CCWA Collaborative Cancer Grant Scheme  

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

Full list of grants and recipients 2018

Project The neighbourhood of leukaemia cells in the bone marrow
Recipient  Dr Laurence Cheung, Prof Ben Mullins, Dr Rishi Kotecha, Dr Jennifer Tickner and Dr Dave Tang
Institution Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia, Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, The University of Western Australia & Telethon Kids Institute
Research description  

The immediate environment (neighbouring cells) of cancer cells is well known to influence many stages of cancer progression. It plays an important role in how well treatments work and how cancers spread around the body. Therefore, the approach of  targeting both cancer cells and surrounding cells will likely be the most effective strategy to treat patients.

Using the teams established preclinical model and the latest single cell sequencing technology, this project will look at approximately 4,000 neighbouring cells and compare the gene expression profiles of these cells from leukaemia bone marrow to the normal ones. The bad neighbouring cells identified in this project provide critical information towards the development of treatments to disrupt the interactions between leukaemia cells and neighbouring cells in the bone marrow.

To date, the environment in solid tumours like colon and lung cancers have been intensely investigated and FDA-approved treatments are available to target the neighbouring cells and hence, contributing to improvement of survival. However, there is only limited undestanding of  the environment around leukaemia cells. This study is the first step towards the goal of identifying novel treatments to target the leukaemia environment.

Funding from CCWA $17,358 from CCWA ($43,395 in total)
Fully supported In the name of the Mavis Sands Bequest

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Project The effect of cognitive and exercise training on brain health and cognition in breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy
Recipient  Dr Travis Cruikshank, Dr Hilary Martin,Dr Kirk Feindel, Dr Amit Lampit and Dr Phillip Zimmer
Institution Edith Cowan University, Fiona Stanley Hospital, The University of Western Australia, University of Sydney & German Sports Institute
Research description  

Advances in diagnosis and treatment have greatly improved 5-year survival rates in breast cancer patients (90%). However, many patients treated with chemotherapy agents suffer from memory, attention, planning and processing speed impairments. These impairments are believed to arise from the neurotoxic effects of chemotherapy on the brain, for which there are currently no treatments.

The team has shown that a combination of cognitive and exercise training (CET) increases brain volume and improves cognition in patients with Huntington’s disease, a chronic neurodegenerative disease, as well as in older adults. The therapeutic effects of CET have not been evaluated in breast cancer patients.

In this project, the team aims to assess the benefits of CET on the neurotoxic effects of chemotherapy on the brain and cognition in breast cancer patients. Positive outcomes from this research will inform the treatment of breast cancer patients with detrimental brain and cognitive changes as a result of chemotherapy. More importantly, positive outcomes from this research will lead to a better quality of life for breast cancer patients.

Funding from CCWA $17,940 from CCWA ($49,966 in total)
Fully supported In the name of the Mavis Sands Bequest

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Project Designing better cellular and targeted therapies for lymphoma and leukaemia
Recipient  Dr Bree Foley, Dr Rishi Kotecha, Dr Chan Cheah, Dr Laurence Cheung
Institution Telethon Kids Institute, Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, The University of Western Australia & Telethon Kids Institute
Research description  

Over the past few decades success rates have vastly improved for patients diagnosed with lymphoma and leukaemia, particularly in children with leukaemia where the five year overall survival rate is around 90%. However, for lymphoma, and adolescents and adults with leukaemia, five year survival rates hover around 70%, with survival rates greatly diminishing in older adults (~40%). Furthermore, patients who do not respond well to current standard therapies such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, have limited options to extend their life. Thus, there is a great desire to develop novel and innovative approaches to increase survival rates and cure all patients diagnosed with these diseases.

Remarkable advances have been made in the past decade in the areas of cellular therapies. These therapies have the ability to harness the power of the immune system and train these immune cells to target and eliminate cancer cells. Although astonishing results are being observed with tumours melting away in some patients, this therapy is not universally successful. It is becoming increasingly clear that while these therapies can be successful in a minority of patients, the addition of standard chemotherapy/radiationtherapy or targeted therapies is required to boost response rates and ultimately cure patients. This project combines the teams’ cellular therapy with standard therapies, as well as investigates combinations with therapies that target specific pathways inside cancer cells that allow them to grow uncontrollably and survive.

The team will use sophisticated and proven preclinical models to determine the optimal treatment combinations that can result in the best survival. This information and strong collaborations with oncologists at Princess Margaret and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospitals, will be used to ensure this new therapeutic approach is accessible to patients here in Western Australia to improve the treatment and cure patients with lymphoma and leukaemia.

Funding from CCWA $20,000 from CCWA ($50,000 in total)
Supported In the names of Janifer Joy Mason and the Mavis Sands Bequest


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Project Overcoming low Indigenous breast cancer survival
Recipient  Dr Katie Meehan, Dr Shaouli Shahid, Dr Hilary Martin & Dr Ben Dessauvagie
Institution The University of Western Australia, Curtin University, Fiona Stanley Hospital & Path West
Research description  

Breast cancer related deaths are rising among Indigenous women and we do not know why. Studies looking at age, clinical features, patient remoteness, and access to medical services only explain a fraction of this disadvantage.

The aim of this project is to look at a large range of factors relating to the breast cancer that indigenous women get and how they are treated, any of which could worsen survival. These will include whether Indigenous women experience differences in the types of cells in their breast cancer; genes that control the effectiveness of anti-cancer drugs; and the way breast cancers are treated. None of these factors have been studied in Indigenous women before.

These aims will be achieved by studying Indigenous women diagnosed with BrCa from 2001 to 2010 and comparable non-Indigenous women living in similar areas. Previous studies have shown that Indigenous women with breast cancer are 400% more likely to die of their disease compared with non-Indigenous women. The team will source cancer material, medical records and other data that was collected as a part of standard care throughout each person’s therapy. Public Benefit Scheme drug prescription data will also be sought. The team will use the cancer tissue to explore biological differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous breast cancer as well as assess immune cell involvement. The team will use normal tissue (within the cancer specimen) to test for damage to genes that activate anti-cancer drugs. Drug prescription data will be used to determine whether types of treatments or lack of compliance differs between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women. Interviews will be conducted at rural and remote sites throughout Western Australia for each group to explore attitudes to treatment and barriers to care.

This research has the potential to discover key causes driving the high rate of breast cancer related deaths among Indigenous women. In addition, knowledge of deficiencies and barriers to treatment will allow the development of strategies to address these at specific time-points and locations where deficits occur.

Funding from CCWA $16,279 from CCWA ($40,697 in total)
Fully supported In the name of West Coast Eagles Football Club


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