Publish Date: 
Tuesday, May 26, 2020 - 11:15

A new research grant will help researchers better understand and potentially treat prostate cancer, which has spread to the bones.

Cure Cancer Australian, Cancer Australia and the Can Too Foundation are co-funding the grant awarded to Dr Nathalie Bock—an Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellow and former National Health & Medical Research Council–Peter Doherty Early Career Research Fellow at the Queensland University of Technology Institute of Heath and Biomedical Innovation and Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre – Queensland (APCRC-Q) based at TRI.

Dr Bock says she is “very chuffed” to have received the funding to pursue work on Bioengineered cancer models for bone metastatic research.

“I’m eager to start!” she said.

Dr Bock is looking to understand how and why cancers such as advanced breast and prostate cancer metastasise and thrive in the bones, presenting, to date, with no cure.

Along with her fellow QUT researchers, she wants to propose new and better ways of assessing prostate cancer when it has spread to bones.

“This may help us find new contributors to cancer within the bone, and thus help unravel therapies that can one day be curative instead of palliative,” said Dr Bock.

Promising results of her work so far include the creation of a live bone tissue mimic in 3D in the laboratory. It has been used to study prostate cancer behaviour in a more relevant way compared with traditional two-dimensional methods, according to Dr Bock.

Nathalie views her Cure Cancer funding as an invaluable opportunity to continue her work on preclinical models for advanced cancer in bones.

“Personally and professionally, it represents a key milestone, as it enables me to lead and sustain my independent research group, forging my own niche and following my own research ideas,” she said.

“Nowadays there are more opportunities for early-career grants, which I’m grateful for. The competition is however fierce, and it’s hard to envisage an early career grant without a solid track record.”

Dr Bock remains inspired in her research by patients.

“Their resilience and fight for survival motivate me to put the same strength into my research, fighting on their behalf, to cure them one day,” she said.

Dr Bock was awarded an Advance Queensland Industry Fellowship in 2020 and in 2017 won the Young Researcher Lush Prize for her project “All-human bioengineered in vitro models as platforms for cancer research”.

This article adapted from blog published by Cure Cancer

About Dr Bock

Dr Nathalie Bock started her research career with an internship at Apatech Ltd., a leading company for bone graft substitutes, in the UK in 2006. This formed part of her Masters studies at the European School of Materials Science and Engineering in France.

In 2007, she undertook a two-year research assistant role at the Institute of Nanostructured Materials in Italy, where she contributed to a large FP7 European project by developing magnetic biomimetic scaffolds for in vivo bone tissue engineering.

Dr Bock joined QUT in 2010, where she completed PhD on controlled growth factor therapies for applications in bone tissue engineering, at the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation.

Upon graduation in 2014, she joined the Australian Prostate Cancer Research Center-QLD (APCRC-Q) with a desire to apply her tissue engineering knowledge into cancer research, supporting the Tumour Microenvironment research within a Movember Revolutionary Team Award (MRTA) that addresses advanced prostate cancer research. Her research focusses on bioengineered prostate cancer tumour models used to investigate responses to androgen targeted therapies and rationalized co-targeting agents. 

Dr Bock has since developed bioengineered models that replicate the tumour microenvironment of advanced prostate cancer found in the bones, in an all-human laboratory setting. Dr Bock is studying how current and novel therapies affect the tumours in the bones, in order to address the poor prognosis of men with this condition. She is also increasing the complexity of her models by adding more cellular components from the native bone microenvironment. Ultimately, Dr Bock hopes to engineer a representative humanised platform useful for studying all cancers that disseminate to the bones, providing clinicians with a versatile preclinical platform to test new drugs.

Recent journal papers

Kryza T., Bock N., Lovell  S. et al., “The molecular function of kallikrein-related peptidase 14 demonstrates a key modulatory role in advanced prostate cancer”. Molecular Oncology, 2020;14(1):105-128.

Bock N., Shokoohmand A., Kryza T., et al., “Engineering osteoblastic metastases to delineate the adaptive response of androgen-deprived prostate cancer in the bone metastatic microenvironment”, Bone Research, 2019;7(1): 13 1-14.

Shokoohmand A., Ren E., Baldwin J., et al., “Microenvironment engineering of osteoblastic bone metastases reveals osteomimicry of patient-derived prostate cancer xenografts”, Biomaterials, 2019;220: 119402 1-17.

Bray L., Hutmacher D. & Bock N., “Addressing patient specificity in the engineering of tumor models”, Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, 2019;7: 217 1-36.

Photo courtesy QUT media