Contribution of proteases to oral cancer pain and metastasis
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Oral squamous cell carcinoma is the most common head and neck cancer. Many patients with oral cancer experience severe pain that profoundly interferes with their quality of life. Treatments for this pain are currently limited to opioid drugs, which are not suitable for long-term use due to side effects such as sedation and constipation.
Oral cancer often spreads to cervical lymph nodes, and once this metastasis occurs, patient survival rates drop below 40%. Current methods to predict the spread of oral cancer are ineffective; thus, most patients undergo radical elective neck dissection to remove all cervical lymph nodes prior to the appearance of metastatic lesions.
In collaboration with Professor Brian Schmidt, an oral cancer surgeon at the New York University College of Dentistry, our group is investigating the mechanisms by which proteases mediate oral cancer pain and metastasis. Our approach is multifaceted, and examines protease function in tumour and associated immune cells in vitro, in mouse models of oral cancer, and in clinical samples derived from oral cancer patients.
The overarching goals of this project are to establish proteases as biomarkers for diagnosing oral cancer, as prognostic markers for cervical metastasis, and as drug targets for the treatment of oral cancer pain and prevention of metastasis.
Bethany Anderson, PhD Student
Bangyan Xu, Honours Student
Professor Brian Schmidt, New York University College of Dentistry, USA
Professor Nigel Bunnett, Columbia University, USA
NHMRC Peter Doherty Early Career Fellowship (2015-2018)
Grimwade Research Fellowship (2018-2022)
ARC DECRA Fellowship (2019-2021)
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