Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

What we funded in the 2018/2019 financial year



        

Over $3M

in funding allocated to support cancer research
Research

95

local cancer researchers supported
People

48

WA-based research projects funded
Donate

Click on the shutters below to reveal the full details.

The Cancer Council WA Research Excellence Awards have been established to recognise and celebrate the achievements of Western Australia’s best and brightest cancer researchers. They also serve to reinforce the importance of cancer research as an aspirational career choice and provide encouragement for the next generation of leading cancer researchers.

Project Cancer Council Western AustraliaEarly Career Cancer Researcher of the Year
Recipient  Dr Laurence Cheung
Description Dr Laurence Cheung is an early career researcher in the field of haematological tumours focusing on childhood leukemias and leukemia microenvironment.

Dr Cheung’s research about targeting leukemia bone loss is very significant from both a clinical and a research point of view.

Funding from CCWA $5,000
Fully supported In the name of Blueprint Wealth

 

Project Cancer Council Western Australia Cancer Researcher of the Year
Recipient  Prof Gary Lee
Description Professor Gary Lee has initiated and led two trials both of which have bought major advancements in pleural medicine and which are contributing to greatly improved outcomes for patients.

Professor Lee has been very active in training and mentoring future researchers and specialists in pleural medicine.

Funding from CCWA
$5,000
Fully supported In the name of Friends of Cancer Council WA

 

Project Cancer Council Western Australia Cancer Research Career Achievement Award
Recipient  Clin/Prof David Joseph
Description Clinical Professor Joseph has an impressive clinical research workload and has led the way in treatment ‘firsts’ in WA. He provides great opportunities for training and mentoring in cancer research, particularly in the area of radiation oncology.

Clinical Professor Joseph has a significant publication record and he provides a good example of translational research at the bedside.

Funding from CCWA $5,000
Fully supported In the name of Blueprint Wealth

Our Research Project Grants aim to provide 1-2 years of support to help local, world-class cancer researchers further their research. Grants are initially short-listed through the national expert review process of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), and are then further assessed by the Cancer Council WA Research Grants Advisory Committee.

Grant applications are assessed on the basis of quality, practicality, value for money and contribution to the advancement of cancer knowledge.

Project title
Investigating how key immune cells contribute to cancer growth in the elderly and impair response to cancer treatment
Recipient  Dr Connie Jackaman
Institution Curtin University
Research description As the average age of our population rises, more people will present with cancer. Mesothelioma and lung cancer are two cancers which mainly occur in the elderly. Cancer also occurs when the body’s defences, including the immune system, are in decline. However, few studies have examined the combined effects of immune function on cancer and ageing.

The elderly are an under-studied population as most pre-clinical cancer studies are performed in young hosts. More studies are required to understand the impact of ageing on immune responses and cancer treatment in the elderly. Therefore, this project will compare key cancer-promoting immune cells known as macrophages in mesothelioma from young versus elderly hosts. These results will advance understanding of elderly innate immune cells in tumour growth and treatment, and assist in identifying new avenues for anti-cancer therapy in the elderly.

Funding from CCWA $100,000
Fully supported In the name of Jill Tilly

 

Project title
New therapies for liver cancer
Recipient  Prof Peter Leedman
Institution Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research
Research description The outlook for patients with liver cancer is poor. Patients invariably develop resistance to current targeted therapies. Liver cancer cells resistant to the most common form of treatment have been developed as a resource to help determine novel approaches to the disease.

The team will investigate new ways to overcome treatment resistance in liver cancer that may result in novel combination therapies and improved outcome for these patients.

Funding from CCWA $100,000
Supported In the names of Jill Tilly, the Edward and Patricia Usher Cancer Research Assistance Fund & the late Hany Matar

 

Project title
Novel diagnostic and functional targets for malignant mesothelioma
Recipient  A/Prof Steven Mutsaers
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive tumour of the lining of the lungs which is associated with exposure to asbestos. It has a poor prognosis and there is no effective treatment, with an average survival time of less than 12 months after first diagnosis.

This project explores the potential for small fragments of genetic material called transfer RNA-derived fragments (TRFs) as novel diagnostic and early disease markers as well as targets for therapy in mesothelioma.

Currently, diagnosis of mesothelioma is difficult and may take up to three months. By investigating these molecules in blood from patients, the team hopes to determine if these markers distinguish mesothelioma from normal individuals and patients with other cancers and lung diseases as a simple and inexpensive blood test. Understanding the biological roles of these TRFs, particularly in mesothelioma cells, may also lead to the development of novel therapeutic approaches to help treat this terrible disease.

Funding from CCWA $100,000
Supported In the names of the Leah Jane Cohen Fund, the Estate of Geoffrey Draper & the Mavis Sands Bequest

 

Project title
Laboratory tests to understand why some patients with mesothelioma respond better to a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy
Recipient  Prof Anna Nowak
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description Immunotherapies including checkpoint blockade have revolutionised the outlook of some cancers. Combinations of chemotherapy and checkpoint blockade are poised to be the next cancer breakthrough. However, understanding why some people respond and others do not is critical – both to target treatment to the right people, and to fine-tune treatment and enhance outcomes in those who may otherwise not respond.

This study harnesses a potentially ground-breaking positive clinical trial of chemo-immunotherapy in people with mesothelioma, and uses blood specimens that have already been collected from trial participants before and during their treatment for cutting edge scientific analyses of the patient’s immune cells. Understanding the biology of response and non-response will help to understand why a tumour has or has not responded, enabling for the development of improved treatments, and potentially to be able to better predict in advance who will benefit from this treatment.

Funding from CCWA $99,876
Supported In the names of Kai’s Big GOLD Ball & the Estate of Catherine Worthington

 

Project title
How to make mutation-based cancer vaccines effective in patients
Recipient  Prof Bruce Robinson AM
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description One reason why the immune system doesn’t attack cancer cells is that the immune response to the mutations in the cancer is too weak.

New approaches to cancer vaccination target these mutations with the aim of ‘waking up’ the anti-cancer immune system and forcing it to mount an attack. But there are several fundamental issues limiting progress in this field.

It is not known what the effective anti-tumour targets are or what specific anti-tumour immune response is necessary to eradicate the tumour. As it is not possible to fully examine these issues in patients the team will perform a comprehensive study of potential anti-cancer vaccine components and of immune response to vaccination in their extensively studied mouse cancer models using state-of-the-art technological approaches. The focus will be on the asbestos-induced tumour, malignant mesothelioma.

