About Dr Liesel Fitzgerald
In the past, a diagnosis of prostate cancer would only be made when a man went to his doctor with symptoms, Liesel says,. "Today the introduction of prostate-specific antigen testing has meant that men as young as 55 are being diagnosed, and in almost 70% of cases, it’s a benign form of cancer."
Many men undergo unnecessary invasive treatment that often have debilitating side effects. Liesel’s research aims to reduce the number of men undergoing unnecessary surgery for prostate cancer.
Liesel’s research identified three biomarkers that can be used to separate men at a high risk of dying from prostate cancer from those whose cancer detection is unlikely to cause a major problem.
The research found that men whose tumours contained either of two proteins, called MUC1 and p53, were twice as likely to die of prostate cancer than those whose tumours did not carry the proteins.
The analysis of tissue taken from prostate tumour biopsies also revealed that the presence of a third biomarker, known as AZGP1, cut the man’s risk of dying from prostate cancer by three times.
The results will now need to be verified in a larger study. “If this preliminary study is validated, this research can inform clinical practice so both doctors and patients understand whether their tumour is likely to progress and make more informed decisions on how best to treat it,” says Liesel.
Dr FitzGerald's main research focus is on the identification of genomic predictors for aggressive and fatal forms of prostate cancer. One of her main research projects focuses on utilising diagnostic tumour tissues to identify epigenetic and protein biomarkers that distinguish benign from fatal disease. Another project involves the assaying of HM450K arrays on prediagnostic blood samples to identify epigenetic markers of prostate cancer risk.