A/Professor Stephanie Brown

Cancer Research

‘The role of secreted frizzled-related protein 4 and DEAD-Box Helicase DP103 on breast and brain cancer stem cells’

Curtin University, WA
Awarded 2015 – 2017
Co-funded by the Rotary Club of Belmont

“Throughout this research I will determine the role and mechanisms of DP103 in cancer stem cells in terms of tumour growth, stemness, metastasis and chemoresistance.”

Researcher Profile

Mr Sebastian Pohl was born in Newcastle, NSW, although his twin sister, Anna, and himself grew up in the Perth Hills. Sebastian was educated at Mazenod College in Lesmurdie, where he played on the cricket, basketball and football teams. Sebastian started his undergraduate degree in medical science at the Australian National University and then transferred to Darwin, where his family now lives.

Sebastian completed his degree while working at the Royal Darwin Hospital. His postgraduate studies were completed at Curtin University where he was awarded a Masters of Biomedical Science with a specialisation in molecular biotechnology. Sebastian’s research project was based on expression levels of DEAD-Box   helicase DP103 in   various cancer stem cell populations and was supervised by world-renowned scientist Professor Arunasalam Dharmarajan.

Project Summary

The first stage will assess the levels of a particular protein (DP103) in tumours from the breast and brain. Research that I have previously conducted demonstrated that these levels were higher in a variety of tumours. I will also examine the level of this protein in cancer stem cells, a special type of cell within the tumour that is thought to drive tumour growth, resistance to chemotherapy drugs, and its ability to spread.

The second and third parts will involve the investigation of the association of proteins Secrted Frizzled Related Protein-4 (SFRP4) and DP103. SFRP4 is a naturally occurring protein which has been shown to restrict tumour growth and its ability to spread. SFRP4 can also increase the susceptibility of cancer stem cells to chemotherapy drugs. I will then determine the effects on breast and brain cancers and cancer stem cells when these proteins are added with chemotherapeutics. Any association could have a major impact on future treatment of breast and brain cancer.

The final stage of the study will investigate whether there is an association between   DP103 and the ability of tumour cells in certain brain tumours to spread. An association between DP103 and the ability of tumours to spread in the breast has been demonstrated in research by my co-supervisor Dr. Kumar. Throughout this research I will determine the role and mechanisms of DP103 in cancer stem cells in terms of tumour growth, stemness, metastasis and chemoresistance.

Supervisors: Professor Arunasalam  Dharmarajan & Dr Alan Prem Kumar

How will this research help people?

The prognosis for people with breast and brain cancer that has spread is much poorer than those in whom it has not. It is important to understand what determines the spread of these cells as this might suggest better treatment options for patients and lead to a much improved prognosis. It is also extremely important to find ways of destroying cancer stem cells, which are the driving force behind tumours. This research on these particular proteins can assist in understanding what drives and limits tumour growth and spread, provide insight into the development of more effective treatments, and improve the prognosis for patients. It is my belief that this research is of vital importance.