CCWA Student Vacation Research Scholarships 

Full list of grants and recipients 2020

 

Project title
New gold-based anti-cancer drugs
Recipient  Mr Valerio Falasca
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description 

There are many cancer types that are resistant or develop resistance to common anti-cancer drugs. These types of cancers are often harder to treat and require "second choice" therapies which can have significant side effects and severely impact the welfare of patients. The development of new drug options that can combat cancer in different ways to existing treatment is fundamental in improving cancer therapy for all patients.

This project aims to develop a class of gold-based drugs that has been shown to have significant anti-cancer activity and act via a different mechanism of action compared to common DNA-targeting drugs.
For this project compounds with optimized anti-cancer activity and selectivity will be synthesized to facilitate the understanding of their biological mechanisms.

This research will contribute to the development of a new class of gold-based anti-cancer compounds that are able to combat various types of cancer that currently can't be treated effectively.

Funding from CCWA $3,000
Fully supported In the name of Friends of Cancer Council WA

 

[return to top]

 

Project title
Investigating the role of PET-CT imaging in follicular lymphoma
Recipient  Mr Michael Yi Hou
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description 

Follicular lymphoma (FL) is a cancer characterised by malignant masses of blood cells called lymphocytes, and is one of the most common types of lymphoma. It is a slow growing cancer with a good survival, however FL patients have a risk of their disease undergoing histological transformation (HT). HT is a process occurring in 70% of FL patients where the disease develops into a more aggressive lymphoma, with a poorer survival of only months.

This research will investigate the role of PET-CT (positron emission tomography) scans in patient testing, to assess its usefulness for predicting FL disease course, chances of undergoing HT, and for earlier detection of HT. By analysing patient results and outcomes, the project will give insight on the role of PET-CT imaging as a tool to guide treatment in new diagnoses of FL. It is anticipated that this data will support PET-CT use, and support further studies to improve patient outcomes with more reliable assessments of cancer stage and survival.

Funding from CCWA $3,000
Fully supported In the name of Friends of Cancer Council WA

 

[return to top]

 

Project title
Hitting the off-switch to stop cancer cells spreading
Recipient  Miss Caitlyn Richworth
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description 

Death from cancer occurs mainly when it spreads to different parts of the body. The gene AFAP1L1 has been identified as being involved in controlling the spreading of bone and connective tissue cancer (sarcoma), which are more common in adolescents and young adults, representing 15% of childhood cancers. Patients with sarcoma that is found to be spreading have a bad diagnosis, with only ~20% surviving more than 5 years.

There is a need to find out how the gene AFAP1L1 controls cancer spreading and the best way to detect it so cancer patients at the greatest risk of death from advanced sarcoma can be indentified. The project team will also be trying to find out how best to turn off or inhibit AFAP1L1 and so to eventually develop drugs for sarcoma patients to prevent or stop their cancer cells spreading. This will be done by taking AFAP1L1 expressing sarcoma cells and switching off or inhibiting its function and seeing if we can inhibit their spread using pre-clinical models of sarcoma.

This research aims to not only show that AFAP1L1 is very important for controlling the spread of sarcoma cells, but also how to commence the development of new drugs to stop sarcoma spreading and killing patients.

Funding from CCWA $3,000
Fully supported In the name of the Abbie Basson Sarcoma Foundation

 

[return to top]

 

Project title
Development of a blood test for non-invasive monitoring of response to treatment in patients with ovarian cancer
Recipient  Mr Manjot Singh
Institution Edith Cowan University
Research description 

Ovarian Cancer (OV) primarily originates in the ovaries and is the most lethal gynecological cancer. With a survival rate of 46%, it is the 6th leading cause of cancer related deaths among women in Australia.

Tiny fragments of DNA released from the dead tumour cells into the blood circulation are known as the circulating tumour DNA's (ctDNA). ctDNA levels can be accurately measured in a blood sample throughout the treatment, on a regular basis, and can inform us whether the patient is responding to the drug or not. A decrease in ctDNA levels upon chemotherapy is usually linked with better prognosis.

