Cancer Council Western Australia Research Project Grants

Full list of Research Project Grants and recipients 2020

Project title
Advancing superior natural killer (NK) cells to eliminate leukaemia
Recipient  Dr Bree Foley
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description 

While success rates have vastly improved for patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia many still have poor outcomes. A new type of treatment that involves taking and training a patient's own immune cells is revolutionising the treatment of cancer. However, the process to manufacture and modify these cells is expensive, time-consuming, laborious and not all patients can have their cells harvested.

The teams approach to eliminate all these challenges is to use a type of immune cell that is readily transferable from donor to patient. These cells are known as natural killer (NK) cells and already exist in our immune system to eliminate cancer. However, not all NK cells have the same ability to do this and the team have identified that some NK cells are superior at killing leukaemia. The team will use sophisticated methods to modify these NK cells to better recognise and target leukaemia. This new immunotherapy will be easily accessible, ensuring all patients can receive this life-saving treatment.

Funding from CCWA $97,534
Supported
In the names of the Estate of Edna Maskell , Janifer Joy Mason & the Mavis Sands Bequest

 

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Project title
Can exercise improve tumour blood flow and improve the effectiveness of radiotherapy in men with prostate cancer?
Recipient  Prof Daniel Galvao
Institution Edith Cowan University
Research description 

Radiotherapy is one of the main forms of treatment for prostate cancer. The biology of prostate tumours is complex with many blood vessels that surround tumours being abnormally developed, limiting the delivery of oxygen to parts of the tumour. This lack of oxygenation is seen as a major limiting factor in the effectiveness of radiotherapy, with low oxygen making cancer cells resistant to radiation. This is also associated with the growth and spread of cancers, contributing to cancer treatment resistance and mortality.

The team are investigating the effects of exercise on blood flow and oxygen levels in tumours of men with prostate cancer undergoing radiotherapy. They will examine if a single exercise session can improve tumour blood flow. They will also examine the effects of exercise training over the course of radiotherapy (6-8 weeks) on tumour oxygenation.

If successful, the hope is the results of this study will highlight exercise as a low-cost therapy to enhance cancer treatment effectiveness.                                                                                                                            

Funding from CCWA $94,449
Supported In the names of West Coast Eagles & Swan Athletic Senior Citizens

 

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Project title
Study of cancer cells in blood of patients with melanoma to predict who will respond to immunotherapy treatment
Recipient  A/Prof Elin Gray
Institution Edith Cowan University
Research description 

There is an increased proportion of melanoma cases in clinical oncology departments; in contrast to the stable or declining trends for most cancers. Melanoma is increasing worldwide, with over 300,000 new cases reported annually, and 13,283 diagnosed in Australia in 2016 (Cancer Australia). WA has the second highest incidence rate for melanoma.

Treatments that activate the immune system to attack cancer cells have changed the life of many patients affected by melanoma. However, these treatments are not effective in everyone, have serious side effects, and are expensive. Therefore, what is needed is to better define who will benefit from these treatments and who should receive other therapies and/or be treated more intensively.

Here the team will use newly developed, sensitive technologies to scrutinise cancer cells found in the blood of patients with melanoma. This will provide information about the tumour that can be used to better select what treatment is most appropriate for the specific patient.                                                                          

Funding from CCWA $100,000
Supported
In the names of Friends of Cancer Council WA, West Coast Eagles, the Estate of Elizabeth McFall, the Estate of Edna Maskell and the Noonan Family

 

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Project title
Taming the beast: retraining immune cells that promote cancer and turning them into cancer fighting cells
Recipient  A/Prof Fiona Pixley
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description 

Fewer than 25% of women survive more than 5 years once their breast cancer has spread, despite treatments aimed at cancer cells. As immune cells in cancers may encourage cancer growth, they must also be treated. Macrophages are a very dangerous type of immune cell in cancers as they help them to grow and spread. However, not all cancer macrophages behave badly so drugs that target all of them may not be as effective as drugs that only target macrophages that promote cancer.

The team have shown an 80% decrease in breast cancer growth in mice treated with a drug that targets a protein in macrophages called Hck. Analysis at the level of individual cells indicate that the drug turns cancer supporting macrophages into cancer fighting cells. Using cutting edge technologies, the team will identify how this drug re-educates macrophages to block breast cancer growth and then extend these findings into lung mesotheliomas. The longer term aim is to bring this drug to the clinic to treat a range of cancers.

Funding from CCWA $97,472
Fully supported In the name of Jill Tilly

 

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