CCWA Suzanne Cavanagh Early Career Investigator Grants

Full list of grants and recipients 2020

Project title
Using cutting-edge 2D maps of cells in ovarian cancer to investigate why some ovarian cancer tumours respond to chemotherapy and others do not
Recipient  Dr Leanne de Kock
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description 

In Australia, an estimated 1510 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2019. Ovarian cancer is deadly, claiming the lives of approximately half of affected women within 5 years of diagnosis. This is partly due to it being difficult to detect at early stages (lack of specific symptoms) and lack of effective therapies at late stages. Some ovarian cancer tumours also respond better than others do to chemotherapy. This study will investigate why this is the case.

Using a technology called spatial transcriptonomics, the study will create 2D maps of cells in tumours that responded well to chemotherapy and those that do not. They will then be examined to identify how the maps differ. Importantly, these cell maps will allow the examination of how cells may be communicating with their neighbours to promote or inhibit treatment.

In the longer term, knowledge gained from this study could be exploited to make less-responsive tumours more sensitive to treatment, thus improving the poor outcomes of women with ovarian cancer.

Funding from CCWA $34,940
Fully supported In the name of the P New

 

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Project title
Using advanced technologies to understand how natural killer cells eliminate leukaemia
Recipient  Dr Emma de Jong
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 defenses 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. However, NK cells from different people have different capcaities to kill cancer and it is not known why. This study will use technology that measures every gene being turned on/off within NK cells when they are eliminating leukaemia to find out why some NK cells are much better. The study will then use this information to design novel immunotherapies that will enhance the ability of these NK cells to eliminate leukaemia and improve survival in all patients.

Funding from CCWA $34,805
Fully supported In the name of Delys Nash

 

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Project title
Development of an advanced microscope to enable new cancer treatments
Recipient  Dr Alireza Mowla
Institution The University of Western Australia
Research description  Despite significant effort, cancer remains a leading cause of death in Australia; approximately 50,000 deaths from cancer are estimated for 2019.

An important challenge in fighting all cancers is the lack of knowledge about complex mechanisms that make cancer cells resistant to current therapies, and facilitate their spread to other parts of the body. For example, cancer cells are known to be stiff, but it is not clear how stiffness triggers a chain of chemical reactions that result in cells' aggressive behaviour.

This study proposes to build an advanced microscope by adding molecular microscopy to stiffness microscopy which has already been developed. This powerful microscope can image the chemical composition and stiffness of the cells simultaneously. Therefore, chemical changes due to the cell stiffness can be observed for the first time. This observation helps researchers to devise better approaches to fight all cancers, especially the stiffer ones which are known to be harder to treat.

Funding from CCWA $35,000
Supported In the names of Leah Jane Cohen, the Estate of Regina Hall & the Estate of Elizabeth McFall

 

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