5 August, 2013
Children's Cancer Institute Australia (CCIA) researcher, Dr Orazio Vittorio, awarded the inaugural Kids' Cancer Project award at the NSW Premier's Awards for Outstanding Cancer Research for research looking at the anti-cancer properties of an antioxidant.
Dr Vittorio's research focuses on a childhood cancer called neuroblastoma, which is a particularly aggressive disease and is the most common cancer in infancy. His research studies the ability of the natural antioxidant catechin, extracted from green tea, to kill cancer cells.
“As a therapeutic, catechin is not very stable in blood so has limited use. Working with chemists I have developed a modified form of catechin that has improved stability in blood,” says Dr Vittorio. “My preliminary results have shown that the modified form of catechin is effective at destroying neuroblastoma cells that are highly resistant to conventional chemotherapy, while having a minimal effect on normal cells.”
Neuroblastoma responds poorly to current therapies and the majority of children with the disease are diagnosed when their cancer is already in an advanced stage. Despite intensive therapy, neuroblastoma has an overall survival rate of only 40-50 per cent.
“Due to the toxic side effects of current chemotherapy, those who do survive will suffer lifelong health issues from the late effects of treatment. Improved and less toxic therapies are urgently required for neuroblastoma and my research, although in very early stages, has showed great potential to develop a new, safer way to treat the cancer,” says Dr Vittorio.
The Kids' Cancer Project award gives Dr Vittorio's research project a $25,000 boost, and allows him the opportunity to build on his initial findings in the lab. As a survivor of kidney cancer five years ago, Dr Vittorio is determined to continue with his research.
"Thanks to this award, I'm excited to be able to build on this research and work towards an effective therapy for aggressive neuroblastoma,” says Dr Vittorio. “It's very early days, but as a cancer survivor, and father of a two-year-old son, I'm doing my best to win this battle.”
Dr Vittorio's research is as-yet unpublished and these results are preliminary findings.