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UNSW-St Vincent’s Clinical School Conjoint Associate Professor Elgene Lim has been awarded in a new $10 million program funded by the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

In the Endowed Chairs Program, the Garvan Institute researcher will be working towards the foundation’s goal of zero deaths from breast cancer by 2030.

“The duration of this grant allows me to seek to answer clinical challenges without the shackles of a short- term mindset,” he says.

“This grant will allow me and my team of collaborators to embark on the ambitious goal of translating novel discoveries into pre-clinical modelling, and ultimately translating these breakthroughs into clinical trials.

“It will also allow us to employ the latest technologies to address these challenges.”

Dr Lim’s focus is overcoming resistance to endocrine treatments in hormone receptor positive breast cancer, the largest breast cancer subtype.

While endocrine therapies have improved patient outcomes, a significant proportion of patients are at ongoing lifetime risk of breast cancer recurrence.

“What are required are better therapies,” he says.

“As part of our plan to study treatment resistance in breast cancer, we seek to empower and engage patients as partners in this endeavour, whereby they provide the critical building blocks for research.”

Another aspect of his work is re-purposing other cancer drugs, including drugs used for prostate cancer.

This “cross pollination” is important, Dr Lim says, to see what lessons can be learnt from the treatment of other cancers and diseases.

“The androgen receptor, while a more well-known target in the context of prostate cancer, is actually expressed in the vast majority of breast cancer,” he says.

“What is important is to understand the right context in which to therapeutically targeting this receptor, and how these drugs work mechanistically in breast cancer.”

Dr Lim was awarded one of two 10-year research grants of $5 million each, which includes a co-contribution from the recipients’ host institutions.