2021 Cancer Council WA Research Project Grants

Our Research Project Grants aim to provide one to two years of support to help local, world-class cancer researchers further their research. Grants are initially short-listed through the national expert review process of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), and are then further assessed by the Cancer Council WA Research Grants Advisory Committee.

Grant applications are assessed on the basis of quality, practicality, value for money and contribution to the advancement of cancer knowledge.

See below the 2021 Cancer Council WA Research Project Grants

Project title: Novel targeted medicines for children's cancers
Recipient: A/Prof Pilar Blancafort
Institution: The University of Western Australia
Research description:

Ewing's Sarcoma (EWS) and Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) are highly aggressive cancers frequently diagnosed in children and young adolescents. There are no targeted therapies available for these cancers; current treatment involves chemotherapies, radiation and surgery, which are often highly toxic for children and severely impact their quality of life.

The root cause of EWS and RMS are fusions between chromosomes that form a new cancer driver (a fusion protein) that does not exist in normal cells. We propose to develop novel molecules, named Epi-CRISPR. These molecules bind the gene that produces the fusion protein and radically shut-down its expression with longlasting effects. In this way, we aim to re-educate the cancer internally by restoring ‘normal-like' features.

We also propose novel treatment modalities to apply these new technologies in the clinic. This work will produce novel targeted treatments for aggressive childhood cancers where no targeted therapy is currently available.

Funding from Cancer Council WA: $100,000
Supported by: Swan Athletic Senior Citizens, Gilmac (WA) Pty Ltd, Estate of Anthea Gilbert & Estate of Doreen Mae Laurensen


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Project title: Towards preventing relapse in childhood leukaemia
Recipient: Dr Sébastien Malinge
Institution: The University of Western Australia
Research description:

Acute leukaemia is the most common type of cancer seen in children (15 to 20 new cases each year in Western Australia). Although treatments and outcomes have improved remarkably, leukaemia remains the second highest cause of death by cancer in children. Furthermore, many children still suffer from treatment toxicity or develop relapse. These clinical features are exacerbated in children with Down syndrome (DS), who already have higher risks of leukaemia compared to other children.

This study aims to identify the leukaemia cells that resist treatment and are responsible for relapse, to better track them and discover new methods to destroy them. We will use animal models uniquely available in our lab to reproduce the standard therapy used in clinics and to test new drugs in a preclinical setting. Outcomes from this study are intended to develop new treatments and tools for clinicians to improve the quality of care and long-term survival of all children with leukaemia.

Funding from Cancer Council WA: $99,023
Supported by: Australia Post and Estate of Delys Nash


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Project title: Using new drugs to make old treatments work better for children with deadly brain tumours
Recipient: A/Prof Nicholas Gottardo
Institution: The University of Western Australia
Research description:

Medulloblastoma (MB) is the most common childhood brain cancer and is very difficult to treat. Sadly, 60 per cent of children with high-risk MB will die. The purpose of our research is to cure more patients with high-risk MB by finding new medicines that can be used clinically.

We tested thousands of drugs, known to be safe for people, for their ability to kill MB cells. Over the last few years we have tested the best drugs further and selected the two most promising. We now aim to investigate these drugs in combination with each other and with radiation - a major part of MB treatment.

We mimic human MB in the lab as closely as is currently possible by using gold-standard animal models and use sophisticated equipment to deliver radiation therapy. Our experiments are designed to determine if these drugs can work safely and effectively alongside radiation. In this way, the results can be rapidly translated into the clinical setting to improve survival and benefit children and their families.

Funding from Cancer Council WA: $99,021
Supported by: Mason Investments (WA) Pty Ltd

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