CCWA Student Vacation Research Scholarships 

Full list of grants and recipients 2019

 

 

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

 

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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

 

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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


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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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