Today we are announcing $4 million for cancer researchers and projects in our annual research grants, which reflect our ongoing commitment to make funding cancer research a priority.
Our CEO, Susan Rooney made the announcement today at a lunch sponsored by the Parmelia Hilton Perth.
“We are very proud that Cancer Council is the largest non-government independent cancer research funder 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 Dr Willem Lesterhuis, who has been awarded a Cancer Council WA Fellowship to continue his work in combining chemotherapy with immunotherapy for people with mesothelioma.
“What’s become clear is that boosting the immune system against cancer can work. In some patients we see a complete regression of all their tumours, however unfortunately most patients don’t respond, and we don’t know what determines this difference in response to immunotherapy or how the effect of immunotherapy can be improved,” Dr Lesterhuis said.
“Those are key questions to solve in the near future and the same questions can be asked for chemotherapy, so my research is seeing whether we can combine these two beneficial effects.” Dr Lesterhuis said it was a great honour to receive this Cancer Council WA fellowship.
“It gives me intellectual independence and it allows me to explore new research avenues,” he said. “Often you need to do early experiments to see whether what you think might be significant actually has merit.
“This is a very frail time because federal funding bodies typically do not fund such early research, and they also typically do not fund new collaborations. This can mean exciting left-field ideas are therefore not further explored,” Dr Lesterhuis said.
“My initial research on positive immunological effects of chemotherapy for example was only funded after I had shown that it indeed was the case. Cancer Council does fund persons and it funds new collaborations, which I think is filling a great need.”
Ms Rooney said financial support provided by Cancer Council is critical to enabling researchers to focus their time on doing vital cancer research. She paid tribute to the dedication of cancer researchers and the many supporters and donors who have made the funding 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,” Ms Rooney said.
Other areas of cancer research to be funded include;
• studying the role of the immune system in treating bowel cancer;
• investigating whether the peptides from spider venom could be used as new anti-cancer drugs;
• improving the psychosocial support and education for patients with brain or head and neck cancer and their carers; and
• using 3D printers to assist with the pre-surgical planning of brain tumours in children
We have also introduced a new Collaborative Cancer Grant Scheme, which we fund in partnership with a range of other organisations, as a way of supporting young cancer researchers with a particular emphasis on collaboration across a range of institutions. Ms Rooney said it highlights how our research program is dynamic and innovative in finding new ways to encourage cutting edge research in WA.
“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.
She said every grant we award is exposed to close scrutiny by a panel of well- established cancer researchers to ensure donors’ funds are invested as effectively as possible.
Our Research Awards Lunch is sponsored by Parmelia Hilton Perth.