Dr Renea Taylor

ANZUP 2017 – Dr Renea Taylor

Dr Renea Taylor discusses her research on the poor prognosis associated with BRCA 2 mutation prostate cancer.

Talking Urology podcast transcript

ANZUP 2017 Interviews – Carmel Pezaro and Renea Taylor

Carmel: Hi, Renea.

Renea Taylor: Hi, Carmel.

Carmel: You’re giving a talk at ANZUP this year. Can you summarize for us what the talk is about?

Renea: Sure. I’m a medical research scientist, not a clinician, so it’s a real joy to be here at this clinical meeting and there’s a beautiful translational strain within the meeting that brings scientists and clinicians together. And so, the work I’ll be presenting is really a juncture of scientific research that was done on a clinical cohort of prostate cancer patients, those who have a very high risk of doing badly, those men who have a BRCA2 mutation. For these men and their families, it’s critical for us to understand why their tumors do so badly in the clinic. And so, to do that, we’ve done a full genomic study to understand how the DNA changes in their cancer versus men who have more slow growing cancer. And so, I’ll be talking about the genome of BRCA2 prostate cancer tomorrow.

Carmel: BRCA2 for anyone who’s not familiar, what is that and why is that significant for prostate cancer?

Renea: BRCA2 is a gene that is often mutated in cancers that run through families such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer. We don’t understand what it is about that change in their DNA that makes these cancers so aggressive, but it’s really important for us to understand because these families often have multiple cases of cancer in their families that are very aggressive.

Carmel: Some people may have heard BRCA2 being talked about outside of strong family histories, is that something that you are focusing on or how do you get your samples to work with?

Renea: We get our BRCA2 samples through the family cohorts. Any families where it’s recognized that this chain is linked to cancer prevalence, we study the tissues from those particular patients within families. That’s through the KConFab consortium that’s based at Peter MacCallum and includes families with recurrent breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.

Carmel: What do you hope that your data will do for men with familial prostate cancer?

Renea: Sure. At the moment, we can tell these patients that their diagnosis is likely to be quite an aggressive case, but we don’t understand why. But our new studies are really starting to indicate that when these patients present at the clinic, their tumor as bad as the very worst that we see in the aggressive prostate cancer patients of ordinary families. There’s something about these tumors right from the get-go that’s very different and it means that we probably need to bring all of our advanced oncology treatments much further up to the front for these patients, so they do have a better chance of surviving longer.

Carmel: Yes. It might actually open up a whole new stream of trial work that lies ahead.

Renea: Absolutely. At the moment, we know that these patients are at risk but we have no good treatment strategy for them. Hopefully this this biological data will help us know which trials to bring forward into these patients in an earlier setting.

Carmel: Fantastic. Now, you mentioned that this is part of a translational research symposium stream, so we’ve obviously had that stream start today, what have been your highlights for the day so far?

Renea: This has been a brilliant symposium because there’s very often there’ll be a clinical meeting where scientists are invited, but we often sit in a side room and talk to each other about our science which we’re fairly familiar with. But today, we brought together a roomful of multidisciplinary researchers from clinical backgrounds and scientific expertise and we all really showed the capacity of our collaboration between scientists and clinicians within Australia, which I think you’ll agree was very strongly presented today in the symposium. For me, it was the strength of the translational stream was that the scientists could communicate with the clinicians in a bi-directional manner inside a workshop which was really fabulously received.

Carmel: I completely agree. I think it was an amazing opportunity to sit in and obviously there are lots of different meetings happening and that’s always a challenge to bring people together. If you are going to do this again, how would you keep that collaboration building do you think?

Renea: I think just having the continuum between the disciplines in the same stream. There were no opposing clinical sessions at the same time and it was of interest to the clinicians to hear the biological data and likewise as a scientist this afternoon. I’ve attended the clinical session, so I think just bringing those streams together and in a manner that they’re not competing with each other, but actually synergizing has worked, so the programming is actually been fantastic. I don’t know who the convener of the meeting was, gee, I wish I knew her.

Carmel: Fantastic. Do you have any other thoughts about the meeting and how it might build in future years?

Renea: I guess what we saw today was a lot of research from around Australia where people are collaborating with different clinicians and different scientists offering different clinical specimens, ideas about clinical studies and experts in the scientific labs who can facilitate that. And so, I guess we’d just like to see that continue over the years. As we talked about, Australia is a big country, but in terms of prostate cancer research community, quite small. I think this meeting does a really great job of bringing that community together.

Carmel: I agree. I also think there’s a real synergy between what’s happening in more advanced disease and what’s happening in early stage disease and actually as has clinicians, if we keep those two things separately, we miss out on opportunities.

Renea: As scientists, we recognize that. Often talking to the urologists they’ll be facing similar issues to the oncologists and I think the three-way discussion between the scientists can bring those two links together.

Carmel: Fantastic. Thank you very much Renea.

Renea: Thanks for having me Carmel.

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