Funding from CCWA $100,000
Fully supported In the name of the Estate of the late Robert and Mitzi Robinson

 

Co-funded by Cancer Council WA, The Government of Western Australia, Curtin University, Edith Cowan University, The University of Western Australia and Telethon Kids Institute the Collaborative Cancer Grant Scheme aims to support early-to mid-career cancer researchers in WA and in particular to encourage collaboration among early-to mid-career cancer researchers. The scheme aims to improve research quality and increase the competitiveness of WA early to midcareer cancer researchers by helping researchers obtain preliminary data and build collaborative networks.

This scheme is supported by Cancer Council WA, Government of Western Australia, Curtin University, Edith Cowan University, The University of Western Australia and Telethon Kids Institute.

Project title
A study to treat cancer-related weight loss in patients with mesothelioma
Collaborators

A/Prof Fraser Brims, Dr Carolyn Peddle-McIntyre, Dr Samantha Bowyer and Dr Felicity Hawkins

Institution Curtin University; Edith Cowan University; Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital; The University of Western Australia
Research description Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lung caused by breathing in asbestos. The number of Western Australian’s with mesothelioma is among the highest worldwide. Most people will not live beyond one year of diagnosis. Research has found weight loss due to mesothelioma is very common and that patients with weight loss live less long.

The research aims to test a new medicine that may treat weight loss from mesothelioma. This medicine has been shown to work and be safe in other cancers. Every patient in the study will receive this medicine but in a random order so it can be tested against a placebo (inactive tablet). The team will use medical imaging to measure how body fat and muscle change, and measure quality of life.

This small world first study may lead to better quality of life of people with mesothelioma and improve the understanding of treating weight loss in cancer.

Funding from CCWA

$19,081 from CCWA ($49,583 in total)

Fully supported

In the name of Climbers Against Cancer

 

Project title
From flocking birds to swarming immune cells; integrating mathematics and biology to understand a successful response to cancer immunotherapy. 
Collaborators

Dr Jonathan Chee, Dr Ayham Zaitouny, Dr Emma de Jong and Dr Debora Cristina Correa

Institution

The University of Western Australia; CSIRO; Telethon Kids Institute & The University of Western Australia

Research description

Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive and incurable cancer caused by asbestos. The standard treatment for mesothelioma is chemotherapy, but prognosis is poor. This higlights the need for improved therapies, and immunotherapy is an exciting option to improve mesothelioma treatment.

Immunotherapy is an exciting treatment because it can lead to cures in some patients with some cancers. The treatment has a lot of side effects and at the moment it cannot be predicted which patients will benefit. This project aims to understand why some individuals respond to immunotherapy but others do not, and develop novel methods of predicting these responses.

The team will characterise millions of immune tumour genes and apply mathematical methods to visualize and identify the patterns of change over time that can predict successful treatment outcomes.

The benefit of this study is that it will help to find out early in a treatment plan if that plan is working so that it can be altered if it is not.

Funding from CCWA

$20,000 from CCWA ($50,000 in total)

Fully supported

In the name of Climbers Against Cancer

 

Project title
Determining if gene variations causing adult cancer could promote leukaemia in children
Collaborators

Dr Mark Cruickshank, Dr Christian Pflueger, Dr Luke Jones, Dr Eric Ji-Hoon Joo, Dr Boris Novakovic and A/Prof Parwinder Kaur

Institution

Telethon Kids Institute; The University of Western Australia; Princess Maxima Centre for Paediatric Oncology; Melbourne University; Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

Research description

The team are investigating if inherited DNA variations found in infant leukaemia patients contribute to their disease. While many forms of childhood leukaemia can be effectively treated, this is not the case for infant patients. Our research proposal aims to identify how inherited DNA variations promote the development of leukaemia and how they might be targeted with new therapies. The DNA variations found in infant patients have previously been found in several types of adult cancers.

In adult cancers, they function by enhancing the cells ability to overcome stressful environmental conditions. The team will be testing if leukaemia cells also show enhanced stress response to these DNA variations using advanced methods to engineer mouse cells in test tubes to test how these DNA variations cause a normal cell to transform into a leukaemia cell.

This research aims to identify a new mechanism causing infant leukaemia with the aim of finding novel ways to treat this deadly disease.

Funding from CCWA

$20,000 from CCWA ($50,000 in total)

Fully supported

In the name of the Estate of Delys Nash

 

Project title
Can creatine supplementation enhance the effects of weight training on muscle strength and mass in prostate cancer patients while undergoing androgen deprivation therapy?
Collaborators

Dr Ciaran Fairman, A/Prof Raphael Chee, Dr Krissy Kendall and Mr Colin Tang

Institution

Edith Cowan University; Genesis Cancer Care WA; Edith Cowan University; Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital

Research description

Androgen deprivation therapy is a common treatment for prostate cancer that results in profound muscle loss, which is associated with worse physical function, quality of life and poorer prognosis. Exercise is regularly used to combat this muscle wasting, but due to the severity of this condition, novel strategies to improve muscle mass are highly valuable. Creatine (Cr) is a naturally occurring substance in the body that plays an important role in providing energy. Cr has been shown to improve muscle mass in other clinical populations. The body has limited ability to produce Cr, so supplementation is regularly suggested to increase stores.

The team will compare 12 weeks of weight training with or without Cr supplementation. They will take measures of muscle mass ,strength and physical function before and after training.

The potential impact of this research is quite large. Results of this trial could inform clinicians of a novel strategy to combat muscle wasting in a population at great need.

Funding from CCWA

$20,000 from CCWA ($50,000 in total)

Fully supported

In the name of Swan Athletic Senior Citizens

 

Project title
Utilising a unique blood cell (platelets) as a predictive biomarker in melanoma
Collaborators

Dr Belinda Guo, A/Prof Elin Gray and Dr Adnan Khattak

Institution

The University of Western Australia; Edith Cowan University; Fiona Stanley Hospital

Research description

Melanoma is an aggressive cancer and the incidence in increasing in WA and worldwide. New treatments are promising but are only beneficial for some patients. Due to the increased cost of treatment and the severity of side effects observed in some patients, there is an urgent need to find a way to predict how patients will respond to treatment. This research aims to address this by looking at a specialised cell in the blood: platelets.

Platelets play an important role in wound repair and clotting, but have also been found to contain tumour-specific genetic information. This means platelets could be a unique way to obtain information about tumour vulnerability to treatment and to monitor response to therapy.

In this study, the team will examine platelets from patients with melanoma and healthy people to indentify specific genetic markers that can be used to predict patient responses to treatment. This will help inform treatment decisions and ensure that the most appropriate and effective treatments are given to patients.

