The University of Melbourne
Research Field: Basic and Clinical Physiology

The majority of cancer patients will suffer from wasting and weakness of skeletal muscle, a condition referred to as cancer cachexia. Cancer cachexia makes the performance of everyday tasks such as getting out of bed or moving around the house much more difficult, often resulting in a loss of independence. It also makes patients more tired and reduces their quality of life. Cancer cachexia impairs the effectiveness of anti-cancer therapies such as chemotherapy and severe cachexia can cause respiratory failure and death. More than 20 per cent of all cancer-related deaths are due to the cachexia rather than the cancer per se.

Unfortunately, there is no current treatment for this devastating condition. Obviously, the simplest and most effective way to treat cancer cachexia is to cure the cancer. However, this is often not achieved and even when successful, cancer remission typically occurs after the cachexia has worsened considerably.

Dr. Murphy’s research investigates the mechanisms causing cancer cachexia and identifies and tests the effectiveness of potential therapies to treat this condition. Identifying effective treatments for cancer cachexia have enormous implications for improving the quality of life and reducing mortality for thousands of Australians.

Kate has communicated her research to the scientific public primarily through her many publications, presentations as a speaker, departmental seminars and oral/poster presentations at international and national conferences. As an expert contributor Kate’s research has been published in New Scientist magazine entitled ‘Cancer muscle loss might be reversible’.

She is also involved with a Scientists in Schools program with partner school CLC (Catholic Ladies College).