A world-first clinical trial
David began his medical training at University of Melbourne and undertook post-doctoral research at Harvard Medical School in the late 1990s. Returning to Melbourne two decades ago, he set up his own laboratory and in 2018 he established Omico, which brings together the country’s major cancer centres, leading research institutes, governments, industry partners and patients to facilitate the deliver of genomic cancer medicine clinical trials to Australians suffering from advanced and incurable cancers.
The current phase II clinical trial, which is a collaboration between Omico, the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the University of Sydney’s NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre, is investigating if existing therapy for psoriasis can help treat patients with sarcomas, which are rare cancers arising in the connective tissues, like bone and muscle. In particular, the trial focuses on osteosarcoma, a rare but aggressive form of bone cancer that most commonly affects teenagers and young adults.
The body has an elaborate system to stop cancer from occurring within its cells while the immune system keeps a watchful eye to kill cancer cells before they take hold. For cancer to occur, both defences must be breached
“What we've discovered through research into sarcomas over the past five to 10 years is that there are parts of the immune system that cancers cunningly exploits to promote its growth,” says David.
“They actually use the immune system, and some of the molecules that are important in immune responses, to grow.”
One of those molecules, called Interleukin-23 (IL23), is the target of drugs for psoriasis.
Read more: Targeting IL23 in bone and soft tissue sarcomas