Funding from CCWA

$19,833 from CCWA ($47,702 in total)

Fully supported

In the names of the Cyril and Nina Bassham Research Fund, Climbers Against Cancer, Gilmac Pty Ltd, a tribute to Carol Morley & the Joseph and Betty Pitschel Pain Relief Fund

 

Project title
New type of radiation to treat triple negative breast cancers
Collaborators

Dr Anabel Sorolla, Dr Sergii Romanenko, Dr Almantas Pivrikas and Dr Jully Gogoi Tiwari

Institution

The University of Western Australia; Murdoch University; Curtin University

Research description

Triple negative breast cancer is an aggressive type of breast cancer that causes significant number of deaths particularly in young women. This cancer lacks effective and targeted treatment options. This project aims to develop a specific therapy for this cancer that consists of using non-harmful millimeter radiation (heat) in combination with drugs that target the receptor TRPV1.

TRPV1 is particularly abundant in triple negative breast cancer and can be activated by heat and drugs. The activation of the receptor leads to cancer cell death. The application of radiation in combination with drugs will activate the receptor even faster and for a longer period achieving more effective tumour reduction with lower drug doses.

Furthermore, from this project the expectation is to provide a more tailored and less toxic treatment for patients with triple negative breast cancer that in the long term will reduce the mortality associated with these cancers.

Funding from CCWA

$20,000 from CCWA ($50,000 in total)

Fully supported

In the names of Lillian Garnett & The Women of the Greek Community

 

Early Career Investigator Grants are designed to help talented early career cancer researchers to develop the skills and necessary track record to advance their career. These one-year awards give many researchers their first step in their career as an independent cancer researcher.

Project title
Nutrients for brain tumours – fat or sugar?
Recipient  Dr Haibo Jiang
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description Brain cancer kills more children than any other disease, and is responsible for more deaths of people under 40 in Australia than any other type of cancer. The survival rate is very low (22%), and for some aggressive forms of brain cancer, such as glioblastoma, the survival rate is only 5%. Furthermore, the survival rates have barely changed in the last three decades. Brain cancer urgently requires more research efforts to improve this situation.

The overall goal of this project is to improve our understandings of brain cancer. The specific objective of this project is to study the type of nutrients brain cancer cells take up from the blood to grow and develop. The team will use advanced imaging technology to visualise and measure how brain tumours utilise nutrients – fat and sugar – in comparison to the healthy brain.

This study will yield new knowledge that is fundamental to brain cancer biology, which could ultimately result in new and better imaging and therapeutic strategies.

Funding from CCWA $34,848
Supported In the name of Relay for Life Busselton’s Dream Catchers & Jill Tilly

 

Project Unveiling the interaction between leukaemia cells and bone cells
Recipient  Dr Laurence Cheung
Institution Telethon Kids Institute and Curtin University
Research description Recent studies in acute myeloid luekaemia, the most common type of acute leukaemia in adults, suggest that the microenvironment (neighbouring cells) of cancer cells plays a similar role as in solid tumours, contributing to the failure of therapy and disease progression. In contrast, the environment in pre-B cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), the most common form of cancer in children, has not been studied.

The team have established a preclinical model that represents a specific type pre-B ALL. This model replicates the clinical features of bone loss in children with ALL at diagnosis. For the first time the team discovered that using a drug called zoledronic acid to restore the bone loss reduces leukaemia cell growth and improves survival.

This research aims to study the interactions between the bone forming cells and leukaemia cells in detail. An improved understanding of the interactive mechanisms between leukaemia cells and bone cells will enable us to develop novel therapeutic strategies.

Funding from CCWA $34,723
Supported In the names of Kai’s Big GOLD Ball, Deeny O’Shaughnessy & the Estate of Delys Nash

 

Our Research Fellowships fund outstanding biomedical and health researchers working in the field of cancer so they can undertake research of major importance. They provide salary support for up to five years with the aim of advancing the quality and impact of cancer research in WA and promoting collaboration and partnerships, locally, nationally and internationally.

Fellowship title
Improving the cure rates for the childhood brain cancer, medulloblastoma
Fellow Clin/A/Prof Nicholas Gottardo
Institution Telethon Kids Institute
Research description This project is focused on medulloblastoma (MB), the most common malignant childhood brain cancer, which accounts for 1 in 5 brain tumours. Current treatment consists of surgery to remove as much of the tumour as is safely possible, followed by radiotherapy (high-energy x-rays) and chemotherapy (anti-cancer medication). The exception to this is infants where radiotherapy is avoided due to the damage it causes to the developing brain. Using these approaches approximately 70% of children in developed countries can be cured; however, long-term treatment-related health problems continue to be a major issue for survivors, significantly impacting upon their quality of life.

New therapeutic interventions are sorely needed in the clinic for these patients. Currently, only a handful of chemotherapies are used worldwide for the treatment of MB, highlighting the need to identify additional effective drugs for this disease. To address this, our laboratory has devised a drug discovery and research strategy to identify and evaluate new drugs to treat MB. This workflow includes using robotics to screen thousands of drugs for their ability to kill MB cells in vitro (in test tubes), then prioritising the drugs found to enhance the activity of the chemotherapeutics currently used in the clinic, to treat children with MB. The efficacy of the best drug combinations are then tested in vivo (in a living organism) in our “clinic of mice”, which are unique mouse models we have established that represent a range of different human MBs.

Chemotherapy for MB principally works by damaging the DNA of cancer cells but these cells also have repair mechanisms that impede the effectiveness of treatment. One of the most promising drugs we identified in our work blocks the DNA damage repair system (a class of drugs known as CHK inhibitors) and thus enhances the effect of chemotherapy. This research aims to further validate CHK inhibitors as promising new treatments for MB. This work will identify the best CHK inhibitor to take into the clinic with the potential long term benefit to cure more children with MB.

Funding from CCWA $100,000 for 2019 ($400,000 total 2016-2019)
Supported In the names of the Cyril and Nina Bassham Research Fund, Janifer Joy Mason & Kai’s Big GOLD Ball

 

Fellowship title
 Developing blood tests to guide treatment of melanoma
Fellow  A/Prof Elin Gray
Institution  Edith Cowan Institution
Research description Melanoma now represents a significantly increased proportion of cases in clinical oncology departments, with melanoma incidence increasing worldwide and in Australia. Once melanoma has spread through the body, the average (or usual or expected) survival is 6 to 9 months, with 5-years survival of less than 40%. The recent implementation of new treatments has improved patient outcome and survival. However, there is an urgent need for a better test to guide the doctors while they are treating their patients.

The proposed studies aim to develop tests that can be done from a blood sample. These tests make use of new technologies to test for evidence of markers derived from the growth (tumour) found in the blood of patients with melanoma. These markers could serve as a guide of what is going on in the cancer.

A/Prof Gray aims to demonstrate that in melanoma, these tests can effectively and accurately provide the oncologists with information about the growths, for them to take better informed treatment decisions.

