Research Project Grants

Our competitive research project grants program supports world class cancer research that is funded and conducted here in WA.

We select these projects via a national peer review process using the premier health research granting organisation in Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).  

This thorough process ensures people with expertise in the proposed field of research examine the funding applications we receive for quality, novelty, practicality, value for money and contribution to the advancement of knowledge on cancer.

Follow the links below to find out more about the successful research project grants we've funded since 2005 or to download report templates so you can report on your project.

Report templates for project grant recipients

Previous Research Project Grant Recipients

 

2017 Research Project Grant Recipients 

 

A novel strategy to kill triple negative breast cancers

Chief investigator: A/Prof Pilar Blancafort - Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research. Prof Killugudi Swaminatha Iyer, A/Prof Ben Corry, A/Prof Paul Watt, Dr Anabel Sorolla, Dr Cameron Evans
Associate Investigators
: A/Prof Andrew Redfern A/Prof Andrew Woo

This project focuses on the development of novel treatments for triple negative breast cancers. Because these breast cancers don’t have molecules normally present in other subtypes of breast cancers for which there are targeted drugs, they are currently not possible to treat.

In addition, these tumours spread quickly from the breast to other sites of the body and at this stage the tumour cells are able to evade chemotherapy and become easily resistant to treatment. This proposal aims to develop new drugs designed to block these tumours preventing their growth, spread and resistance. State of the art technologies developed in Western Australia will allow for the delivery of these drugs directly into the tumours avoiding other sites of the body such as the liver or other organs. This research could be used in future clinical trials in Western Australia providing novel tailored cures for a group of breast cancers that are currently highly resistant to chemotherapy.

Aim: To implement clinically relevant tests to identify the patients that belong to this subtype and to determine the mechanisms of resistance to anti-hormonal therapy
Funding:
CCWA $100,000
Supported in the name of: Annadora Horne & Thelma Norris Trust Fund

How can we best prevent future cancers in Australia?

Chief investigators: Dr Renee Carey - Curtin University. Prof Lin Fritschi, Dr Richard Norman, Prof David Whiteman, A/Prof Alison Reid, A/Prof Rachel Neale, Prof Penelope Webb
Associate Investigators: Mrs Annie MacKinnon Mrs Margaret Wood

In this project the team will estimate how many cancers could be prevented by changing our exposure to 31 lifestyle and environmental factors known to cause cancer (such as smoking and obesity). The team will look at different approaches to changing the number of people who have these risk factors to see which might have the most impact on future cancers. For example, if smoking rates could be reduced from 15% to 5% of the population, how many fewer lung cancers would occur in the future? The team will compare different approaches using a measure which takes into account both improved quality of life, preventing new cancers developing, and people dying of cancers. By doing this the team can compare the effect on patients of different types of cancer which have different effects (e.g. lung cancer, melanoma, brain cancer). This study will help to determine how to best act to prevent future cancers.

Aim: We aim to estimate how many cancers might be caused by current exposure to 31 lifestyle and environmental risk factors; and how many cancers we could prevent in the future by changing exposure to these risk factors.
Funding:
CCWA $95,000
Supported by:
Australia Post


Investigation of the role of a new gene regulator, Neat1 (Nuclear Paraspeckle Assembly Transcript 1), in breast cancer metastasis

Chief investigator: Dr Archa Fox - Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research. Prof Robin Anderson Dr Ruohan Li
Associate Investigators: Dr Yu Suk Choi

Breast cancer is the most common cancer to affect women, and is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women. Metastasis, or the spread of cancer cells to distant sites, is the main cause of death for breast cancer patients. To develop new, more effective treatments we need to better understand how metastases form. This project will investigate a newly discovered cancer-causing molecule called Neat1 (Nuclear Paraspeckle Assembly Transcript 1) that have been found to be over-abundant in highly metastatic breast cancer cells Overall, the aim of this research is to find how Neat1 works in breast cancer metastasis, to enable researchers to work towards developing new drugs that can either prevent Neat1 from working, or change its function. The design and development of targeted drugs to treat metastasis can take many years; this is a vital first step on this path.

Aim:
Create two sets of breast cancer cells, set one, which are unable to produce Neat1 and set two, with normal Neat1 levels. Test how the cells grow, move and invade the material they are grown in - all features of metastasis.
In parallel to aim 2, find which genes Neat1 regulates, and then use big data to understand how their activities are linked with the behaviour of breast cancer metastasis.
Funding: CCWA $99,917
Supported In the name of: Janifer Joy Mason & through an anonymous estate

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Improving the cure rates of childhood brain cancer

Chief investigator: Clin/A/Prof Nicholas Gottardo - Telethon Kids Institute. Prof Terrance Johns, Dr Raelene Endersby, Dr Meegan Howlett
Associate Investigators: Dr Amar Gajjar Dr Xiao-Nan Li

Brain tumours cause the most deaths of children due to cancer. The team have found a new class of drugs, called CHK inhibitors (iCHKs) that block the ability of cancer cells to fix the DNA damage that is caused by chemotherapy. iCHKs have never been tested in children with cancer, but they have been used in adults and shown to be safe and effective so far.

Prior to giving it to children, it needs to be demonstrated that it makes mice with brain cancer live longer without adverse side effects. To do this, childhood brain cancers will be mimicked in the lab by growing cancer cells from children in mouse brains. These mice will be given the iCHKs in combination with conventional chemotherapies used to treat childhood brain cancer, to determine if the new combination enables them to live longer. These results will show if iCHKs are good drugs for children with brain cancer and, if so, how they should be given to patients. With this information it will be possible to design new clinical trials and work towards the aim of achieving higher cure rates and better quality of life for patients.

Aim: We found a new drug that improves brain cancer cell death. Prior to giving it to patients, we need to demonstrate it makes mice with cancer live longer without adverse side effects. We aim to determine the best combination of this drug with existing medicines to improve survival rates for patients.
Funding: CCWA $97,176
Supported In the name of: Shutter Bugs Relay For Life Busselton

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Blood based test to guide treatment of metastatic melanoma

Chief investigator: Dr Elin Gray - Edith Cowan University.  Prof Mel Ziman, Prof Michael Millward, Prof Helen Rizos, Dr Adnan Khattak, Prof Wendy Erber, A/Prof Markus Frank, Dr Carlos Aya-Bonilla
Associate Investigators: Prof Nick Hayward. Dr Shahneen Sandhu. Dr Jonnie Lo. Dr Tom Van Hagen. Ms Annie Cordingley. Dr Peter Matthews. Ms Lisa Spalding

The prognosis for metastatic melanoma has improved significantly with drugs that specifically target melanoma mutations (targeted therapy) or activate the immune system (immunotherapies). However patients on target therapies develop drug resistance and immunotherapies are effective in a minority of cases. This project will show that blood based biomarkers are a valid tool for predicting whether the treatment is effective, allowing patients to be switched early to another therapy.

Aim: In this project we aim to determine the value of ctDNA quantification in patients with metastatic melanoma before and during treatment of as an early predictor of treatment specific clinical benefit and potential relapse.
Funding
:  CCWA $99,591
Supported by
:  Burracoppin Daffodil Day Committee & Friends of Cancer Council WA

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Hitting the off-switch to stop cancer cells spreading

Chief investigator: A/Prof Evan Ingley - Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research. Dr Janice Plani-Lam
Associate Investigators: Prof Carl Walkley, Mr Michael Phillips, Dr Andrew Redfern, A/Prof Fiona Pixley

Death from cancer occurs mainly when it spreads to different parts of the body. We have identified the gene AFAP1L1 is involved in controlling the spreading of bone cancer (sarcoma), which is a cancer more common in young adults, with 1200 new cases a year in Australia. Patients with sarcoma that are 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 can control cancer spread. The team will also be trying to find out how to turn off AFAP1L1 to prevent or stop cancer cells spreading. This will be done by taking cancer cells and switching off AFAP1L1 and seeing if they still spread using pre-clinical models of cancer. It is hoped this research will show that AFAP1L1 is very important in making sarcoma cells spread, and find ways to turn it off in order to start developing new drugs to stop cancer cells spreading and killing patients.

