Genomics Project

Australian Centre for RNA Therapeutics in Cancer

Media/Lay Summary

Aggressive and hard to treat cancers kill many Australians. We need more effective therapies that support better quality of life. RNA therapies can be tailored to individual patients and tumours, making it a promising technology for cancer treatment. We will establish an RNA production and innovation node in WA, combining expertise in cancer and RNA to develop new treatments. This new biotech industry will attract and grow a generation of scientists and improve outcomes for a wide range of cancers.

Synopsis of the Grant Proposal

The Australian Centre for RNA Therapeutics in Cancer will combine RNA technology with existing cancer research strengths in WA to translate discoveries into the clinic. We will develop platform approaches, piloted with targets against specific cancers but also adaptable to other cancer subtypes. For example, the knowledge gained from creating mRNA-encoding cytokines to remodel pancreatic tumor microenvironments, can be used to design cytokines for additional solid tumors. We will establish an RNA production facility for research-grade RNA therapeutics in cancer and become a nexus for applying these in cancer treatment. Our deep knowledge base will attract national and international collaborators, venture capital and pharma to partner with our researchers to develop products.

By creating a dedicated centre where RNA innovators work hand in hand with oncologists, consumers and patient advocates to design, synthesise, test and improve pilot RNA products, we will improve cancer outcomes in WA and give local cancer researchers a powerful competitive edge. We also have a niche, being the only proposed centre focusing solely on applying RNA technology for oncology treatments, giving a razor focus on cancer relative to other RNA hubs.

Our multidisciplinary approach brings together diverse researchers from oncologists to cell biologists, chemists and computer scientists. The ACRTC will support multiple WA research groups directly, with potential for new groups to benefit once established. Pilot projects incentivise collaboration as no single group has all the skills needed to produce a new drug – we must work together! In five years, we aim to be well progressed on a translational pipeline for 5 new treatments, as well as discovering innovative approaches and frameworks that can be used by other researchers for solutions for other cancer subtypes. Ultimately our goal is to get new therapies to the clinic to improve outcomes and quality of life for those afflicted by cancer.

Outcomes for Cancer

The translation of our research will result in new treatments for specific cancer subtypes. For the proposed pilot projects this would create treatments to improve outcomes for some of the most aggressive and hardest to treat cancers: pancreatic, triple negative breast, lung cancer and sarcoma.

In addition, we will have developed the in-house expertise for design and testing of mRNA-encoded cancer vaccines, cytokines, CRISPR epigenetic modifiers and hydrogels that can deliver RNA post-surgery. This expertise in these new technology platforms (and others, that will develop through the life of the centre) will be a valuable resource. This expertise will be used for future projects to develop new therapies to improve outcomes for other cancer subtypes.

Importantly, our overall understanding of how to design, make and test RNA as a precision genetic therapy for cancer will help herald a new era of precision and personalised cancer therapies. We know consumers want less toxic and more effective treatments that can be delivered more easily. RNA may be one solution to these problems and our research will propel us along this translational pathway.