Funding from CCWA  $100,000 for 2019 ($400,000 in total for 2019-2022)
Supported In the name of West Coast Eagles

 

Fellowship title
Improving psychosocial support and education for patients diagnosed with brain or head and neck cancer and their carers
Fellow A/Prof Georgia Halkett
Institution Curtin University
Research description  Being diagnosed with brain or head and neck cancer is distressing as it is often life threatening has a large impact on people physically and/or mentally. Hence, it is essential that education and support programs are developed and tested to reduce distress and unmet needs for people diagnosed with these cancers and their carers.

Two programs have been developed:
1. RT Prepare program: This program focuses on preparing people for radiotherapy. Little research has been conducted in this area. This teams work in preparing people diagnosed with breast cancer for radiotherapy is recognised internationally; however, this program needs to be refined for people with other cancers. Receiving radiotherapy for brain cancer or head and neck cancer may cause distress due to the head mask they must wear to stop them moving and side effects they might experience. People receiving radiotherapy for head and neck cancer are at risk of severe skin reactions, dry mouth, oral discomfort, mouth ulcers, infections, difficulty chewing and swallowing, impaired taste and extreme weight loss. People receiving radiotherapy for brain cancer may fear side effects such as headaches, hair loss, nausea, extreme tiredness, hearing loss, skin changes, speech difficulties and seizures. Education and support provided by the radiotherapy team before treatment is likely to reduce their anxiety and help them manage side effects.

Research methods for this program will include interviews, development and testing of the education packages and a large scale clinical trial. Main outcomes will include anxiety and distress, concerns and knowledge about radiotherapy and how prepared they feel for treatment.

2. Carer’s Education and Support Program: This program focuses on improving carer’s confidence to look after their loved one after a cancer diagnosis and reducing their level of distress. This research focuses on carers of patients diagnosed with brain cancer or head and neck cancer because these groups would benefit most from extra support. If carers are unable to support their loved one, it is likely that the person with cancer may need additional emergency room visits or hospital admissions. During the program a nurse conducts a telephone assessment, visits the carer at home, provides an individualised resource manual and regular telephone follow-up for 12 months. This program is currently being tested in a randomised controlled trial with carers of people with brain cancer. It needs to be adapted and tested for carers of people with head and neck cancer.

Research into these two programs is essential to improve the education and support provided to individuals and their carers following a diagnosis with either brain cancer or head and neck cancer. The team will also determine the cost of providing these programs and the impact they have on overall healthcare costs.

Funding from CCWA $115,000 for 2019 ($460,000 for 2017-2020)
Supported In the names of Friends of Cancer Council WA, , In Memory of Craig Boulter, Annadora Horne and Thelma Norris Trust Fund, & the Mavis Sands Bequest

 

Fellowship title
Improving detection and therapy in treatment-resistant cancers
Fellow  Dr Juliana Hamzah
Institution  Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research
Research description This research program will potentially benefit patients suffering from treatment-resistant cancers such as triple negative breast cancer and liver cancers. Approximately one in eight Australian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 85. Similarly, liver cancer is the third leading cause of death in Australia. Treatment options that include conventional chemotherapeutics are currently ineffective.

Dr Hamzah has identified tumour stiffness as the major problem in breast and liver cancers. Tumour stiffness is caused by over-production of non-cellular matrix components that protects the tumour cells from being accessible to anti-cancer drugs. Consequently, the stiffer the tumour matrix, the more resistant it is to drug therapy.

Recently this team has developed a new medication and treatment to specifically dissolve tumour stiffness. Degradation of matrix stiffness effectively exposes the tumour cells to anti-cancer medications. Dr Hamzah’s goal is to explore the use of this drug to treat breast and liver cancers.

Funding from CCWA  $120,000 for 2019 ($480,000 for 2018-2021)
Supported In the names of the Cyril and Nina Bassham Research Fund and the Zampedri Family

 

Fellowship title Identifying new effective treatments for mesothelioma
Fellow  Dr Willem Joost Lesterhuis
Institution  The University of Western Australia
Research description This research focuses on mesothelioma, a fatal cancer of the lining of the lung, caused by exposure to asbestos. Western Australia has the highest incidence of this cancer in the world, because of the mining, transport and high use of asbestos here.

Chemotherapy has some effect in a number of patients, but always short-lived. Immunotherapy, which boosts the immune system against cancer, appears promising with some patients showing a remarkable decrease in cancer burden, but unfortunately this does not happen very often. The outcome for people with mesothelioma has not improved in more than a decade.

Firstly, the intention is to investigate whether chemotherapy and immunotherapy are more effective when they are used in combination. The idea has always been that chemotherapy has only harmful effects on the immune system, but research shows that some of these drugs may actually have beneficial effects. However, it’s not known which chemotherapeutics can be best combined with immunotherapy. Here, the intention is to test all different classes of cancer chemotherapy for their ability to work in combination with immunotherapy, and study the mechanisms that determine the combined anti-cancer effect.

Secondly, the intention is to investigate why some people with cancer who are treated with immunotherapy have a full regression of their cancer, while others have no response to the therapy at all. By investigating which cells and molecules are responsible for the anti-cancer effect, and by subsequently reinforcing those processes using already available drugs, The aim to increase the cure rate.

Lastly, the intention is to investigate which cells and molecules are involved in the fast growth of mesothelioma, and to aim to identify drugs that stop this process.

This will be conducted using mesothelioma animal models, and samples from mesothelioma patients. Since many of the drugs tested are already in clinical use, the findings can be rapidly translated into the clinic; for some of the drugs this may be within 5 years.

Funding from CCWA  $20,000 for 2019 ($80,000 in total for 2017-2020)
Fully supported  In the name of Kott Gunning

 

Postdoctoral Research Fellowships give support for cancer researchers in the early stages of their career, providing improved career stability and encouraging the best and brightest young researchers to continue in the discipline of cancer research. These fellowships provide funding over a period of three years.

Project title
Prognostic significance of physical activity and sedentary behaviour in people with advanced non-small cell lung cancer
Recipient  Dr Vinicius Cavalheri De Oliveira
Institution Curtin University
Research description Globally, lung cancer has the highest number of deaths per year compared to all other cancers. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the main type, making up about 85% of all lung cancer. At diagnosis, almost 70% of patients have an advanced form of the disease and unfortunately, only 1-8% of patients are alive five years post-diagnosis.

Due to symptoms of fatigue and shortness of breath, people with advanced NSCLC report adopting a sedentary lifestyle (prolonged time spent sitting or lying). In people with breast cancer, diabetes, heart or lung disease, time spent physically active during the day is linked with longer survival, whereas prolonged time spent sedentary during the day is linked with shorter survival. Although prolonging survival is the main goal of treatments for people with advanced NSCLC, studies in these people have not yet investigated the link between time spent either physically active or sedentary during the day and survival. So, the aim of this study is to investigate if time spent in physically active or sedentary during the day predicts survival in people with advanced NSCLC.