Aim: Death from cancer occurs when it spreads to different parts of the body. We have found the gene AFAP1L1 controls the spreading of bone/muscle cancer, which are common in the young. We aim to find out how we can turn off AFAP1L1 to prevent or stop cancer spreading.
Funding
from CCWA $100,000
Fully supported In the name of:
Jill Tilly

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Micro-elastography: A new surgical tool to reduce the number of re-excision breast cancer surgeries

Chief investigator: Dr Brendan Kennedy - University of Western Australia. Prof Christobel Saunders, Res Assoc Lixin Chin
Associate Investigators:  Prof David Sampson Dr Bruce Latham

In breast-conserving surgery, up to 1-in-3 patients require additional surgery because the tumour was missed during the initial surgery. A main reason for this is that existing tools to detect tumour intraoperatively are not good enough. The aim is to provide an engineering solution to this problem by developing a high resolution imaging system, microelastography, which can detect tumour based on microscopic changes in tissue stiffness. In this project, excised breast tissue, removed during breast-conserving surgery will be scanned using micro- elastography. By comparing the results against the gold standard of post-operative pathology, it will be possible to determine the accuracy of micro-elastography in assessing the presence of breast cancer at the boundaries of the excised mass. This information will enable the researchers to further develop microelastography into a tool that can be used by surgeons to assess the presence of any cancer missed during surgery, with the ultimate goal of reducing the need for second surgeries.

Aim:
The aim of this project is to determine the accuracy of micro-elastography for assessing the presence of breast cancer at the boundaries of the tissue removed during surgical treatment of breast cancer.
Funding
CCWA $100,000
Supported In the name of
:  the Estate of Judith Smart

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The effect of fibroblast growth factor 9 on the body’s natural immune response to mesothelioma

Chief investigator: Dr Sally Lansley - Institute for Respiratory Health. Prof Gary Lee, Prof Jenette Creaney, Prof Bruce Robinson

Malignant mesothelioma kills one person every 12 hours in Australia.

Australia has one of the world’s highest rates of mesothelioma due to the past mining and exportation of crocidolite (the most carcinogenic type of asbestos). The team discovered that a factor produced by malignant mesothelioma tumours, fibroblast growth factor 9 (FGF9), reduces the body’s natural anti-tumour response. Anti-FGF9 drugs reduce tumour size but when treatment ends the tumour returns. This project will examine how FGF9 affects the immune system to improve the effectiveness of anti-FGF9 treatment. This research could lead to the development of a new, more effective, treatment for people with mesothelioma.

Aim:
Fibroblast growth factor 9 (FGF9) is produced by the tumour and reduces the body's natural anti-tumour response. Anti-FGF9 drugs reduce tumour size but when treatment ends the tumour returns. We aim to examine how FGF9 affects the immune system to improve the effectiveness of anti-FGF9 treatment.
Funding:
  CCWA $81,581
Supported In the name of
: N & M Nakashima

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Preventing breast cancer from spreading by stopping immune cell movement

Chief investigator: Prof Fiona Pixley - University of Western Australia. A/Prof Leslie Ellies Dr Andrew Redfern Dr Jiuan Ting
Associate Investigator:  Prof Matthias Ernst, Prof Christobel Saunders

Death from cancer usually occurs when it spreads to other parts of the body. To spread, cancer cells must be able to move and an immune cell called the macrophage helps them to do this. Macrophages also dig paths for tumour cells to reach the bloodstream and hitch a ride to other organs. To attract macrophages, tumours make a protein called CSF-1, which stimulates macrophages to move through tissue. The purpose of this project is to identify drugs that can switch off the movement in macrophages. The team will then see if loss of macrophage movement can reduce invasion of breast cancer. This will first be tested in laboratory-based tests and then in mice. The chosen focus is on breast cancer because it is very common in women and has a grim outlook once it has spread to other organs. However, macrophages help a number of other cancers like prostate, lung, brain and stomach cancer to spread beyond their boundaries, potentially extending the findings from this research to develop better drug treatment for other cancers.

Aim: The main aim of this research is to determine whether blocking macrophage movement will prevent breast cancer spread.
Funding: 
CCWA $100,000
Supported In the names of
: the Peter and Iris Cook Grant for Metastases Research & through an anonymous estate

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The effect of therapy on the immune systems to recognize mutated proteins

Chief investigator: Prof Bruce Robinson - University of Western Australia.  Prof Anna Nowak, Prof Michael Millward, Prof Jenette Creaney, Prof Richard Lake, Prof Robert Holt, A/Prof Mark Watson, Dr Nicola Waddell, Dr Jonathan Chee
Associate Investigators: Mr Cornelis Melief, Mr Ian Dick,  Dr Jason Waithman, Mr John Pearson, Dr Melanie McCoy, Ms Sophie Sneddon, Dr Willem Lesterhuis

Cancer is caused by mutations which should be ‘seen’ and destroyed by the patient’s immune cells, similar to how immune cells protect us against viruses. But they don’t. This grant will study how current cancer treatments help the immune cells ‘see’ these mutations and, crucially, if a vaccine consisting of mutated cancer proteins can stimulate anti-cancer killer cells. This group will undertake these studies in the important cancers, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Aim:
One of the most exciting advances in cancer is the dramatic clinical response to immunotherapy being seen in many solid cancers. Lung cancer and mesothelioma are examples of such cancers. In order to understand why immunotherapy still fails in 80% of patients we must be able to study the main targets of immunotherapy, the tumour's mutated ‘neo-antigens'. Immune responses to these neo-antigens are generally limited and hence the tumour escapes.
Funding:
CCWA $100,000
Fully supported In the name of:
Jill Tilly

2016 Research Project Grant Recipients 

 

Understanding how a specific human protein molecule acts in neuroblastoma

Chief Investigators: Prof Charles Bond - University of Western Australia. Dr Archa Fox, Dr Amanda Blythe,
Associate Investigators: Dr Xuehai Liang, Dr Tao Liu, Prof Murray Norris, Prof Michelle Haber

Neuroblastoma is the most common form of cancer affecting children in early infancy. It is a devastating disease, especially for children with advanced aggressive forms, in which, the survival rate is around 30%. There is a real and urgent need for better treatments that are less toxic. The aim of this project is to understand the molecular mechanisms at work driving growth of the high-risk forms of neuroblastoma, and to use this information to evaluate the potential of the protein molecule, NONO, as a chemotherapeutic target.

Aim:
There is evidence that the interactions of NONO with RNA molecules are critical for aggressive neuroblastoma. We will explore the interactions NONO makes with various RNA molecules and test the potential of these interactions as a target for new chemotherapies.
Funding from CCWA
$95,246
Supported In the name of
: Janifer Joy Mason

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Discovery of a new genetic factor linked to a novel type of breast cancer

Chief Investigators: A/Prof Pilar Blancafort  - Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.  A/Prof Andrew Redfern, Prof Christina Curtis, A/Prof Evan Ingley, Dr Andrew Woo, A/Prof Nicolas Taylor, Dr Anabel Sorolla
Associate Investigators: Prof Ryan Lister, Prof Peggy Farnham, Dr Anish Banerjee, Dr Mohit Jain, Dr Marnie Blewitt, Dr Michael Philips, Dr Jeremy Parry

In 2012 the information gathered on all cancer genomes (all of the DNA within cancer cells) lead to the discovery of novel types of breast cancers. In particular, this research has focused on a new type of hormone receptor positive breast cancer that is very aggressive and resistant to therapy. This new type of breast cancer is characterised by the amplification of a new gene of unknown function, C11orf67. The aims of this research are to implement clinically relevant tests to identify the patients that belong to this breast cancer subtype and to determine the mechanisms of resistance to anti-hormonal therapy.

Aim: The aims of the research proposal are to implement clinically relevant tests to identify the patients that belong to this subtype and to determine the mechanisms of resistance to anti-hormonal therapy.
Funding from CCWA
$100,000
Supported In the name of
: Women of the Greek Community

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Can we make cancer blood vessels more normal?

Chief Investigators: Prof Ruth Ganss - Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research. Prof Gabriele Bergers, Dr Anna Johansson, Dr Bo He
Associate Investigators: A/Prof Juliana Hamzah, Prof Anna Nowak, Clin A/Prof Hooi Ee, Dr Mikhael, Johansson, Dr Priyanthi Kumarasinghe

A major goal of cancer research is to increase efficacy of anti-cancer therapies by enhancing drug uptake and reducing side effects. The research group has developed a new drug which specifically homes into cancers. Once inside the cancer, it acts on blood vessels and increases uptake of chemo- and immunotherapies. This project focuses on difficult to treat brain and pancreatic cancer with dismal survival prognosis. It is anticipated the new compound will expand and enhance current clinical treatment options.

