immune system responds to cancer in the hope of developing vaccines for prostate cancer, ovarian cancer and melanoma.
After she joined Mater Research in 2001, Associate Professor Radford played a key role in obtaining the preclinical data that made way for the first blood dendritic cell vaccine trial in prostate cancer. This trial, which was completed in 2009, involved taking a patient’s white blood cells and separating out their dendritic cells in the lab.
Then came the game-changing discovery.
A discovery in the lab towards the end of the trial turned the whole game around.
Her team discovered a specific sub-type of the dendritic cell that was particularly good at fighting cancer. This allowed the researchers to manufacture a vaccine rather than taking blood from a patient—a process that involved extracting patients’ blood, tinkering around with their immune cells, and putting them back in.
“Everyone has this specific sub-type of dendritic cell, but they’re hard to come by. Now that we’ve identified these cells that generate an anti-cancer immune response, we’re able to manufacture a vaccine synthetically rather than taking blood from a patient.”
If successful, this research would make cancer treatment easier on patients and also more affordable. The leading science publication Nature Medicine has heralded Associate Professor Radford’s discovery as ‘finding a needle in a haystack’.
Associate Professor Radford’s team are now collaborating with the Monash University in Melbourne to create a prototype vaccine. They hope it will be ready for a Phase 1 Clinical Trial in the next three years.
Community support has been vital to helping Associate Professor Radford continue her work, and she is grateful to any person who has the long-term vision to make an investment in medical research. A desire to make a difference in people’s lives is what continues to motivate her.
“Cancer is ‘the big unsolved problem’ and I just hope I can complete a small part of the puzzle and contribute in some way to understanding cancer so we can better treat it.”
By supporting cancer research at Mater, you will be making a direct, positive difference to the lives of people with cancer. Please consider making a gift today to continue this important work.
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