The intention is to recruit people diagnosed with advanced NSCLC and ask them to wear a physical activity monitor 24 hours per day for 7 days in a row. This monitor will show the amount of time people spent physically active and the amount of time they spent sedentary during those 7 days. After these assessments, the team will keep track of them for one year. Of note, exercise training will not be offered as part of this proposed study.
The number of deaths during that one year will be recorded, and the team will investigate any links between the times spent in being physically active or sedentary during the day with survival.

Funding from CCWA $75,000 in 2019 ($225,000 total for 2017-2019)
Supported In the names of  Curtin University Community, Estate of Sylvia Davies & the Estate of Jemima Gardner

 

Project title
Exercise medicine for advanced cancer patients: Can exercise slow tumour growth, delay disease progression and extend survival?
Recipient  Dr Nicolas Hart
Institution Edith Cowan University
Research description Advanced cancer patients face many challenges due to their growing disease and the treatments provided to manage their symptoms. Unfortunately, patients with advanced cancers have few effective treatments available, and once it has spread to bone, the disease becomes incurable. While exercise has been shown to provide symptom control for cancer patients; exercise may also slow cancer growth and extend life.

This research program will investigate whether exercise can: slow tumour growth in advanced patients with bone metastases (when their cancer has spread to bone), by interfering with tumour formation; increase the effectiveness of therapies delivered through the blood stream, such as chemotherapy, thereby allowing larger amounts of chemotherapy to reach the tumour; and increase survival – the ultimate aim of cancer treatments: exercise has been linked to increased lifespan, but this needs to be directly proven.

Funding from CCWA $75,000 in 2019 (total $225,000 for 2018-2020)
Supported In the names of the Peter and Iris Cook Grant for Metastases Research & the Estate of John Neil Jones

 

Project title
Cracking the code to successful cancer immunotherapy
Recipient  Dr Jonathan Chee
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description Mesothelioma is a cancer caused by asbestos that develops in the lining of the lungs. Australia has one of the highest incidences of mesothelioma in the world. The prognosis is very poor, with 5-year survival rates of only 3% for men, and 12% for women.

Immunotherapy is an exciting treatment for mesothelioma. It works exceptionally well for some cancer patients, but there are side effects, and it is expensive.

The research team want to be able to tell before treatment begins which patients will benefit and predict and prevent any bad reactions. Every person has a unique immune system and we can define features of that system like fingerprints. But these fingerprints change with time and wellness. This study will map the changes associated with successful immunotherapy to see if therapy outcome can be predicted.

The benefit of this study is that it will allow the research team to find out early in a treatment plan if that plan is working so that it can be altered if it is not.

Funding from CCWA $75,000 in 2019 (Total $225,000 for 2019 – 2021)
Supported In the name of Reflections Through Reality

These three year PhD Top Up Scholarships are awarded to applicants who have an outstanding academic record and the potential to pursue full-time PhD studies in cancer-related research.

Project title
Early detection of cancer spread and treatment of ocular melanoma
Recipient  Mr Aaron Beasley
Institution Edith Cowan University
Research description Uveal melanoma (UM) is the most common cancer of the eye.
Approximately, 50% of UM patients are at high risk of incurable disease spread and due to lack of effective treatments, 92% will die within 2 years. Research shows that UM spreads to other organs via the release of Circulating Tumour Cells (CTCs) into the blood stream. Previously, I developed a blood test, which allows me to capture and analyse CTCs to accurately identify high risk UM patients.In collaboration with the Lions Eye Institute, I now aim to validate this blood test in a large cohort of patients and establish its utility in the clinic. I also aim to create UM mouse models and screen potential drugs that can be used to prevent the spread of disease.This research will drive the clinical use of a safe blood test to identify high risk UM patients and identify drug candidates to impede disease spread, which will ensure rigorous patient surveillance and improved patient outcomes.
Funding from CCWA $12,000 for 2019 ($30,000 in total for 2018 – 2020)
Supported In the names of the Paulus Hoogendyk Research Trust & the Estate of Alison Steele

 

Project title
Treating the most aggressive breast cancers using molecules from natural substances
Recipient  Ms Ciara Duffy
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description Breast cancer remains a serious health threat for women, which occurs frequently with devastating outcomes. There are no drugs available which can specifically target the most difficult to treat breast cancers, such as triple-negative breast cancer. For people with this subtype, the only treatment options are chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, which can have lifelong side effects.

Natural substances have been studied for a long time, and shown to work in killing cancer cells. The major molecules in these cancer selective natural compounds will be investigated. This research will involve treating breast cancer cells with these anti-cancer molecules and understanding how the cells die. The molecules will also be delivered using very small targeted particles. In this project, the aim is to develop a new targeted drug derived from natural molecules, which will selectively kill the most difficult to treat breast cancer cells.

Funding from CCWA $3,000 for 2019 ($15,000 in total 2017-2019)
Fully supported In the name of Momentum for Australia

 

Project title
Investigating how key immune cells, known as macrophages, contribute to tumour growth in the elderly and impair response to therapy

 

Recipient  Miss Lelinh Duong
Institution Curtin University
Research description Many cancers, including mesothelioma, increase with old age. Macrophages area an immune cell type which can help fight cancer cells. However, macrophages can be persuaded to help tumours grow. Many tumours can be made of up to 50 percent macrophages and the number is associated with poor prognosis. The team has shown elderly hosts have more tumour-promoting macrophages, coinciding with faster tumour growth. Additionally, anti-cancer therapy does not work well in the elderly, corresponding to the presence of these ‘aged’ macrophages.

The team will examine if macrophages are being educated during ageing to become more tumour-promoting. Macrophages will be isolated from mesothelioma tumours from young and elderly hosts. Molecules involved in educating macrophages will be compared to determine differences in ageing, tumour growth and with cancer therapy. The findings will advance our understanding of tumour development and potentially identify ways to improve anti-cancer treatment for the elderly.

Funding from CCWA $12,000 for 2019
Fully supported In the name of the Lions Cancer Institute Karen and Joshua Chinnery PhD Top Up Scholarship

 

Project title
Investigation of psychosocial information and support needs and support services use of patients diagnosed with advanced cancer
Recipient  Ms Jade Newton
Institution Curtin University
Research description Some people are diagnosed with cancer that has spread to other parts of their body and they are not able to be cured. This is ‘advanced cancer’. Not a lot is known about how patients with advanced cancer manage the emotional and social (or, ‘psychosocial’) impact of their diagnosis, and how available support affects their experience.