Aim: Control the growth of blood vessels in pancreatic and brain cancers by using our newly developed drug. Use this new strategy to improve current state-of-the-art anti-cancer therapies and reduce side effects. Show that more normal blood vessels stop cancer cells from spreading
Funding:
CCWA $100,000
Fully supported
: In the name of Jill Tilly

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Blood based test to guide treatment of metastatic melanoma

Chief Investigators: Dr Elin Gray - Edith Cowan University.  Prof Mel Ziman, Prof Michael Millward, Prof Helen Rizos, Dr Adnan Khattak, Prof Wendy Erberk A/Prof Markus Frank, Dr Carlos Aya-Beonilla
Associate Investigators: Associate Prof Nick Hayward, Dr Shahneen Sandhu, Dr Jonnie Lo, Dr Tom Van Hagen, Ms Annie Cordingley, Dr Peter Matthews, Ms Lisa Spalding

The prognosis for metastatic melanoma has improved significantly with drugs that specifically target melanoma mutations (targeted therapies) or activate the immune system (immunotherapies). However patients on targeted therapies develop drug resistance, and immunotherapies are effective in a minority of cases. This project will show that blood based biomarkers are a valid tool for predicting whether the treatment is effective, allowing patients to be switched early to another therapy.

Aim: In this project we aim to determine the value of ctDNA quantification in patients with metastatic melanoma before and during treatment of as an early predictor of treatment specific clinical benefit and potential relapse.
Funding:
CCWA $99,591

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Breaking the tumour stiffness to improve anti-cancer therapy

Chief Investigators: Dr Juliana Hamzah - Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.  Ms Meemu Chopra, Prof Erkki Ruoslahti,
Associate Investigators: A/Prof Kirk Feindel, Dr Farah Abdul Aziz, Dr Greg Sterrett

Solid tumours such as breast cancers are stiffer than normal tissues. This stiffness is caused by over-production of non-cellular components known as extracellular matrix (ECM). The stiffness of tumour ECM creates a barrier that limits drug penetration and access in solid tumours. Consequently, the stiffer the tumour, the more resistant it is to anti-cancer drug therapy. New methods to reduce tumour stiffness to make the tumour more accessible for drug penetration are essential to improve therapeutic outcomes in cancer patients with poor prognosis. This project will investigate the use of new ECM-targeted compounds developed in the laboratory to specifically degrade tumour ECM and allow better drug perfusion in solid tumours. Strategies to degrade tumour ECM may be useful in treatment-resistant cancers with high ECM content such as triple negative breast cancers.

Aim: The aim of our project is to selectively remove the obstructive, tumour-specific ECM barrier, using our new ECM-targeted compounds. We hypothesise that the breakdown of tumour ECM will make the tumour more accessible for drug penetration.
Funding:
CCWA $100,000
Fully supported In the name of
: Jill Tilly

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Towards better outcomes after bone marrow stem cell transplantation for blood cancers

Chief Investigators: Prof Prue Hart - Telethon Kids Institute.  A/Prof Fiona Pixley, Dr Naomi Scott,
Associate Investigators: Prof Leonard Zon, Prof Jan Dickinson, Prof Alistair Forrest, Dr Kylie Alexander, Dr Kelli MacDonald, Dr Helen Goodridge

Chronic graft-versus host disease (GVHD) is a complication that can occur when a patient with blood cancer has a bone marrow stem cell transplant. The evidence suggests that a short exposure of the donor cells to a biolipid (a naturally occurring fatty acid) before transfusion reduces the risk of GVHD. This study aims to determine exactly how the biolipid reduces the risk of GVHD. This finding will help develop better treatments to prevent GVHD from occurring after a bone marrow transplant, which will improve the life expectancy of patients with leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

Aim: To reduce the occurrence of chronic graft-versus host disease in blood cancer patients who have stem cell transplants, increasing the quality and length of their life.
Funding
: CCWA $99,989
Supported In the name of
: Uncle Lou & the Estate of Kathleen Amelia Williams

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Australasian Malignant Pleural Effusion (AMPLE) Trial-2

Chief Investigators: Prof Y C Gary Lee - University of Western Australia.  Dr Nick Maskell, Mr Kevin Murray, Prof Jenette Creaney, Prof Robert Newton, Dr Rajesh Thomas,
Associate Investigators: Dr Ben Kwan, A/Prof David Feller-Kopman, Dr David Fielding, A/Prof David Lam, Ms Delia Hendrie

Cancers often spread to the lining of the chest causing fluid build-up (malignant pleural effusion) and breathlessness. Indwelling pleural catheter (IPC) is a new therapy that allows fluid removal at home. Drainage approaches vary from aggressive (eg daily) drainages to regimes which drain only if breathless (eg fortnightly). The AMPLE-2 trial will randomize 86 patients with cancer effusions to daily or symptom-guided drainage regimes post-IPC insertion. The primary aim of this project is to measure the degree of breathlessness experienced by the patient every day for the first 60 days.

Aim: This study aims to establish if one of the drainage approaches is superior for cancer patients. The results will help optimize the benefits of IPC, especially in improving breathlessness (primary goal) and other secondary goals: quality-of-life, physical activity levels, cost-effectiveness, reducing hospitalization and complications.
Funding
: CCWA $100,000
Supported In the name of: the Peter and Iris Cook Grant for Metastases Research

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Tracking the T cell repertoire at the tumour site in mesothelioma and lung cancer

Chief Investigators: Dr Alison McDonnell - University of Western Australia.  Prof Anna Nowak, Adj/Prof Richard Lake, Prof Bruce Robinon, Prof Jenette Creaney, Prof Gary Lee, A/Prof Matthew Linden, Dr Alistair Cook

The average survival from mesothelioma and advanced lung cancer is only 9 to 12 months. New treatments are being developed that combine chemotherapy with drugs designed to activate the immune system; however, successful combination of these treatments requires an understanding of how chemotherapy affects immune cells in humans. This study will examine how chemotherapy alters immune cells at the tumour site compared with those in the blood of mesothelioma and lung cancer patients and will identify immunological markers of response to treatment.

Funding: CCWA $99,752
Supported In the name of:
Yvonne Baker Foundation & Deborah Earl

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Combining radiotherapy and the immune system to fight cancer

Chief Investigators: Prof Anna Nowak -  University of Western Australia.  Prof Richard Lake, Prof Buce Robinson, Dr Willem Lesterhuis, Dr Jason Waithman, Dr Alistair Cook, Dr Alison McDonnell,
Associate Investigators: Prof Sean Bydder, Dr Scott Fisher, Prof Martin Ebert, A/Prof Roslyn Francis, Dr Sally Lansley

People with advanced cancer are often given radiotherapy to just a single tumour, even though they may have lots, to help relieve pain in a particular area. Extremely rarely, this leads to shrinking of all that person's tumours. We think this happens by radiotherapy helping the person's immune system to see cancer in a similar way to an infection, and go on to kill tumour cells.

The reason this doesn't happen in most people is because tumours can ‘switch off' the immune cells that try to kill them. A number of drugs are now being tested that can either switch the immune cells back on, or stop them being switched off in the first place; they can work very well, but only in less than half of the people who are treated.

During testing of these drugs, doctors have noticed that some people who also have radiotherapy do better than expected.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive, incurable cancer caused by asbestos. We think that combining the new drugs with radiotherapy might help fight mesothelioma. In this project, we will study different combinations of these drugs plus radiotherapy in mice with mesothelioma to see if this is the case, and find the best drug combinations.

Aim: This project will combine radiotherapy with a new class of anti-cancer drugs in mice with mesothelioma, aiming to help the immune system see and then fight against tumours. We will study several drugs, both singly and in combination, to find those that work best with radiotherapy.
Funding:
CCWA $97,103
Supported In the name of
: the Estate of Edith Betty Green

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Manipulating oncogenic non-coding RNAs to understand and treat cancer

Chief Investigators: A/Prof Oliver Rackham - Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research. A/Prof Pilar Blancafort, Prof Aleksandra Filipovska, Prof Peter Leedman, Prof Paul Watt

Genes contain messages that tell the cells that make up our bodies how to behave. They tell cells when to grow fast, for example when a cut needs to close up and heal; or when to stop growing, for example when you reach adulthood many body parts should stay the same size. However, when our genes' messages are not sent out properly they can tell some cells to grow out of control - this is cancer. Recently it was discovered that our bodies make molecules, called non-coding RNAs, that can inadvertently cause genes to send out messages for cells to grow when they shouldn't.

Aims: This research team has created new technologies to capture these molecules in cells. This project will use these technologies to control incorrect messages from genes, providing new ways to understand cancer genes and new ideas for therapies for cancers without current cures.
Funding:
CCWA $100,000
Supported In the name of
: the Estate of Edith Edwards

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Therapeutic reprogramming of metastatic tumour cells

Chief Investigators: Dr Andrew Woo - Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.  A/Prof Pilar Blancafort, A/Prof Jonghwan Kim, A/Prof Jianlong Wang, Dr Ramesh Ram,
Associate Investigators: Prof Jane Visvader, Prof Peter Leedman, A/Prof Alan Cantor

There are different types of breast cancer. Among them, breast cancers with stem cell-like features are linked to rapid tumour growth and spreading to other parts of the body (metastatic progression), but an effective means of therapy does not exist. This group discovered a group of novel proteins that control the stem-like features in cells and found evidence for their abnormal activity in a high percentage of metastatic breast cancer patient samples. The aim of this research is to explore the potent properties of these novel proteins to find ways to reprogram aggressive metastatic breast cancer cells into more treatable forms.

Aims: The aim of this research is to explore the potent properties of a group of proteins to find ways to reprogram aggressive metastatic breast cancer cells into more treatable forms.
Funding
:  CCWA $100,000
Fully supported In the name of:
the Estate of Edith Betty Green

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2015 Research Project Grant Recipients

Novel targeted therapies for triple negative breast cancers

Chief investigators: Dr Pilar Blancafort - Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.  A/Prof Killugudi Swaminatha Iyer, A/Prof Nicolas Taylor, A/Prof Charlie Bond
Associate Investigators:  A/Prof Andy Redfern, W/Prof Christobel Saunders, A/Prof Dimitri Kireev, Dr Jeremy Parry, A/Prof Lee Graves, W/Prof Wendy Erber

This project stands to make a difference in breast cancer by developing more selective approaches for the treatment of metastatic triple negative breast cancers. Unlike other breast cancers, triple negative breast cancer doesn't have receptors for the hormones oestrogen and progesterone or for the protein HER2. This means that triple negative breast cancer doesn't respond to hormonal or HER2 targeted therapies such as tamoxifen or herceptin, so the only treatment option is chemotherapy. Metastatic means that the cancer is more advanced, having spread from the breast to other parts of the body. Survival rates for patients with metastatic triple negative breast cancer only span a number of months. As chemotherapy agents are not selective they affect both normal (noncancerous) and tumour cells, which leads to significant side effects for patients. In addition, advanced triple negative breast cancers almost always develop resistance to the chemotherapy drugs, which means they only work for a limited time. This project will investigate the development of novel agents called interference peptides (iPeps). It is hoped that the iPeps will make triple negative breast cancer cells more vulnerable to chemotherapy drugs. If successful, this could lead to the development of targeted therapies for metastatic triple negative breast cancers of advanced stage, leading to improved outcomes for patients.

Aim: To develop novel and selective treatments to combat triple negative breast cancers.
Funding
: CCWA $100,000

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Determining prognosis and treatment response: novel imaging modalities for glioblastoma

Chief investigator: Dr Roslyn Francis - University of Western Australia
Associate investigator: Prof Anna Nowark, Dr Kerrie McDonald, Prof Dale Bailey, Assoc Prof Michael Back, Dr Nelson Loh, Mrs Julie Marsh, Dr Geoffrey Schembri, Dr Michael Bynevelt, Mr Robert Roche

Glioblastomas are the most aggressive type of primary brain tumours. Although there are several therapies available, the outcome of the disease remains poor. Currently an imaging procedure called Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is used to help diagnose this cancer, plan treatment, and monitor treatment response and outcome. However, more sophisticated imaging procedures are needed to improve patient treatment and outcome. This project will investigate whether another imaging procedure - positron emission tomography (PET) works better. A PET scan involves injecting a small amount of radioactive dye - or imaging agent - into a patient. The dye collects in different amounts in different parts of the body and is detected by a machine called a PET scanner, which creates coloured images of the inside of the body. This project will test a new PET imaging agent, O-(2-[18F]fluoroethyl)- L-tyrosine (FET) which collects in high levels in glioma cells but low levels in normal brain cells. FET-PET has already shown great promise in the clinic for treatment planning, and monitoring treatment response and outcome in a very small number of glioblastoma patients. This study aims to validate this imaging test in more patients, and to assess whether FET-PET can be used for routine management of patients with glioblastoma.

Aim: To validate FET-PET scanning as a clinical tool to predict outcome and treatment response in patients with glioblastoma. A substudy will collect data on whether FET-PET identifies areas of tumour which are not evident on MRI scans performed for radiotherapy treatment planning in patients with glioblastoma.
Funding:
CCWA $43,150 ($143,135 total, 2014-2015)
Supported In the name of
: Friends of Cancer Council WA

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Understanding how leukaemia cells survive in the bone marrow to target them for therapy

Chief investigator: Dr Meegan Howlett - Telethon Kids Institute.  W/Prof Catherine Cole
Associate Investigators: Prof Ursula Kees, Prof Jeremy Duffield, Dr Adrian Charles, Dr Matthew Linden

Leukaemia is a cancer of the blood. It is the most common type of cancer affecting babies and children. Some children with leukaemia don't recover because their cancer cells are not killed by current chemotherapies. These cells are called resistant because they can survive and multiply in the bone marrow, the site where normal blood cells develop and grow. A small number of leukaemia cells can turn into many, and eventually this causes a relapse and the disease returns. It is not well understood why some cancer cells become resistant. One possibility is that the surrounding healthy cells can protect them from drugs and also support their growth. The research team has discovered a gene called CTGF that is switched on in leukaemic cells and is important in that process. The team has developed several ways to turn this gene on and off and mimic the bone marrow environment. In this project, these tools will be used to investigate how the surrounding healthy cells can protect the leukaemia. The findings will shed new light on the way leukaemia cells grow and survive, despite current intensive treatments. This will help to develop better treatment for leukaemia patients.

Aim: Firstly, to determine how leukaemia cells and the genes they turn on can change the bone marrow so the leukaemia can survive and spread. Secondly, to investigate if a gene called CTGF can cause leukaemia or help it grow.
Funding:
CCWA $100,000
Supported In the name of
: the Estate of Arthur Frederick Barton

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Important ways that leukaemia and other cells communicate in blood diseases

Chief investigators: Associate Professor Evan Ingley - Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research. A/Prof Margaret Hibbs
Associate Investigators: A/Prof Margaret Hibbs, Prof Jiake Xu, Dr Archa Fox, Prof Peter Klinken

This research will look at how and why an important regulator of communication inside blood cells, specifically an enzyme called Lyn that turns other genes on and off, changes the development of leukaemia as well as other blood cell diseases. This research will look at blood cell cancers (leukaemia) and other blood cell diseases, some of which are quite rare but can have devastating impacts on the individual. The enzyme to be studied, i.e. Lyn, is also very important in other types of cancer (e.g. breast and prostate cancer), so what will be learned from this research has much wider implications. Sophisticated ways of looking deep inside cells will be used to show exactly how the enzyme Lyn regulates the communication networks (information highways) of normal and diseased blood cells. This includes turning Lyn on and off inside normal and leukaemia cells to understand if drugs that can target Lyn could be of benefit in these diseases. The results of this research will provide valuable information that will help guide the use of drugs that are targeted to Lyn and other closely related enzymes. These drugs are currently used in some types of leukaemia and are being tested in other cancers.

Aim: To use sophisticated model systems of blood cancer and other blood diseases as well as normal blood development to test (a) the importance of an enzyme called Lyn in the development of these diseases and (b) the possibility of using drugs that target Lyn to treat these disorders.
Funding:
CCWA $100,000
Supported In the names of:
The Peter and Iris Cook Grant for Metastases Research, Annadora Horne and Thelma Norris Trust Fund and Edward and Patricia Usher Cancer Research Assistance Fund

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A detailed study of how cancer-related fluid collection in the chest makes people breathless

Chief investigators: Professor Gary Lee, The University of Western Australia, Prof Peter Eastwood, A/Prof Susan Jenkins, Dr Bhajan Singh, Dr Rajesh Thomas

A malignant effusion is an excessive collection of fluid in the chest caused by cancer deposits on the surface of the lung or chest wall. It affects 8000 Australians a year especially those with mesothelioma, lung and breast cancers. The effusion can cause significant breathlessness. Draining the fluid may provide relief but doesn't always help and requires invasive procedures which can be painful, costly and have potential serious complications. No reliable ways exist to predict which patients' symptoms will improve with fluid drainage. This project will study how effusions make patients breathless and thus predict which patients will benefit from removal of fluid. This could avoid unnecessary procedures in many patients and the associated pain, hospital visits, costs and risks. The study will include 100 cancer patients with an effusion who are breathless. The severity of their symptoms will be measured using standard questionnaires. Measurements of lung volumes, size of effusions (with x-ray and ultrasound) and activity levels (with exercise tests) will be undertaken before and after fluid drainage. This will help identify the best ways to predict which patients will benefit from fluid removal.

Aim: To study how effusions make patients breathless and to predict which patients will benefit from removal of fluid.
Funding:
CCWA $99,966
Supported In the name of
: the Yvonne Baker Foundation

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Restoring immune function in the elderly to improve anti-cancer chemotherapy

Chief investigators: Professor Delia Nelson -  Curtin University. Dr Connie Jackaman, Prof Miranda Grounds, Dr Hannah Crabb.

Mesothelioma and lung cancer usually emerge in people over 60 years old and this is a time when cells belonging to the immune system start to lose their ability to respond to disease causing agents. No study has examined the ability of the immune system to respond to mesothelioma and lung cancer in older people. The research team has shown that as we age a specific type of immune cell, called macrophages, loses its ability to react to disease causing agents. This age-related decline in macrophage function may contribute to the poor responses seen to chemotherapy drugs used in elderly patients with cancer. Therefore therapies that activate the immune system (called immunotherapy) and rescue macrophage function may improve the ability of chemotherapy to destroy tumours in the elderly. This grant aims to examine anti-cancer immune responses during aging with and without chemotherapy and/or immunotherapy. The results will lead to a greater understanding for the development of effective anticancer therapies in the elderly.

Aim: Firstly to determine the effects of lung cancer and mesothelioma on macrophages in young versus elderly hosts; and secondly to determine if immunotherapy rescues macrophage dysfunction in elderly hosts that have cancer.
Funding:
CCWA $100,000

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Exercise is a medicine which benefits all cancer survivors: implementation and evaluation of a national exercise program

Chief investigators: Professor Robert Newton - Edith Cowan University.  Dr Prue Cormie,Clin Prof Nigel Spry, Prof Christopher Doran, Prof Daniel Galvao, Clin Prof David Joseph
Associate Investigators: Prof Dennis Taaffe, Prof Ronald Plotnikoffr, Prof Suzanne Chambers, Clin Prof Christobel Saunders

Cancer survivors experience serious long-term health and psychological problems which lead to illness and reduced quality of life. Clinical research has established supervised exercise as an effective "medicine" to address many of these issues in people with cancer. Consequently, major international health organisations have identified the importance of incorporating exercise in cancer care and cancer survivors have clearly indicated their desire to participate in appropriately designed exercise medicine programs. However, the majority (~70-90%) of Australian cancer survivors are not meeting exercise guidelines and over a third do not perform any exercise at all. Reasons cited include financial cost, access and availability. This project will trial a supervised exercise medicine program specifically designed for all cancer survivors in Australia. The ultimate outcome will be improved quality of life for cancer survivors through enhanced cancer survivorship care - affordable, accessible and effective exercise medicine for all cancer survivors.

Aim: To implement and assess the effectiveness (including cost effectiveness) of a national trial of exercise medicine for cancer survivors.
Funding: CCWA $100,000
Fully supported In the name of: the West Coast Eagles Football Club

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Identifying "druggable" targets to prevent the spread of cancer

Chief investigator: Associate Professor Fiona Pixley - University of Western Australia.  A/Prof Wendy Ingman, A/Prof Andrew Redfern
Associate Investigators:  Dr Ben Dessauvagie, Prof Christobel Saunders, Dr Christophe Queva, Prof Gareth Jones, Prof Roger Daly

Death from cancer is almost always due to the spread of the primary tumour to other parts of the body, e.g. breast cancer spreads to bones, lungs and brain. To do this, tumour cells must move. Immune cells, especially cells we call macrophages, help tumour cells to become mobile. They also dig paths through which the tumour cells can follow to reach the bloodstream and hitch a ride to other organs. Macrophages themselves must be able to move into tissues, including tumours. To help them do this, tumour cells produce a protein, called CSF-1, to attract macrophages. This project continues previous work to identify particular proteins in macrophages that respond to CSF-1 and can be targeted by drugs to stop macrophage movement into tumours. Hopefully this will break the vicious cycle set up between tumour cells and tumour macrophages to prevent primary tumours from spreading elsewhere. Many of the experiments will involve examining macrophages grown in the lab to identify drugs to stop macrophage movement. The project will also look at breast cancer specimens to see if macrophages at invasive areas in those cancers show evidence of movement in response to CSF-1. If so, this approach may be used to detect aggressive tumours and provide effective treatments.

Aim: To inhibit the recruitment of a particularly important immune cell, the macrophage, which is a potent promoter of cancer spread.
Funding:
CCWA $100,000
Fully supported In the name of
: Jill Tilly

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Does altering the low oxygen regions within mesothelioma improve effectiveness of chemotherapy?

Chief investigators: Dr Cleo Robinson - The University of Western Australia.  Prof Anna Nowak, A/Prof Roslyn Francis, Dr Willem Lesterhuis, Prof Richard Lake
Associate Investigators: Dr Penny Maton Dr Laurence Morandeau Prof Jenette Creaney

Mesothelioma is a fatal cancer that develops from mesothelial cells that line the lungs. It is associated with exposure to asbestos and Western Australia has one of the highest rates in the world due to the mining and use of asbestos from the Wittenoom mine in the Pilbara region. The best chemotherapies currently available only have modest survival benefits and only about 40% of patients show a response, often at a cost of serious side effects. However, radiotherapy is widely used to relieve symptoms, particularly pain, and although this does not improve survival, quality of life is an extremely important goal for mesothelioma patients. Unfortunately, radiotherapy is an inconvenient, costly and scarce resource, and does not always provide a benefit. Recent research has indicated that low levels of oxygen (known as hypoxia) within tumours may be a key to why some tumours respond to chemotherapy and radiotherapy whilst others do not. Dr Robinson's research group recently developed a scanning technique that identifies hypoxia in human mesotheliomas and are exploring the role of hypoxia in patient response to radiotherapy. This new project is closely associated with the human study and will use mouse systems that mimic human mesothelioma to test the effectiveness of potential drugs at altering oxygen levels in tumours and improving chemotherapy and radiotherapy outcomes. The goal is to incorporate successful findings directly to the clinic to benefit both quality of life and survival for mesothelioma patients.

Aim:To determine whether techniques that revert the low oxygen regions found within tumours to normal oxygen levels will improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiotherapy for mesothelioma.
Funding: CCWA $99,926

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Towards development of a decision support tool for women with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) of the breast

Chief investigators: Professor Christobel Saunders - The University of Western Australia.  Dr Toni Musiello Prof Madeleine, King Prof Phyllis Butow, Dr Claudia Rutherford, Ms Petrina Burnett, Prof Boon Chua

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is breast cancer confined to breast ducts thus not yet an invasive cancer. DCIS affects over 1600 Australian women each year. Treatment aims to prevent the cancer spreading beyond the breast ducts, and involves surgery, often by mastectomy (removal of the breast), with or without breast reconstruction. Decision making around treatment is complex and often unclear. Professor Saunders' team is developing a resource to support women to make treatment decisions which are right for them. In order to develop this resource, the research team first need to hear about women's experiences of being treated for DCIS. This includes understanding their experiences of treatment, and how their treatment has impacted on their quality of life, body image and sexuality. It also includes their physical functioning after treatment, including their pain and fatigue levels. Finally the research will examine how women perceive future cancer risk. The research will be conducted by asking women who have been treated for DCIS to complete some surveys at different time points and to take part in an interview. It is anticipated that the results will assist in developing a decision tool to support women with DCIS to make treatment decisions.

Aim: Firstly, to describe outcomes for women who have treatment for DCIS, including physical function after treatment, quality of life, body image, sexuality and perception of future breastcancer risk. Secondly, to detail DCIS treatment pathways, including surgical options for women newly diagnosed with DCIS.
Funding:
CCWA $84,524
Supported In the name of:
the Pauline Goldsmith Fund

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Mammographic density as a predictor of breast cancer risk and mortality in Western Australian Aboriginal women

Chief investigator: Dr Jennifer Stone - University of Western Australia.  A/Prof Andrew Redfern, Dr Elizabeth Wylie,  Prof Sandra Thompson
Associate Investigators: Ms Leanne Pilkington

Mammographic density - the white areas on a mammogram representing non-fatty breast tissue - is a strong predictor of breast cancer risk. There are significant ethnic differences in mammographic density which are consistent with differences in breast cancer risk. This suggests that there are factors, either genetic, environmental, or both, that could help explain why some women have dense breasts whilst others do not. Unravelling the role of mammographic density as a predictor of breast cancer risk in women of different ethnic descent will help identify groups of women at higher risk of the disease. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have much poorer breast cancer outcomes than non- Aboriginal women and this research will investigate whether the distribution of mammographic density in Western Australian Aboriginal women is different than that of non-Aboriginal women and whether mammographic density strongly predicts breast cancer risk in Western Australian Aboriginal women. It will also investigate the relationship between mammographic density and breast cancer deaths in Western Australian women. Improving breast cancer screening and outcomes for Aboriginal women is a priority for BreastScreen WA and this research will fill significant gaps in knowledge. The assembled team of experts and clinicians will assess whether mammographic density could be used in a screening setting to identify and target groups of women at higher (or lower) risk, thereby improving screening outcomes for women in Western Australia.

Aim: To determine whether mammographic density is a strong predictor of breast cancer risk in Western Australian Aboriginal women and to investigate the relationship between mammographic density and death due to breast cancer in Western Australian women.
Funding
: CCWA $98,490
Fully supported In the name of
: the Pauline Goldsmith Fund

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Can surgery for breast cancer be guided more effectively by use of a radioactive seed rather than a hook-wire?

Chief investigator: Associate Professor Donna Taylor - The University of Western Australia.  W/Prof Christobel Saunders, Dr Anita Bourke, A/Prof Rachael Moorin
Associate investigators:Dr Alan Yeo, A/Prof Bruce Latham, Dr Deepthi Dissanayake, Dr Felicity Frost, Dr John Burrage, Dr Lee Jackson, Ms Megan McManus, Dr Melanie Robert, Mr Michael Phillips, Dr Roshi Kamyab

In 2015, over 15,000 Australian women will have breast cancer. Cancers are now commonly detected when small, and treatment involves surgery to remove the tumour without needing to remove the whole breast. To work out which breast tissue needs removing, the surgeon needs help to determine the tumour's exact location. Usually a radiologist inserts a thin wire with a hook ("hook-wire") into the abnormality which the surgeon can then follow. Although effective, this can be difficult for radiologist, surgeon and patient and the hookwire must be put in on the day of surgery to minimise movement. Removing all abnormal tissue in one operation can be difficult as it is not easy to accurately identify the boundaries of the tumour during surgery. One in three women needs a second operation to remove cancerous tissue that was missed first time around. This is upsetting for the patient, involves more time off work, discomfort and added healthcare costs. This study compares hook-wire guidance with a new technique where a low dose radioactive seed is inserted into the abnormality. The surgeon uses a radiation detector to locate the signal from the seed. This is easier and quicker for the surgeon and may reduce the need for further surgery. The seed can be inserted days in advance, improving efficiency and patient convenience. If the results show that the seed is better than the wire, this may become the new standard localisation method in Australia.

Aim: To determine whether insertion of a radioactive seed into breast cancers to guide surgical removal can improve our ability to completely remove the abnormal tissue with one operation when compared to the standard method, insertion of a hook-wire.
Funding:
CCWA $93,742
Supported In the names of:
the Pauline Goldsmith Fund and Momentum for Australia

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The use of circulating tumour cells (CTCs) to predict treatment response in melanoma patients

Chief investigator: Professor Mel Ziman - Edith Cowan University.  Prof Michael Millward Dr Elin Gray A/Prof Markus Frank
Associate Investigators: Dr Tapan Rai, Dr Samantha Bowyer

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. When it spreads to other places in the body, it's called metastatic, or advanced, melanoma. Metastatic melanoma is extremely difficult to treat. While new therapies have dramatically improved the outcome for patients with metastatic melanoma, most patients develop drug resistance over time (ie the drugs stop working) and therapies are not effective in all patients. Early prediction of treatment failure and detection of disease recurrence would allow patients to be switched at an earlier time to alternate therapies, improving treatment outcomes. Currently our ability to predict treatment efficacy and to monitor disease recurrence is very limited. Tumour cells present in patient blood, (circulating tumour cells, or CTCs) can be used to predict outcomes in several other metastatic cancers but few studies have detailed their predictive value in melanoma. The research team has developed a novel blood test that analyses blood from melanoma patients for multiple subtypes of CTCs and can determine how the CTCs respond differently to treatment. Further studies are now required to determine if changes in specific CTC subpopulations can provide additional predictive information for patients on their response to the newest types of melanoma treatments. The outcome of this study will be the development and validation of a blood test for earlier monitoring of how well treatment is working (treatment efficacy), how the patient is responding and whether the cancer has come back.

Aim: To assess whether circulating tumour cells can be used to provide an early indication of treatment efficacy and disease status in melanoma patients.
Funding:
CCWA $71,519

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Research Grants 2014

Establishing a causal relationship between the deletion of the CDKN2A gene in liver progenitor cells and liver cancer thereby providing a genetic mechanism for hepatocarcinogenesis.

Chief Investigator: Dr Bernard Callus - University of Western Australia
Associate Investigators: Prof George Yeoh, Prof John Olynk, Dr Janina Tirnitz-Parker, Dr Nicholas Shackel, Dr Jens Marquardt

CDKN2A is a protein that controls cell growth. If cells stop making CDKN2A, it leads to uncontrolled growth and cancer development. Dr Callus's previous research has found that the coded message inside cells that makes CDKN2A - the CDKN2A gene - is deleted in a type of immature liver cell called a liver progenitor cell or LPC. Research tells us that changes like this can transform LPCs into cells that are believed to be cancer stem cells, an immature type of liver cell from which liver cancer is known to develop. Dr Callus's research team believe that deletion of the CDKN2A gene in LPCs transforms them into liver cancer stem cells leading to liver cancer. The project aims to establish the critical link between the deletion of the CDKN2A gene thereby causing the transformation of LPCs into cancer stem cells and the development of liver cancer.

Aim: Establishing a causal relationship between the deletion of the CDKN2A gene in liver progenitor cells and liver cancer thereby providing a genetic mechanism for epatocarcinogenesis.
Funding:
CCWA $ 100,000
Supported n the names of:
Richard Gardner & ToyBox International Charitable Fund Ltd and The Women of the Greek Community

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Interplays between anti-viral and allo-responses in the context of graft versus host disease

Chief Investigators: Prof Mariapia Degli-Esposti - Lions Eye Institute, Dr Matthew Wikstrom, Prof Geoffrey Hill

A bone marrow transplant is a procedure that involves replacing damaged bone marrow with healthy bone marrow. Bone marrow is the soft fatty tissue found inside our bones that contains stem cells - immature cells that make the red cells, white cells and platelets in our blood. Donor - or allogeneic - bone marrow transplantation is the main treatment for most blood (haematological) cancers. It involves taking bone marrow from a healthy person and giving it to a haematological cancer patient who has had radiation and/or chemotherapy treatment to kill the cancerous bone marrow cells. However, there are two major limitations of donor bone marrow transplants: (i) infections from the donor can be transferred to the person receiving the transplant; and (ii) graft versus host disease (GVHD) can develop, where immune cells from the donated bone marrow attack the cells in the body of the person being treated. Viral infections, especially cytomegalovirus infection, remain a major cause of illness following transplantation.

This project will investigate how bone marrow transplantation and GVHD affect the transplant recipient's capacity to fight cytomegalovirus infection. The findings from this research will provide important insights into the design of effective therapies to prevent complications from viral infection following bone marrow transplantation.

Aim: To investigate the effect of bone marrow transplantation and graft versus host disease (GVHD) on the ability to fight infection with a common virus that is a major cause of disease in patients undergoing this treatment.  A further aim of this research is to determine the extent to which cytomegalovirus infection may contribute to the development and severity of GVHD.
Funding:
CCWA $100,000
Supported in the name of:
Relay For Life Team Tarzan Loves Jane

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Megakaryocyte pathology in myeloproliferative neoplasms

Chief Investigators: W/Prof Wendy Erber - University of Western Australia,  A/Prof Kathy Heel, Dr Tania Tabone
Associate Investigators: Prof John Reilly, Dr Cecily Forsyth, Dr Sara Hall, Dr Rebecca Howman

Myeloproliferative neoplasms are a group of bone marrow diseases, related to leukaemia, where the bone marrow over-produces one or more types of blood cells (red, white or platelets). Major causes of death are from stroke and heart attack caused by blood clots in the brain or heart. Megakaryocytes, the platelet-producing cells in the bone marrow, are abnormal in myeloproliferative neoplasms and may be the cause of these serious clinical problems. Platelets help our blood to clot, so if there are too many or they aren't working appropriately then stroke and heart attack may occur.

This project will thoroughly assess the biology of megakaryocytes to determine their role in the clinical problems experienced by patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms. This will also aid in developing new blood-based tests that will help identify the patients at risk of these serious and potentially life-threatening clinical problems, or those who may go on to develop leukaemia. This will help to develop ways to more effectively monitor and treat these blood cancers.

Aim: To study the biology of megakaryocytes in order to determine their role in the clinical problems experienced by patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms. To use this understanding to develop blood-based platelet biomarkers to better identify patients at risk of serious complications or who may go on to develop leukaemia.
Funding:
CCWA $100,000
Supported in the name of
: Leah Jane Cohen Fund

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Determining prognosis and treatment response: novel imaging modalities for glioblastoma

Chief Investigators: A/Prof Roslyn Francis - University Of western Australia,  Prof Anna Nowak, Dr Kerrie Macdonald, Prof Dale Bailey
Associate Investigators: Dr Michael Back, Dr Nelson Loh, Dr Julie Marsh, Dr Geoff Schembri, Dr Michael Bynevelt

Glioblastomas are the most aggressive type of primary brain tumours. Although there are several therapies available, the outcome of the disease remains poor. Currently an imaging procedure called Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is used to help diagnose this cancer, plan treatment, and monitor treatment response and outcome. However, more sophisticated imaging procedures are needed to improve patient treatment and outcome.

This project will investigate whether another imaging procedure - positron emission tomography (PET) works better. A PET scan involves injecting a small amount of radioactive dye - or imaging agent - into a patient. The dye collects in different amounts in different parts of the body and is detected by a machine called a PET scanner, which creates coloured images of the inside of the body.

This project will test a new PET imaging agent, O-(2-[18F]-fluoroethyl)-L-tyrosine (FET) which collects in high levels in glioma cells but low levels in normal brain cells. FET-PET has already shown great promise in the clinic for treatment planning, and monitoring treatment response and outcome in a very small number of glioblastoma patients. This study aims to validate this imaging test in more patients, and to assess whether FET-PET can be used for routine management of patients with glioblastoma.

Aim: To validate FET-PET scanning as a clinical tool to predict outcome and treatment response in patients with glioblastoma.PET identifies areas of tumour which are not evident on MRI scans performed for radiotherapy treatment planning in patients with glioblastoma.
Funding:
  CCWA $99.985
Supported in the name of: Edward and Patricia Usher Cancer Research Assistance Fund

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Targeting extracellular matrix in solid tumours

Chief Investigators: Asst/Prof Juliana Hamzah - Harry Perkins Insitute of Medical Research, Prof Ruth Ganss, Prof Erkki Ruoslahti

Many cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, are systemic, which means the drugs used are injected into the body and travel through the bloodstream to get to the cancer cells. Systemic treatments are often ineffective because it can be difficult for the drugs to get to tumours in certain parts of the body and because tumours form protective barriers that stop drugs getting inside to kill all the cancer cells. Systemic treatments can also cause many toxic side-effects because doses used are often high and some drugs non-selectively damage healthy cells as well as the cancer. New ways to effectively deliver cancer drugs directly into tumours in parts of our body that are hard to reach are urgently needed.

A new molecule, called CSG, was recently identified. CSG can find and enter solid tumours when it is injected into the bloodstream of mice with cancers. Importantly, it does not bind to normal healthy tissues.

The extracellular matrix (ECM) is the scaffolding inside our body that structurally supports various cell types. Different organs and tissues have different components that make up their own extracellular matrix, as do tumours. The research team has found that CSG specifically binds to components of the extracellular matrix (ECM) known as glycoproteins. These glycoproteins are made in large amounts in tumours but not in normal tissues, which explains why CSG specifically binds to - and builds up in - tumours. Hence, CSG could be useful for targeting drugs directly to tumours to kill cancer cells.

This research will provide insights into the unique features of ECM in tumours and how CSG-specific targeting of tumour ECM can be exploited to produce anti-cancer therapies. This is currently an unexplored field in cancer research. It is hoped that these investigations will lead to novel combination therapies for cancer patients.

Aim: To explore the abnormalities of the tumour extracellular matrix (ECM) as a potential target for tumour destruction. The research aims are to assess: (i) ECM binding characteristics of CSG, and (ii) how CSG can be used to deliver an ECM-modulating agent, tumour-necrosis factor alpha (TNFa) to destroy tumour ECM in pre-clinical tumour models.
Funding:  CCWA $99,649
Supported in the name of: Estate of Lila Joyce Jennings

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Role of Lyn tyrosine kinase in blood development and disease

Chief Investigators: A/Prof Evan Ingley - Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, A/Prof Margaret Hibbs
Associate Investigators: Prof Wendy Erber, Prof Peter Klinken

Blood cell diseases and blood cancer (leukaemia) place a significant health burden on society. Previous research by this laboratory has found that the molecule Lyn is an important controller of normal blood development in the body. This research proposes that Lyn has significant influence on blood cell abnormalities. The project will determine how Lyn works inside the body to produce blood and how Lyn is involved in the development of blood cell diseases. This will be done by creating cells so they either have no Lyn or too much Lyn, and then testing whether this influences the development of leukaemia or other blood disorders.

Aim: To find out what role the molecule Lyn plays in producing blood and in the development of blood cell diseases such as leukaemia.
Funding: CCWA $100,000
Supported in  the name of: Noonan Family

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Investigating the mechanisms for treatment resistance in head and neck cancer

Chief Investigators: Prof Peter Leedman - Harry Perkins Institute for Meidcal Research, Dr Keith Giles
Associate Investigators: Prof Nick Saunders, Dr Kaylene Simpson, Dr Alex Swarbrick, Dr Cecily Metcalf, Dr Francis Chai

Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common cancer globally, affecting more than 500,000 people each year. It is often diagnosed in its late stages, which means the chances of recovery and survival are poor. As most head and neck cancers overproduce a cell protein, known as EGFR, it was hoped that therapies targeting this protein would lead to better ways to treat these patients. Unfortunately, most head and neck cancers do not respond to these targeted therapies. Even if they do respond, they often become resistant to treatment, which is a major problem.

Unravelling the biological mechanisms that cause treatment resistance and identifying new ways to restore the response to targeted therapy are therefore high priorities. Previous work has identified some new pathways that appear responsible for treatment resistance in head and neck cancer, and this grant will allow some of these hypotheses to be tested in a series of studies using head and neck cancer cells.

Aim: To establish the importance of newly identified factors involved in the development of treatment resistance in head and neck cancer, and to use the knowledge as a foundation for developing new therapeutic strategies.
Funding:  CCWA $100,000
Support in the names of: Esperance Fundraising Committee and Jill Tilly

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Intra-operative assessment of lymph nodemetastasis in breast cancer with optical imaging

Chief Investigators: A/Prof Robert McLaughlin - University Of Western Australia, W/Prof Christobel Saunders, W/Prof David Sampson
Associate Investigator: Bruce Latham

Breast cancer, if not detected early, will spread to other parts of the body through the patient's lymphatic system (a network of vessels that form part of our immune system). In surgery, it is often necessary to remove some of the patient's lymph nodes, a key part of the lymphatic system, to test if the cancer has spread. This can cause a long-term complication for the patient, called lymphoedema. Lymphoedema is a potentially debilitating problem for patients, resulting in a swelling of the arm, and can cause a loss of feeling, limited mobility and pain.

Unfortunately, many healthy lymph nodes are removed unnecessarily. This project is early stage research to develop a new imaging technology, called micro-elastography, and test whether it can be used to detect small traces of cancer in the lymph nodes. It will involve the first clinical experiments on ex-vivo human lymph nodes (lymph nodes that have been removed from the body). This work has the potential to provide surgeons with a new tool to distinguish between healthy and cancerous lymph nodes during surgery, helping them to avoid removing healthy lymph nodes and reducing the likelihood of lymphoedema.

