CCWA Paul Katris Honours and Masters Scholarships 

Full list of grants and recipients 2020

Project title
Using DNA sequencing and gene editing technology to study genes that are important for driving the progression of blood cancers
Recipient  Mr Ryan Collinson
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description 

This project is looking into myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN), a blood cancer which affects 25,000 people in Australia, with 1,000 new cases diagnosed each year. From diagnosis, each patient has up to 20% risk of progressing to a life-threatening stage, where their bone marrow becomes scarred and begins to fail, ultimately leading to not enough blood cells being made.

The team has developed a method to study a cell in the bone marrow (megakaryocytes) which is believed to be responsible for cancer progression. This project aims to use DNA sequencing to identify mutations associated with progression in these cells from patient samples. Then gene editing tools will be used to introduce key mutations in cell culture models in the lab to study how these mutations change the normal function of megakaryocytes and drive cancer progression.

This project will improve our understanding of what causes cancer progression in MPN and may identify new drug targets for future therapies.

Funding from CCWA $7,500
Supported In the names of Deeny O'Shaughness, the Mavis Sands Bequest & the Edward and Patricia Usher Cancer Research Assistance Fund

 

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Project title
The effects of structured exercise on melanoma patients receiving immunotherapy
Recipient  Mr Brendan Crosby
Institution Edith Cowan University
Research description  Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world. Patients who are diagnosed early and undergo surgery are commonly cured. However, some melanomas are inoperable and spread throughout the body, requiring use of therapies such as immunotherapy.

A specific immunotherapy used in melanoma patients is checkpoint inhibitor therapy. Checkpoint inhibitors work to uncover cancer cells that would otherwise remain hidden; enabling the body's own immune system to attack them. Exercise improves treatment outcomes in other cancers, but it is unknown if exercise will be similarly beneficial to melanoma patients undergoing checkpoint inhibitor therapy.

The aim of this study is to determine the effects of an 8-week, supervised exercise program on melanoma patients receiving checkpoint inhibitor therapy. Both aerobic interval cycling and resistance exercise will be undertaken 3 days per week. This research will examine the safety, feasibility, and effectiveness of exercise in these patients.

Funding from CCWA $7,500
Supported In the name of the Paul Katris Foundation Family & the Mavis Sands Bequest

 

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Project title
Reducing the harm caused by radiation therapy in children with brain cancer
Recipient  Ms Jessica Lawler
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description 

Brain cancer causes more deaths in children than any other disease. Our research focusses on the most common, medulloblastoma (MB). Standard therapy for MB is surgery, radiation therapy (RT) and chemotherapy. Treatment causes harmful side effects, including reduced intelligence and increased risk of other cancers. Although RT may cure some children, 40% won't survive their disease. As such, we need new therapies which increase survival and reduce side effects.

The group identified a new drug called prexasertib which enhances MB therapy. Mice with MB treated with prexasertib and standard RT had increased survival compared to RT only. This is promising, so we want to test if we can limit side effects by combining prexasertib with lower dose RT without reducing survival. Mice with MB will be given prexasertib with either standard or reduced dose RT. If the reduced dose RT with prexasertib is successful, this treatment could potentially be used in clinical trials in children.

Funding from CCWA $7,500
Fully supported In the name of Australia Post

 

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Project title
Analysis of a new ultra-sensitive world-first blood test developed in WA to assist treatment decisions in multiple myeloma (MM)
Recipient  Mr Thomas Mincherton
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description 

Multiple myeloma (MM) is a bone marrow cancer characterised by the uncontrolled production of cancerous plasma cells. It accounts for approximately 15% of blood/bone marrow cancers and it is estimated that 1,200 people in Australia are diagnosed with MM annually. Markers of poor outcome include plasma cells in the blood and changes to the chromosomes (DNA) inside the cancerous plasma cells. Current testing of MM using a method called interphase fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) is a time-consuming and relatively insensitive screening method. To improve screening of MM, the UWA team have developed a world-first automated FISH method called "immuno-flowFISH".

This study aims to test the ability of immuno-flowFISH to detect chromosomal abnormalities in MM bone marrow and blood samples, determine sensitivity and clinical utility.

If successful, this project will lead to improvements in risk stratifying patients at diagnosis and assessing minimal residual disease.

Funding from CCWA $7,500
Fully supported In the name of the Estate of Elizabeth McFall

 

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