Dr Melissa Cantley: Developing new tests to identify which individuals with smouldering myeloma are at risk of developing myeloma
Multiple myeloma is a deadly blood cancer that is diagnosed in 140,000 people worldwide each year. It is preceded by a pre-cancerous condition, known as smouldering myeloma, in which patients do not have the debilitating bone disease and other symptoms that are characteristic of multiple myeloma.
We know that, every year, 1 in every 10 smouldering myeloma patients will develop multiple myeloma; however, at this time there are no diagnostic tests that can be used to identify those patients that are going to develop multiple myeloma.
Early detection of smouldering myeloma patients at high-risk of developing multiple myeloma, is critical to enable early treatment in order to maximize their chance of survival. We will use a state-of-the-art technique known as proteomics that allows us to identify protein markers in the blood that are uniquely present in high-risk smouldering myeloma patients.
We hope that these studies will enable us to develop new diagnostic tests to identify those high-risk patients to enable them to receive early treatment to improve their chance of survival.
Melissa completed a Bachelor of Health Sciences followed by Honours (First Class) in Pathology in 2007 at The University of Adelaide. To gain laboratory experience and expand her knowledge, Melissa worked as a Research Assistant in the Bone and Joint Laboratory, The University of Adelaide for two years focussing on identifying new drugs to reduce bone loss. Melissa completed her PhD in 2013 within the School of Medical Sciences at The University of Adelaide with the support of an Australian Postgraduate Award. Her PhD project focussed on investigating new bone loss treatments for a number of diseases including chronic periodontitis and rheumatoid arthritis. Her expertise in bone disease led to an interest in developing new treatments for the debilitating bone loss that is seen in many cancers. In 2014 Melissa was awarded a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Early Career Fellowship to work with Professor Zannettino in the Myeloma Research Laboratory at the University of Adelaide, located at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI).