CCWA PhD Top Up Scholarships 

Full list of grants and recipients 2020

Project title
Early detection of cancer spread and treatment of ocular melanoma
Recipient  Mr Aaron Beasley
Institution Edith Cowan University
Research description  Uveal melanoma (UM) is the most common cancer of the eye.
Approximately, 50% of UM patients are at high risk of incurable disease spread and due to lack of effective treatments, 92% will die within 2 years. Research shows that UM spreads to other organs via the release of Circulating Tumour Cells (CTCs) into the blood stream. Previously, I developed a blood test, which allows me to capture and analyse CTCs to accurately identify high risk UM patients.

In collaboration with the Lions Eye Institute, I now aim to validate this blood test in a large cohort of patients and establish its utility in the clinic. I also aim to create UM mouse models and screen potential drugs that can be used to prevent the spread of disease.

This research will drive the clinical use of a safe blood test to identify high risk UM patients and identify drug candidates to impede disease spread, which will ensure rigorous patient surveillance and improved patient outcomes.

Funding from CCWA $12,000 in 2020 ($36,000 in total for 2018 - 2020)
Supported In the name of Australia Post & the Mavis Sands Bequest                                                                           

 

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Project title
Investigating how key immune cells, known as macrophages, contribute to tumour growth in the elderly and impair response to therapy
Recipient  Miss Lelinh Duong
Institution Curtin University
Research description  Many cancers, including mesothelioma, increase with old age. Macrophages area an immune cell type which can help fight cancer cells. However, macrophages can be persuaded to help tumours grow. Many tumours can be made of up to 50 percent macrophages and the number is associated with poor prognosis.

The team has shown elderly hosts have more tumour-promoting macrophages, coinciding with faster tumour growth. Additionally, anti-cancer therapy does not work well in the elderly, corresponding to the presence of these 'aged' macrophages.The team will examine if macrophages are being educated during ageing to become more tumour-promoting. Macrophages will be isolated from mesothelioma tumours from young and elderly hosts. Molecules involved in educating macrophages will be compared to determine differences in ageing, tumour growth and with cancer therapy. The findings will advance our understanding of tumour development and potentially identify ways to improve anti-cancer treatment for the elderly.


Funding from CCWA $6,000 in 2020
Supported In the name of the Lions Cancer Institute Karen and Joshua Chinnery PhD Top Up Scholarship

 

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Project title
Investigation of psychosocial information and support needs and support services use of patients diagnosed with advanced cancer
Recipient  Ms Jade Newton
Institution Curtin University
Research description  Some people are diagnosed with cancer that has spread to other parts of their body and they are not able to be cured. This is 'advanced cancer'. Not a lot is known about how patients with advanced cancer manage the emotional and social (or, 'psychosocial') impact of their diagnosis, and how available support affects their experience.

This project will explore what psychosocial support patients with advanced cancer use, how it impacts them, and the costs and benefits of using psychosocial supportive care. This will be achieved by looking at what research has been done in this area, interviewing patients with advanced cancer to learn about their experiences, and undertaking a cohort study, where patients will be surveyed over six months to look at their needs, distress, and support services use over time.

Understanding the needs and service use of patients with advanced cancer will help to make sure the best support is being provided to lessen the distress and suffering they may experience.


Funding from CCWA $12,000 in 2020 ($30,000 in total for 2019 - 2021)
Supported In the name of the Lions Cancer Institute Karen and Joshua Chinnery PhD Top Up Scholarship

 

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Project title
Do mesothelioma patients have the right keys to unlock a successful anti-tumour immune response?
Recipient  Miss Nicola Principe
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description  Mesothelioma is an incurable cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Australia has one of the highest rates of deaths from mesothelioma, with Western Australia having the highest incidence in Australia due to the mining of asbestos in Wittenoom. Chemotherapy is only palliative, with a short survival of 12 months after diagnosis.

Immunotherapy is an exciting treatment for mesothelioma, working to boost a patient's immune cells (in particular T cells) to clear tumours. Clinical trials combining chemotherapy and immunotherapy display complete cures in some cancer patients, whilst other patients gain no benefit. This may be due to each patient having different T cell receptors (TCRs) or keys that need to unlock the immune system to produce a successful anti-tumour immune response.

With the current technology to study millions of keys at the same time, this project will map distinct combinations of keys associated with a successful anti-tumour immune response, to see if we can predict chemo-immunotherapy outcomes.


Funding from CCWA $12,000 in 2020 (Up to $24,000 in total for 2020-2021)
Fully supported In the name of the Estate of Elizabeth McFall

 

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Project title
The influence of muscle structure on treatment and survival in women with advanced ovarian cancer: Can an exercise intervention improve patient outcomes?
Recipient  Miss Christelle Schofield
Institution Edith Cowan University
Research description  About 75% of ovarian cancer (OC) cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage. Only 28% of women with advanced OC survive five years. Research shows that women with better muscle structure (muscle mass + density) at diagnosis survive longer. The project will determine if muscle structure: 1) changes during treatment, 2) is associated with treatment tolerance, 3) differs between treatment groups, and 4) can improve with resistance exercise.

Muscle structure will be measured using pre- and post-treatment CT scans. Treatment tolerance information will be collected from medical records. A group of women will participate in an exercise program to assess if exercise can improve muscle structure and function.

This research will investigate: 1) the usefulness of muscle structure to identify women with poor treatment tolerance and survival, 2) the potential of exercise to improve muscle structure and function.

Results will inform the development of better supportive care for women with advanced OC.


Funding from CCWA $12,000 in 2020 ($24,000 in total for 2019-2020)
Fully supported In the name of P New

 

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