The news of drugs being ineffective can be devastating to patients going through cancer treatment, which is why a PhD scholar funded by Australian Rotary Health is determined to find a way for them to overcome drug resistance.

Lionel Leck from the University of Sydney was awarded the Rotary District 9675 ‘Heather Newbould’ Bowel Cancer PhD Scholarship from Australian Rotary Health this year to develop innovative chemotherapeutics to overcome multidrug drug resistance in cancer patients.

Lionel’s main research interest is on cancer multidrug resistance, specifically in the family of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) proteins of substrate transporters such as P-glycoprotein (Pgp) and Multidrug resistance protein 1 (MRP1).

Lionel says that the ABC transporters play a crucial role in clinically acquired multidrug resistance and its overexpression is directly associated with highly advanced metastatic cancers such as bowel, breast and pancreatic cancers.

“Poor response to chemotherapy in numerous advanced cancer types are directly linked to the presence of substrates transporter pumps, p-glycoprotein and multidrug resistance proteins, located in the surface of cells,” Lionel said.

“In the context of normal healthy tissues, the main function is to protect the body from toxic substances by transporting them out of the cells. However, in cancer cells, they have been found to transport numerous forms of chemotherapeutic agents out of the cells.”

This results in reducing the efficacy and effectiveness of the drugs and leading to multidrug resistance.

Lionel’s project will investigate both MRPs and Pgp transporters as potential combinational drug targets in these advanced cancers.

“We aim to utilise these alternate functions to develop a frontier drug design strategy and combinational novel agent that would enable us trick these transporter pumps by taking advantage of the characteristics and features that are often found in cancer cells to induce cell death and overcome multidrug resistance.”

Lionel says they will also aim to develop the drug to be administered as tablets.

“We believe this will significantly improve patient compliance and the ease of use,” he said.

We wish Lionel all the best with his research.



Media contact: Jessica Cooper – (02) 8837 1900 or jessica@arh,