This study will measure the ctDNA levels from the blood samples taken from patients with advanced OC, who are scheduled to receive chemotherapy to decrease tumour size prior to having the tumour surgically removed. From the results, it will be determined if a decrease in ctDNA can serve as a non-invasive means to know that the drug is reducing the tumour before the surgery is performed.

Results of this project will aid in the long-term management of advanced OC patients and will provide information on how best to include this novel test in clinical trials.

Funding from CCWA $3,000
Supported In the names of the Bridgetown Country Women's Association and the Roslyn Grenville Warrick Trust

 

[return to top]

 

Project title
Determining the sensitivity of a new world-first blood test developed in WA to assist treatment decisions in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)
Recipient  Ms Shania Tansil
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description 

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) is the most common blood cancer in the western world with more men diagnosed than women. A type of CLL characterised by a deletion in part of chromosome 17 (del(17p)) may lead to poor outcomes and a specific treatment is needed to treat people with this type of CLL. Interphase fluorescence is situ hybridization (FISH) is a method currently used to detect chromosomal abnormality in CLL cells. However, it is a time-consuming and relatively insensitive screening method. To improve screening of CLL, a world-first automated FISH method called "Immunoflow-FISH" has been developed.

This study aims to test the sensitivity of Immuno-flowFISH to detect CLL with del(17p). This will be done by a screening of del(17p) in leukaemia cells from people with CLL using Immunoflow-FISH and comparing it to interphase FISH.

If successful, this project will provide essential data for the diagnostic application of immunoflow-FISH to diagnose CLL del(17p) more effectively and sensitively.

Funding from CCWA $3,000
Fully supported In the name of Friends of Cancer Council WA

 

[return to top]

 

Project title
Enhancing natural killer cells to eliminate leukaemia
Recipient  Miss Felicia Yanuar
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description 

Current standard treatments for leukaemia are highly toxic, leaving patients with adverse effects for the rest of their lives. Immunotherapy involves harnessing the body's own defences against cancer and is a promising alternative therapy that has led to astonishing outcomes in some patients, but not all. Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop better treatments that can benefit all patients.

Natural killer (NK) cells (an immune cell) have a natural capacity to eliminate leukaemia, making them a promising candidate for immunotherapy. The goal of this research is to identify novel ways to enhance these NK cells to eliminate leukaemia. To do this the research team are targeting a process known as epigenetics, which is how genes are told to be on or off. Drugs will be used to target this process which will result in some genes being switched on. These genes are involved in allowing the NK cell to eliminate a leukaemic cell. If the right drug can be identified to do this it can be used to design novel NK cell-based immunotherapies to treat and cure leukaemia.

Funding from CCWA $3,000
Fully supported In the name of the Ida Franziska Gordon Genetic Research Trust

 

[return to top]

 

Project title
The use of 3D printed models in preoperative planning of upper lung cancer treatment
Recipient  Miss Wen Yi Yek
Institution Curtin University
Research description 

Superior sulcus tumours, also known as pancoast tumours are a subset of lung tumours found in the top end of the lungs. The location of the tumours often poses a great risk of invasion to the nearby structures including the upper ribs, nerves, blood vessels, vertebrae and muscles. Due to this complex location, pancoast tumours are some of the most challenging lung tumours to treat surgically.

The aim of this research is to explore the use of 3D printed models in the preoperative planning stage of pancoast tumour surgery. This will involve the collection of a few local cases, and 3D printing of the tumours and their surrounding structures.

In order to assess the usefulness of these models, professional opinions from thoracic surgeons will be sought. The 3D printed models are expected to provide surgeons with better views and representation of the tumours. This project will provide a stepping stone for the improvement of surgical treatment outcomes for patients with pancoast tumours.

Funding from CCWA $3,000
Supported In the names of Kott Gunning Lawyers, the Estate of Paulus Hoogendyk, the Mavis Sands Bequest & In Loving Memory of Teruyo Wise

 

[return to top]