This project will explore what psychosocial support patients with advanced cancer use, how it impacts them, and the costs and benefits of using psychosocial supportive care. This will be achieved by looking at what research has been done in this area, interviewing patients with advanced cancer to learn about their experiences, and undertaking a cohort study, where patients will be surveyed over six months to look at their needs, distress, and support services use over time.

Understanding the needs and service use of patients with advanced cancer will help to make sure the best support is being provided to lessen the distress and suffering they may experience.

Funding from CCWA $12,000 for 2019 ($30,000 total for 2019 – 2021)
Fully supported In the name of the Lions Cancer Institute Karen and Joshua Chinnery PhD Top Up Scholarship

 

Project The influence of muscle structure on treatment and survival in women with advanced ovarian cancer: Can an exercise intervention improve patient outcomes?
Recipient  Miss Christelle Schofield
Institution Edith Cowan University
Research description About 75% of ovarian cancer (OC) cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage. Only 28% of women with advanced OC survive five years. Research shows that women with better muscle structure (muscle mass + density) at diagnosis survive longer. The project will determine if muscle structure: 1) changes during treatment, 2) is associated with treatment tolerance, 3) differs between treatment groups, and 4) can improve with resistance exercise.

Muscle structure will be measured using pre- and post-treatment CT scans. Treatment tolerance information will be collected from medical records. A group of women will participate in an exercise program to assess if exercise can improve muscle structure and function.

This research will investigate: 1) the usefulness of muscle structure to identify women with poor treatment tolerance and survival, 2) the potential of exercise to improve muscle structure and function.

Results will inform the development of better supportive care for women with advanced OC.

Funding from CCWA $12,000 in 2019 ($24,000 total, for 2019-2020)
Fully supported In the name of Patricia New

 

We offer these one year scholarships to support the work of promising young honours students to encourage them to consider a career in cancer research.

Project title
Testing the use of combined immune-system simulating treatment for lung cancer
Recipient  Miss Catherine Reynolds
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description Mesothelioma is a cancer affecting the tissue surrounding the lung, with a low (6% after 5 years) survival rate.

Due to asbestos exposure, Australia has a high incidence rate with 600 new cases being reported each year. A new mesothelioma vaccine, which directs the immune system to target tumour cells, has elicited suboptimal immune responses.

This study aims to enhance this response by combining vaccination with immune stimulating therapies which block negative immune regulators. The vaccine, stimulating therapy, and combination therapy will be tested on mice with mesothelioma, and immune response measured based on tumour size and immune cell activity.

This vaccination treatment is soon to be implemented in human trials in Perth and the study of combined therapy could inform us on how to improve patient outcomes.

As all tumour-forming cancers express vaccination targets, the benefits of optimising this therapy extend beyond the treatment of mesothelioma.

Funding from CCWA $7,500
Supported In the names of the Ee Family & the Estate of James Kennedy

 

Project title
 Boosting the immune response against sarcoma
Recipient   Miss Breana Weston
Institution  Murdoch University
Research description Soft tissue sarcoma is a group of cancers that derive from connective tissue, such as muscles, fat, blood vessels or lining of joints and it is most common in younger children.

Treatment consists of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy but unfortunately relapses and rapid spread throughout the body occurs frequently. There has only been little progress in clinical treatments in the past decades.

This project aims to develop an immune-stimulating treatment that can be used at the surgical site after a patient has had surgery to remove their sarcoma. This treatment aims to eradicate any cancer cells that were not removed during surgery, as well as promote immunity against any cancer cells that may have spread.

This will be tested using laboratory models of soft tissue sarcoma. Different immunotherapies will be tested to determine the optimal dose and schedule to induce an effective response, without interfering with normal wound healing.

This will hopefully result in an effective treatment to be eventually used in patients to prevent the reoccurence and spread of soft tissue sarcomas.

Funding from CCWA $7,500
Fully supported In the name of the Paul Katris Foundation Family

Cancer Council Western Australia Student Vacation Research Scholarships offer talented university students a taste of what cancer research can offer. They offer students a small stipend to conduct a specific research project over a period of 4-10 weeks.

Project title
Determining what supportive care and allied health services are provided nationally to patients diagnosed with High Grade Glioma and their carers
Recipient  Miss Davina Daudu
Institution Curtin University
Research description High grade glioma (HGG) is a rapidly terminal brain cancer that causes high levels of distress for patients, families and carers. Carers of patients with HGG report more distress levels and decreased quality of life compared to carers of patients with cancers that have a good prognosis.

A larger study is being conducted, determining the efficacy of a supportive and educational intervention for carers of patients with HGG. To determine how effective this intervention is, it is important to understand what care is currently available to these carers. This study is investigating the supportive care and allied health services available to both patients with HGG and their carers. Health professionals involved in the care of these patients will be surveyed, allowing us to understand the types of care available. In the longer term, this could lead to changes in services provided to patients and carers, as well as inform the translation of the intervention that is being tested into practice.

Funding from CCWA $3,000
Fully supported In the name of the James Crofts Hope Foundation

 

Project title
The preparation of sulfur and selenium thalidomide derivatives for the treatment of liver cancer
Recipient  Mr Eric Frear
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description Liver cancer is globally the 6th most common cancer causing the 3rd highest number of cancer related deaths. Currently sorafenib is the only drug treatment for liver cancer. Sorafenib lacks selectivity when killing cancer cells, resulting in poor survival outcomes of patients.

The aim of this research is to prepare and test a variety of sulfur and selenium thalidomide derivatives on their ability to selectively and effectively target tumorigenic liver cells over healthy cells.

This research aims to provide an alternative to the only current drug treatment for liver cancer, sorafenib. Clinical trials found that current treatment regimens for liver cancer with sorafenib increase mean survival time by just 2.8 months compared to a placebo.

Funding from CCWA $3,000
Fully supported In the name of Friends of Cancer Council WA

 

Project title
Can immune cells predict response to chemotherapy in patients with mesothelioma?
Recipient  Mr Ali Ismail
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos fibres. The average survival for patients treated with chemotherapy is 12 months. New treatments are being developed that combine chemotherapy with drugs designed to activate the immune system; however, successful combination of these two treatments requires an understanding of how chemotherapy affects immune cells in patients with mesothelioma.

Blood samples are commonly used to follow the immune repsonse in patients. However it is not known if immune cells in the blood are the same as those in the tumour. Pleural effusion is a build up of fluid in the lungs of patients with mesothelioma and can be used to monitor the immune response at the tumour site.

This study will determine whether immune cells in pleural effusion, rather than the blood, can better predict which patients will respond to chemotherapy. In addition, the team hope to identify a “window of opportunity” to combine immune activating drugs with chemotherapy.

