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Otago Prostate Cancer Research Receives Men’s Health Trust Funding

High shot of the Information Services Building

Wednesday 18 August 2010 9:09am

Research at Otago University to develop a better screening test for the early detection of prostate cancer has been advanced due to a $30,000 grant from the Men’s Health Trust New Zealand.

The funding of $15,000 a year for two years, will pay for a Masters student to conduct laboratory research and work alongside Dr Elspeth Gold, a Health Research Council-funded Research Fellow at Otago University, Professor Helen Nicholson at Otago and Professor Gail Risbridger of Monash University in Melbourne.

The project will determine if a family of proteins called activins may be used as a new diagnostic test to more accurately detect prostate cancer.

Dr Gold says the Activin C research project could lead to an improvement in the current Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) screening tests, with results distinguishing between latent prostate cancer that will remain confined within the organ and aggressive metastatic prostate cancer that is likely to spread.

“Activins have been identified as a regulator of prostate growth. Our preliminary studies indicate that increased activins may promote prostate cancer. We will determine the role of activins in the development of prostate disease and assess if circulating activins may be useful as a new diagnostic test that is superior to PSA for the detection of prostate cancer,” Dr Gold says.

“This generous funding from the Men’s Health Trust New Zealand helps train the next generation of researchers. It will bring a bright young mind into the work, with different ways of looking at things, which will result in more robust science in the long run.

“The project has an international focus, so the student can spend some time at Monash University in Melbourne, which houses the Australian National Prostate Cancer Tissue Bank. There they will work with world experts, greatly enhancing the student’s training, underpinning our international competitiveness, and contributing significantly to New Zealand-based prostate cancer research,” Dr Gold says.

The Chairman of Men’s Health Trust New Zealand Colleen Thurston says being involved in funding the leading edge Activin C prostate cancer research at Otago University is significant for the Trust.

“We have previously funded tertiary education medical research and scholarships in Auckland. The Otago based Activin C research gives the Trust the opportunity to be truly nationwide in our focus and support of the tertiary education sector, which in turn, will benefit all men in New Zealand,” Colleen Thurston says.

Dr Gold says she values the partnership with Men’s Health Trust New Zealand. “The Trust has a wonderful philosophy for public education regarding men’s health. Its focus is broad, creating an excellent opportunity for presenting our research to the community and spreading the word of men’s health beyond the laboratory,” Dr Gold adds.

For more information contact

Dr Elspeth Gold
Health Research Council Research Fellow
Department of Anatomy and Structural Biology
University of Otago
Tel 64 3 479 5647

Website: Department of Anatomy and Structural Biology

Colleen Thurston
Chairman Men’s Health Trust New Zealand
Tel 64 9 306 8820

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