Cancer Council Western Australia Research Project Grants

Full list of Research Project Grants and recipients 2019

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

 

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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

 

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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


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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

 

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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

 

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