Funding from CCWA $3,000
Fully supported In the name of Friends of Cancer Council WA

 

Project title
A blood test to measure disease in melanoma patients
Recipient  Miss Akaiti James
Institution Edith Cowan University
Research description Skin cancer causes more deaths than road accidents every year in Australia. Of all types of skin cancer, melanoma is the most common and deadly. The presence of melanoma can be detected via a blood test by extracting free-floating DNA fragments (circulating tumour DNA or ctDNA) from the patient’s blood. This has proven to be an effective measure of the level of disease in patients with melanoma that has spread to distant sites of the body. It is important therefore to establish whether and to what extent, ctDNA can be detected in less advanced disease. This will help select those that will benefit from alternative treatment options and reduce the risk of the disease progressing.

This research aims to establish the lowest amount of disease where ctDNA is detectable prior to sentinel lymph node biopsy (SNLB). This will be done by measuring the amount of ctDNA in blood samples from patients with melanoma that has spread to the lymph glands and compare this against their corresponding SLNB pathology reports. Ultimately this will provide guidelines for patient selection in larger studies, identifying those at risk of relapse and to inform on those that will benefit from alternative treatment options.

Funding from CCWA $3,000
Fully supported In the name of Cynthia Noonan and Family

 

Project title
Investigating new ways to get the immune system to fight brain cancer
Recipient  Miss Leila Kint
Institution Telethon Kids Institute
Research description Brain cancer kills more children than any other disease, and more people under 40 than any other cancer.

A new therapy called checkpoint blockade is showing incredible success in melanoma. This treatment activates a type of immune cell called a T cell. The team recently explored if it might work in the childhood brain cancer medulloblastoma but discovered there are few T cells in these cancers. Instead, there are large numbers of other immune cells called myeloid cells.

It was recently reported that myeloid cells can be activated using an antibody that this was effective at treating brain cancer in mice. However, this work was done in mice that lack a normal immune system, making it hard to know if it will work in people.

The team has developed models of brain cancer in mice that have a normal immune system. They will treat the mice with an antibody to activate myeloid cells, monitor tumour growth to see if it is effective, and if it can improve other brain cancer treatments like chemotherapy.

Funding from CCWA $3,000
Fully supported In the name of the James Crofts Hope Foundation

 

Project title
3D printing for facilitating pre-surgical planning of renal cell carcinoma
Recipient  Miss Catalina-Gabriela Lupulescu
Institution Curtin University
Research description Renal cell carcinoma is the ninth most common cancer diagnosed in Australia. Whilst certain people are more at risk than others, renal cell carcinoma can affect anyone of any age and demographic.

The purpose of this research project is to explore how 3D printing can become a valuable tool for pre-surgical planning of renal cell carcinoma, and have a greater clinical application than traditional imaging. The 3D printed models used will be patient-specific, and will simulate the anatomical makeup of the kidney, including the location and spread of the tumour and how it impacts surrounding healthy tissue. The urologists will be able to use the 3D models to plan the surgical treatment.

In this research study, CT and MRI data sets of patients diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma will be collected and post-processed for 3D printing. The 3D replicas will then be presented to urologists in order to gain an insight into their clinical value, and if they better assist the pre-surgical planning process compared to traditional imaging reconstructions.

The project aims to improve treatment outcomes for patients with renal cell carcinoma. It is expected that having a patient-specific, 3D representation of the kidney will help urologists better visualise the contour, depth and invasion of the tumour into surrounding tissue, and therefore improve the accuracy of the pre-surgical plan.

Funding from CCWA $3,000
Fully supported In the name of Friends of Cancer Council WA

 

Project title
Understanding patient, carer and staff perceptions of pharmacist counselling for patients diagnosed with brain cancer and receiving oral chemotherapy
Recipient  Miss Sophie Meyerson
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description Without appropriate education about oral chemotherapy, patients may not adhere to treatment or may make errors in taking the medication, risking ineffective treatment or toxicity. This is a particular issue for patients with brain cancer, who have cognitive and memory impairment. Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital has recently introduced individual pharmacist counselling pre-treatment, to ensure that patients are adequately informed about oral chemotherapy and to identify those at risk.

The aim of this study is to determine brain cancer patients’ and carers’ perspectives of the value and content of this education. Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with patients, carers and health professionals.

This study will demonstrate whether this education meets the need of patients diagnosed with brain cancer and their carers. This research will be used to inform session content and whether additional pharmacist education sessions are introduced for other cancer types and in other settings.

Funding from CCWA $3,000
Fully supported In the name of Cynthia Noonan and Family

 

Project title
Improved diagnostic testing for better breast cancer outcomes
Recipient  Mr David Rankin
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description HER2′ is a protein made in excess by certain breast cancer cells. Unfortunately, the tests that are currently use to determine HER2, levels in breast cancer are not particularly reliable. It is estimated that up to 30% of all breast cancer patients receive incorrect HER2 results. This directly impacts the way these patients are treated and subsequently, their outcomes. This is a burden for the patients, their families and the health budget. Breast cancer patients with ‘false’ positive results receive inappropriate treatment and may experience unnecessary side effects that require additional care. In contrast, women with ‘false’ negative results are denied treatment that may have improved their outcome and will also require additional care as their disease progresses.

This project will investigate a new, potentially more accurate method of HER2 testing. The team have already published a small study which shows that this new test appears to be more accurate than existing methods. In this project, the team will extend the previous study and test a much larger number of breast cancers to confirm the method is superior. The expectation is that the new test will be rapidly adopted by pathology laboratories and will immediately benefit patients.

Funding from CCWA $3000
Fully supported In the name of Momentum for Australia

 

Project title
Determining the support needs of patients diagnosed with sarcoma and their carers
Recipient  Mr Salar Sobhi
Institution Curtin University
Research description Sarcomas are a rare type of cancer which can arise in connective tissue such as fat, muscle cartilage and bone and may occur in almost any anatomical location.

Currently, two in five patients diagnosed with sarcoma will die from their disease. Limited research has been conducted on the support needs of patients with other cancers, particularly due to the rarity of the disease, age range of patients involved and survival rates.

This study will provide an understanding of the types of supportive care needs patients have and lead to further research which will prioritise these needs.

Funding from CCWA $3,000
Fully supported In the name of the Abbie Basson Sarcoma Foundation

 

Project title
Understanding the roles of the multidisciplinary team in managing patients diagnosed with sarcoma
Recipient  Miss Nathania Tanoto
Institution Curtin University
Research description Sarcoma is a group of very rare primary bone and soft tissue tumours that can occur in children, adolescents and young adults and in adults over the age of 55 years.

