A/Prof Mike Doran: Developing New Technology to Save Lives

15 Dec 2016

In 2014, the Can Too Foundation funded Mike for a two-year grant with Cure Cancer Australia, to continue his work in developing technology to grow bone marrow stem cells outside the body.

Born in Canada, Mike completed a BSc (Genetics) and BEng (Chemical) at the University of Alberta. As an engineering graduate, he worked as a project manager in the oil industry in Canada until his passion for biomedical research eventually motivated him to relocate to Sydney.

Improving Stem Cell Transplantation Success Rates

Bone marrow stem cell transplants can be an effective treatment for several bone marrow cancers. However, until now scientists haven’t been able to grow blood stem cells that can be transplanted into a human body and have them contribute to long-term blood cell production. Stem cell transplants often work, but they are risky with much that can go wrong – donor stem cells must be an exact match and the transplantation process is invasive and comes with risks to both the donor and patient alike.

For this reason, many researchers are working on developing artificial cells, which dramatically reduce both the risk involved and the cost of treatment, and eliminate the need to find a matching donor.

Mike and his team of researchers are not only focused on the development of artificial stem cells, but critically, the technology they are developing is focused on creating cells more closely in line with  those produced naturally which will have a huge impact on their ability to contribute to long-term blood cell production.

They are also working on ways to improve the delivery to the bone marrow during transplants.

Mike explained the potential of his research:

“If we could grow blood stem cells outside the body, we could make the bone marrow stem cell transplants used to treat cancers safer and more effective. Currently only a small percentage of stem cells make it to the bone marrow. Imagine what it would be like if we could reach 50%? This is our ultimate goal.”

With over 1,000 bone marrow transplants occurring every year in Australia, the success of this new research will deliver greater safety to the patient, see an increase in transplant numbers and ultimately, improve patient survival rates.

Long Term Support is Vital for Success

Mike’s Cure Cancer Australia grant gave his team stable funding – solely supported by the Can Too Foundation – for two years and allowed them to focus on this project.  This focus meant we are closer than ever to being able to save lives with this ground-breaking innovation.
On the back of his results to date, Mike has now secured funds to support his team for a further three years.


About Cure Cancer Australia

Since 1967, Cure Cancer Australia has successfully employed the strategy of funding early-career researchers with new approaches to cancer research. Cure Cancer Australia funds ALL cancer types and ALL areas of cancer research, including rare cancers.

Cure Cancer Australia has funded 308 scientists and 471 research projects, 145 of those projects with the support of Can Too, and have seen many of our rising stars take their places at the forefront of medical research in Australia and beyond. Cure Cancer Australia funded researchers have been part of significant advances in cancer research, and have since attracted an average of thirty times new research funding than their initial Cure Cancer Australia grant(s). 

Cure Cancer Australia’s expertise lies in recognising and backing the most promising research projects. We back the innovators, the most brilliant brains, the ones most likely to advance the fight against cancer. Year after year, we can see that the researchers we selected to fund successfully attract further funding.

Learn more at www.curecancer.com.au


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