Dr Rao and her team were the first to identify the key role played by the enzyme lysine specific demethylase (LSD1). They further identified the role the enzyme plays in the proliferation of cancer stem cells, which they now know to be a major contributor to the recurrence of cancer following initial treatment.
The team has since focused on testing whether inhibitors to the LSD1 target can prevent the recurrence of metastasis by prolonging tumour remission.
In addition to support from the ACT Government, Epi Axis has received financial backing from ANU Connect Ventures, the University and two local private investors.
The company is based at the University of Canberra and will collaborate closely with clinicians at the Canberra Regional Cancer Centre and the Canberra Hospital throughout the pre-clinical and clinical development process.
Dr Rao has also developed a blood test for earlier detection of cancer stem cells, for which there is no comprehensive test at present.
This test can be used to identify whether cancer stem cells are still present after cancer treatment, enabling eraly intervention, even before cancer has spread.