Management of sarcoma is highly variable and may involve a range of health professionals. To ensure timely diagnosis and management multidisciplinary care is essential.

In Western Australia, a State Sarcoma Service is offered to patients; however, not all patients are managed within this service.

The research team has already conducted interviews with health professionals, patients and carers. Qualitative interview data will be analysed using thematic analysis.

This study will provide an understanding of how patients diagnosed with sarcoma are managed in Western Australia and make recommendations about improving how the multidisciplinary team can best support patients.

Funding from CCWA $2,500
Fully supported In the name of the Abbie Basson Sarcoma Foundation

 

The Cancer Research Trust Enabling Grants were established in 2009 to promote and support collaborative cancer research in WA and make a globally-significant contribution to the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of cancer.

Project title
Enabling advanced single cell cancer genomics in Western Australia
Recipient  Prof Alistair Forrest
Institution Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research
Research description Tumours contain many different normal cell types that interact with the cancer cells. Although some cell types are associated with good or poor prognosis, relatively little is known about all the cell types that exist in a tumour.

The team will use new ‘single cell technologies’ that looks at the cells DNA to study hundreds of tumour samples from many different cancer types donated by patients across Perth. This will provide new insights into what cell types are present in each tumour and determine the genes switched on and off in thousands of cells from each patient’s tumour.

This information will be used to study four priority areas: What cell types are present in each tumour? ; Which drugs might kill these cancer cells, what fraction of cancer cells are likely to be resistant and why are some cancers resistant?; What changes between the cancer cells in a primary when they move to a metastatic site?; and can new biomarkers be identified for early cancer detection and can cancer cells be detected in the blood?

Funding from CCWA $50,000 in 2019 (total $250,000 for 2018-2022)
Supported In the names of the Estate of Ida Gordon and as a tribute to Joy-Anne Langer and her dedication to raising funds for Cancer Council WA

 

Project title
Continuous Improvement in Care – Cancer (The CIC Cancer Project)
Recipient  Prof Christobel Saunders
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description The CIC – Cancer Project will establish a new program of research that places cancer patients first. Consumers, clinicians, health services and researchers will work together to measure outcomes important to patients, identify any issues with their care, trial new ways to improve treatment and put proven care into practice rapidly.

In particular, this project will measure value-based outcomes in five cancers using internationally established methods (International Consortium for Health Outcomes – ICHOM). These outcome measures will be trialled in public and private settings in Perth. The data collected will be used to: feedback to individual services on the care they provide; work with health providers to identify gaps in services and variations in patient outcomes; and develop new research and development programs to address these gaps, and improve clinical practice.

This project will directly improve the lives of those diagnosed with cancer efficiently and effectively.

Funding from CCWA $50,000 in 2019 (total $250,000 for 2018-2022)
Fully supported In the name of Jill Tilly

 

The objective of the Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumour Initiative is to direct funds to advance the diagnosis and treatment of Gastrointestinal Stromal Cancer.

Project title
Cancer Council Western Australia Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumour Initiative (GIST)
Recipient  Prof Ruth Ganss
Institution Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research
Research description Gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GIST) arise from our digestive organs, for instance the stomach and intestine. If the cancer is discovered early, surgical removal may lead to a cure, but some cancers re-grow even after surgery. So called advanced GIST have already spread to distant organs and in most cases are treated with a drug called Gleevec. Most advanced GIST patients respond well to this drug which slows cancer growth. However, 90% of patients eventually become non-responsive to the drug due to drug resistance, enabling the cancer to progress and spread.

This project has two parts: 1: To get a better understanding as to why some GIST re-grow after surgery and whether it would be possible to predict the outcome by looking more closely than before at the cancer’s make-up. New technologies will be used and a multi-disciplinary collaboration between clinicians, biologists and bioinformaticians to look at every single cell the cancer harbours to get a better understanding of the cancer “support cells” and how they may foster cancer re-growth; and 2: It is known that GIST that grow have escaped detection by our immune system. Immune cells usually patrol our body and fight infections and are also supposed to destroy cancers. Whilst some immune cells are found in GIST it is not clear how to attract more of these cells into the cancer core and program them to fight the cancer from “inside”.

The team has already developed new drugs which work in preclinical models of pancreatic cancers and improve therapy. These drugs will be applied to pre-clinical GIST models with the hope to improve Gleevec therapy for longer lasting anti-cancer results. Similar immunotherapies have already revolutionized the treatment for previously incurable melanomas and lung cancer. Therefore, this research program aims at improving GIST prognostics and developing new therapies which harness the immune system.

Funding from CCWA $183,044 in 2019 (total $514,950 for 2018-2020)
Fully supported In the name of the initiative for cancer research into the diagnosis and treatment of Gastro Intestinal Stromal Cancer through the provision of the late Sandra O’Keeffe by including a gift in her Will to make this research possible.

 

A combination of long and short-term research projects of specific strategic importance.

Project title
Priority-driven Collaborative Cancer Research Scheme
Research description The Priority-driven Collaborative Cancer Research Scheme is an innovative annual national research project grant funding scheme which brings together government and other funders to collaboratively fund cancer research in Australia.

This funding scheme helps to: coordinate fudning of priority-driven cancer research at the national level; foster collaboration between cancer reserachers to build Australia’s cancer reserach capactiy; and foster consumer participation in cancer research, from design to implementation.

Funding from CCWA $43,600
Fully supported In the name of the Mavis Sands Bequest

 

Title Chair of Clinical Cancer Research
Chair Prof Michael Millward
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description The Chair provides academic leadership in clinical cancer research in WA and aims to increase the participation of local cancer patients in clinical trials of new cancer treatments.

The purpose of funding the Cancer Foundation Chair in Clinical Cancer Research is to improve the clinical care available to people diagnosed with cancer in Western Australia. There is compelling evidence that outcomes for patients are improved when they participate in clinical trials. A key vehicle therefore to improve outcomes in Western Australia is to actively promote clinical trials in the medical and general community. The means by which this may be achieved by the Chair are broken down into the following categories:

  • Research
  • Clinical trials
  • Leadership
  • Teaching
  • Advice
  • Representation
  • Promotion
Funding from CCWA $395,654
Supported In the names of the Estate of Jan Van Heeren, the Estate of Paul Kanny & the Mavis Sands Bequest

 

Project title
Cancer Prevention Research Unit
Recipient  Prof Simone Pettigrew
Institution Curtin University
Research description Headed by Prof Simone Pettigrew the purpose of the Cancer Council WA Cancer Prevention Research Unit (WACPRU) is to increase our understanding of individual and societal factors that increase the risk of cancer in the community, and, through this understanding, develop more effective policies and programs to reduce cancer risk in the community.
Funding from CCWA $160,000
Fully supported In the name of the Estate of James Kennedy