Friday, 8 April 2016
West Australian cancer research has received a vital funding boost with Cancer Council Western Australia announcing $4 million for researchers and projects.
Cancer Council WA Chief Executive Officer Susan Rooney said it is the largest amount Cancer Council has provided in annual research grants, and reflects the charity’s ongoing commitment to make funding cancer research a priority.
Ms Rooney made the announcement today at a lunch sponsored by the Parmelia Hilton Perth.
“We are very proud that the Cancer Council is a leading funder of independent cancer research in WA,” Ms Rooney said.
“We have a passionate commitment to funding high-quality cancer research in this State. In particular, we want to support researchers early in their career so they are encouraged to stay here and contribute to the world-class cancer research effort in WA.”
Among the recipients is West Australian oncologist and cancer researcher Dr Nicholas Gottardo who has been awarded a $400,000 Cancer Council Western Australia Research Fellowship to help investigate a new class of more effective chemotherapy drugs which it’s hoped will lead to new clinical trials for children with the brain tumour, Medulloblastoma (MB).
Dr Gottardo from Princess Margaret Hospital and the Telethon Kids Institute said despite being the second most common childhood cancer, brain tumours are the major cause of childhood cancer deaths.
He said this highlights the fact that although survival for children with brain tumours has improved over the last 30 years, survival rates for the past decade have reached a plateau well below that of other childhood cancers, such as leukaemia. In addition, survivors are often left with devastating life-long side effects.
“Unfortunately, the current treatment for MB is not always effective and one of the reasons is believed to be due to the genetic characteristics underlying the type of MB, which make the cancer cell resistant to DNA damage to healthy cells, leading to relapse,” Dr Gottardo said.
He said there is a desperate need for a new approach so his project aims to make the current chemotherapy more effective from the start of the treatment and with the ultimate goal of relying less on radiotherapy which causes toxicity and long-term side effects.
He and his team have screened more than 3000 drugs against Medulloblastoma cell lines derived from patients and a few of them have shown promising results.
Among them is a new class of drugs that block the innate ability of the cancer cell to repair the DNA damage caused by chemotherapy treatment.
“The project will test other drugs that block the same target to identify the most effective one. These data will provide the evidence required for proposal of a new childhood cancer clinical trial,” Dr Gottardo said.
He said the research fellowship from Cancer Council WA will help him make a difference to the lives of people affected by Medulloblastoma.
“Grants like this one from Cancer Council Western Australia are critically important to allow us to continue our important research.
“I frequently say to people if you want to stay with the current situation, where many children with brain tumours are still incurable or where survivors have serious life long side effects that impact on their quality of life, then don’t do research. But if you want to change the status quo then we must invest in research for future generations of children.”
Other areas of cancer research to be funded include;
• A world first trial investigating the effectiveness of exercise for patients with advanced prostate cancer
• The establishment of a Cancer Council Epidemiology Network to bring together the best cancer epidemiologists in WA;
• A trial to test a new therapy that allows cancer patients to drain fluid in the lining of the chest at home; and
• A research project is to develop blood tests that can accurately predict the risk of primary liver cancer
Ms Rooney said the research program cements the Cancer Council’s position as a leading funder of independent cancer research in Western Australia.
“Cancer Council WA seeks out the best cancer research within leading universities and institutions to ensure that the funds will have the highest possible impact in our collective fight against cancer,” she said.
Ms Rooney has paid tribute to the dedication of cancer researchers and the many supporters and donors who have made the funding boost possible.
“We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of the West Australian community, which has enabled us to make this substantial investment into research funding and help to ensure world class research is taking place here,” she said.
Ms Rooney said the financial support provided by the Cancer Council meant many of these researchers could spend less time chasing grants to fund their work and more time doing vital cancer research.
She said every grant Cancer Council awards is exposed to close scrutiny by a panel of well- established cancer researchers to ensure donors’ funds are invested as effectively as possible.
Cancer Council WA, a community funded organisation, is one of the largest funders of cancer research in the State.
Read more about the research projects we're funding this year here.