CCWA Postdoctoral Research Fellowships 

Full list of grants and recipients 2020

Project title
Prognostic significance of physical activity and sedentary behaviour in people with advanced non-small cell lung cancer
Recipient  Dr Vinicius Cavalheri De Oliveira
Institution Curtin University
Research description 

Globally, lung cancer has the highest number of deaths per year compared to all other cancers. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the main type, making up about 85% of all lung cancer. At diagnosis, almost 70% of patients have an advanced form of the disease and unfortunately, only 1-8% of patients are alive five years post-diagnosis.

Due to symptoms of fatigue and shortness of breath, people with advanced NSCLC report adopting a sedentary lifestyle (prolonged time spent sitting or lying). In people with breast cancer, diabetes, heart or lung disease, time spent physically active during the day is linked with longer survival, whereas prolonged time spent sedentary during the day is linked with shorter survival. Although prolonging survival is the main goal of treatments for people with advanced NSCLC, studies in these people have not yet investigated the link between time spent either physically active or sedentary during the day and survival. So, the aim of this study is to investigate if time spent in physically active or sedentary during the day predicts survival in people with advanced NSCLC.

The intention is to recruit people diagnosed with advanced NSCLC and ask them to wear a physical activity monitor 24 hours per day for 7 days in a row. This monitor will show the amount of time people spent physically active and the amount of time they spent sedentary during those 7 days. After these assessments, the team will keep track of them for one year. Of note, exercise training will not be offered as part of this proposed study.
The number of deaths during that one year will be recorded, and the team will investigate any links between the times spent in being physically active or sedentary during the day with survival.

Funding from CCWA $15,000 in 2020 ($217,500 in total for 2017-2021)
Fully supported In the name of Kott Gunning Lawyers                                                                                                 


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Project title
Cracking the code to successful cancer immunotherapy
Recipient  Dr Jonathan Chee
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description 

Mesothelioma is a cancer caused by asbestos that develops in the lining of the lungs. Australia has one of the highest incidences of mesothelioma in the world. The prognosis is very poor, with 5-year survival rates of only 3% for men, and 12% for women.

Immunotherapy is an exciting treatment for mesothelioma. It works exceptionally well for some cancer patients, but there are side effects, and it is expensive.

The research team want to be able to tell before treatment begins which patients will benefit and predict and prevent any bad reactions. Every person has a unique immune system and we can define features of that system like fingerprints. But these fingerprints change with time and wellness. This study will map the changes associated with successful immunotherapy to see if therapy outcome can be predicted.

The benefit of this study is that it will allow the research team to find out early in a treatment plan if that plan is working so that it can be altered if it is not.

Funding from CCWA $75,000 in 2020 ($225,000 in total for 2019 - 2021)
Supported In the names of Australia Post, the Estate of Jan Van Heeren  & the Estate of Elizabeth McFall                                                                                                   


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Project title
Developing new therapies for cancer and identifying biological markers that predict successful cancer therapy
Recipient  Dr Alison McDonnell
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description  There is an urgent need to imporve outcomes for patients with advanced solid cancers, including mesothelioma and melanoma.

Immunotherpay has revolutionised the treatment of cancer by unleashing the immune system to attack tumours. However, not all patients benefit from treatment and there are side effects. This research aims to identify which patients will benefit most from these treatments, and develop new drugs for those patients who do not respond to current therapies.

T cells are specialised cells of the immune system that recognise and kill cancer cells. The team will examine how T cells become activated to kill cancer cells, which activation mechanisms correlate with improved survival explorenew ways to 'arm' T cells for improved cancer killing ability. This will allow to better predict which patients will benefit most from treatment and identify new ways of boosting the cncer killing ability of T cells for more effectve treatment of mesothelioma, melanoma and solid cancers.

Funding from CCWA $62,564 in 2020 ($212,564 in total for 2020 - 2022)
Supported In the names of the Estate of Elizabeth McFall, the Mavis Sands Bequest, the Estate of Bernice Thomas & the Estate of Jeanne Warner


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Project title
Exercise medicine for advanced cancer patients: Can exercise slow tumour growth, delay disease progression and extend survival?
Recipient  Dr Nicolas Hart
Edith Cowan University
Research description  Advanced cancer patients face many challenges due to their growing disease and the treatments provided to manage their symptoms. Unfortunately, patients with advanced cancers have few effective treatments available, and once it has spread to bone, the disease becomes incurable. While exercise has been shown to provide symptom control for cancer patients; exercise may also slow cancer growth and extend life.

This research program will investigate whether exercise can: slow tumour growth in advanced patients with bone metastases (when their cancer has spread to bone), by interfering with tumour formation; increase the effectiveness of therapies delivered through the blood stream, such as chemotherapy, thereby allowing larger amounts of chemotherapy to reach the tumour; and increase survival - the ultimate aim of cancer treatments: exercise has been linked to increased lifespan, but this needs to be directly proven.

Funding from CCWA $75,000 in 2020 ($217,500 in total for 2018 - 2020)
Fully Supported In the name of the Estate of Alan Tuthill


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