Cancer Council Western Australian Research Excellence Awards

Full list of grants and recipients 2020

  • Dr Vinicius Cavalheri de Oliveira
  • Dr Rachael Zemek

 

Project
Cancer Council Western Australia Early Career Cancer Researcher of the Year
Recipient  Dr Vinicius Cavalheri de Oliveira
Description

Now five years post PhD Dr Vinicius Cavalheri has, and is, amassing a good body of work in understanding the benefits of exercise for people with cancer.
In the past 24 months Vin has published two papers which significantly advanced the understanding of the benefits of exercise in patients following lung cancer surgery, and in those receiving treatment for advanced lung cancer.

Lung cancer (and its treatment) has a huge impact on patients' quality of life and symptoms. Vin's study in patients following lung cancer surgery demonstrates that exercise increased fitness and muscle strength, improved quality of life and decreased breathlessness. His study in people receiving treatment for advanced lung cancer demonstrates that exercise improves or avoids the decline in fitness levels and quality of life. These studies promote the importance of exercise as part of lung cancer care and are certain to influence clinical practice.

Vin's work in exercise following lung cancer surgery received the 2019 European Respiratory Society Grant for best abstract in Physiotherapy.

Funding from CCWA $5,000
Fully supported 
Friends of Cancer Council WA

 

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Project
Cancer Council Western Australia Early Career Cancer Researcher of the Year
Recipient  Dr Rachael Zemek
Description

Dr Rachael Zemek is at the beginning of her career, having just completed her PhD. Dr Zemek's research is at the basic science end of the research spectrum and adds importantly to the developing field of cancer immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy has shown remarkable success, but only in some cancers. It is not well known what determines whether a tumour will or will not respond to immunotherapy. Rachael compared responding and non-responding cancers in both laboratory models and patients. She found that responding tumours had high numbers of so called natural killer cells. When cancers had no natural killer cells, they were unable to respond. Moreover, she showed that these cells could be attracted into tumours, by a very short treatment course of several drugs. This resulted in sensitization of the cancers to immunotherapy; they were now able to respond, resulting in a very high cure rate in laboratory models.

Rachael generated all the data for this paper, which was part of her PhD research (ranked top 5%, Dean's Honourable Mention), she performed computational analyses and wrote and edited the manuscript.

She is the first-author, which is a collaboration of 21 scientists, 20 of whom are from WA, from 11 different research groups across eight different institutes.

Funding from CCWA $5,000
Fully supported 
Blueprint Wealth

 

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