Aim: To develop a new imaging technique to help surgeons distinguish healthy from cancerous lymph nodes. This could help to reduce the incidence of lymphoedema.
Funding: 
CCWA $99,937
Supported in the name of: Annadora Horne and Thelma Norris Trust Fund

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From asbestos miners to DIY home renovators: understanding the consequences of changing patterns of asbestos exposure

Chief Investigators: Clin/Prof Bill Musk -  University Of Western Australia, Ass/Prof Alison Reid, Prof Geoffrey Berry, Dr Helman Alfonso, Dr Fraser Brims
Associate Investigators: W/Prof Nick de Klerk, Dr Enzo Merler

When asbestos is disturbed, it forms a dust made up of tiny fibres. This can easily be breathed in and cause serious health problems, including mesothelioma (a type of cancer affecting the cells covering the lungs, and sometimes other organs), lung cancer and asbestosis (a type of lung disease). While asbestos in all forms has been banned in Australia since 2004, many existing buildings and machinery contain asbestos, as for decades it was widely used in building materials and for insulation, fireproofing and sound absorption.

It can take many years after exposure to asbestos for any disease to become evident. The incidence of asbestos-related diseases (ARD), and especially mesothelioma, has increased steadily since the early 1960s. ARDs initially affected workers involved in mining, milling and transporting raw asbestos, followed by those who used asbestos products in industry. Over the past 20 years, there have been increasing numbers of people diagnosed with mesothelioma after short-term and/or low-level exposure to asbestos in the home or workplace (i.e. small operators and DIY home renovators). Even though the risk to the individual after DIY work is estimated to be small, because a large number of people in Australia do DIY it is likely a large number of cases will occur.

This project will continue previous research studying the long-term health impacts for people exposed to high levels of asbestos and will extend it to those exposed to lower levels such as DIY home renovators. Understanding the consequences of these exposures will help to identify people with a higher risk of getting ARDs and to predict the likely numbers of cases of ARDs in the Australian population in the future. This is highly relevant for individuals, for public health awareness and resource allocation across Australia and has world-wide scientific and public health implications.

Aim: To continue long-term work following up people exposed to high levels of asbestos to determine the ongoing health effects, and will also extend this work to examine the harmful effects of asbestos at lower levels of exposure (occupational and residential exposures).
Funding:  CCWA $58,000
Supported in the name of: Annadora Horne and Thelma Norris Trust Fund

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Outcomes and predictors of efficacy of palliative radiotherapy in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma

Chief Investigators: Prof Anna Nowak - University of Western Australia, A/Prof Roslyn Francis, W/Prof Gary Lee, Prof Sean Bydder, Prof Jenette Creaney
Associate Investigators: Prof Bruce Robinson, Dr David Dunwoodie, Dr Ramon Sheehan

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the cells covering our organs, most commonly the lungs. Radiotherapy is widely used in mesothelioma treatment to improve symptoms such as pain by using high energy waves similar to x-rays to kill cancer cells. Surprisingly, there has never been a clinical trial which has proven that radiotherapy shrinks mesothelioma tumours, improves pain, or improves quality of life.

This study will determine for the first time the proportion of people with mesothelioma who have meaningful improvement in their symptoms after radiotherapy, and how long any improvements last. People with mesothelioma who are recommended for radiotherapy by their specialist will receive standardised radiotherapy to the tumour. This study will measure the tumour size as well as pain ratings, quality of life, and the amount of pain medication needed before, during, and after radiotherapy.

A novel aspect of this study is the use of a type of PET scan which can show low oxygen within a tumour. Low oxygen in a tumour may indicate that the tumour will not respond to radiotherapy, and the study will test if this is the case in mesothelioma. This will enable treatment to be targeted at those mesothelioma patients who will benefit from radiotherapy, avoiding treating people unnecessarily.

Aim: To determine how much benefit people with mesothelioma get from radiotherapy to their painful tumours, and to investigate whether it is possible to predict who will or will not benefit from radiotherapy according to whether the tumour has low oxygen levels measured by a PET scan.
Funding: CCWA $99,679
Supported in the names of: Annadora Horne and Thelma Norris Trust Fund and Bunbury Toyota Racing for a Cure

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Research Grants 2013

 

Molecular Mode of Action of Thalidomide

Chief Investigators: W/Prof Lawrence Abraham - University of Western Australia. A/Prof Scott Stewart, A/Prof Keith Stubbs

Thalidomide is a very useful drug despite the problems. The mechanism of action of thalidomide will be investigated with a view to producing a number of improved derivatives. This will be facilitated if the target intracellular molecules are known

Aim: To identify the target molecule inside human cells that thalidomide interacts with. Derivatives of thalidomide have been created to enable tagging of cellular components of cells that bind to thalidomide.
Funded: 
CCWA $100,000
Fully supported in the name of: Estate of Vera Ann Nelson in memory of her late sister Cora Boston and late neice Annmarie Wood

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Confidence to care: A randomised controlled trial of structured home-based support and education for carers of people with high grade glioma

Chief Investigators: Dr Georgia Halkett - Curtin Health Innovation Research Insititute.   Prof Anna Nowak, Prof Elizabeth Lobb, A/Prof Meera Agar, Dr Lisa Miller, A/Prof Rachel Moorin, Ms Therese Shaw
Associate Investigators: Ms Anne King, Dr Anne Long, Dr Daphne Tsoi, Ms Stephanie Fewster, Ms Helen King, A/Prof Katharine Drummond, Dr Helen Wheeler

High grade gliomas (HGG) are invariably fatal brain tumours. They lead to a rapid decline in function with patients requiring a high level of care. Carers of patients with HGG report high levels of distress and feel poorly prepared for their caring role. This study aims to evaluate a nurse-led education and support program to improve carer preparedness for the caring role, improve their quality of life; reduce carer anxiety and depression; and decrease unplanned use of health services.

Aim: To evaluate whether a nurse led education and support program is effective in improving carer preparedness and reducing anxiety and depression.
Funded:
  CCWA $99,315
Fully Supported
In the name of: Patricia New

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Control of nuclear/cytoplasmic shuttling by Liar/AnkRD54

Chief Investigators: A/Prof Evan Ingley - WAIMR
Associate Investigators: Prof Peter Klinken, A/Prof Margaret Hibbs, Prof Charles Bond, W/Prof Jiake Xu

Mature red cells develop from hematopoietic stem cells in the adult bone marrow. The production of red blood cells is primarily controlled by the hormone erythropoietin (Epo). Previously we had identified the protein Liar that shuttles in an out of the nucleus of primitive red blood cells after Epo stimulation and controls their development into mature functional cells. We will determine the role of Liar's interaction with Lyn and other signalling molecules in regulating nuclear/cytoplasmic shuttling during red blood cell development.

Aim: To determine the molecular signals that regulate which part of a cell the AnkRD54 molecule resides. To define the cellular consequences of the interaction of AnkRD54 with other molecules important for blood cancer, and detail the specific novel mechanism
Funded: 
CCWA $100,000
Fully supported in the name of:
Patricia New

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Targeting Flt3 kinase activity to treat haemopoietic neoplasms

Chief Investigators: Prof Wallace Langdon - University of West Australia
Associate Investigators: A/Prof James Mulloy

Most leukaemias are incurable so it is important to find new treatments. For this to occur it is essential that the mutated genes that cause leukaemias are identified. A mouse that develops leukaemia because of a mutation in a gene called c-Cbl, that promotes the activation of protein called Flt3 has been generated. Flt3 is involved in the development of many types of leukaemias, and by treating mutant mice with a drug that suppresses the activity of Flt3 the intention is to to identify more effective ways of treating a range of human leukaemias.

Aim: To determine the optimal doses and timing for the delivery of Flt3 inhibitors and cytotoxic drugs in order to provide more effective treatments for leukaemia patients.
Funding:
  CCWA$100,000
Fully Supported in the name of:
Estate of Lila Joyce Jennings

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Using a microRNA to treat cancer

Chief Investigators: W/Prof Peter Leedman - WAIMR. Dr Keith Giles, Dr Cameron Bracken
Associate Investigators: Prof Greg Goodall, A/Prof Nigel McMillan, Dr Raelene Endersby, A/Prof Terry Johns, A/Prof Nick Saunders

The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a key driver of cancer cell growth in many human cancers. As such it is a high profile target for new therapies, some of which are in the clinic. Our research has identified a small RNA, or microRNA, that is a powerful inhibitor of the EGFR pathway in cancer, and this project will investigate its potential in preclinical systems to be an anticancer agent, and to determine whether it can "value-add" to current therapies and help overcome treatment resistance.

Aim: to investigate the potential for using a microRNA as an anticancer agent
Funded
:  CCWA$100,000
Fully supported in the name of: Peter Huggett

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Pre-operative assessment of neoadjuvant therapy for breast cancer using optical coherence tomography

Chief Investigators: A/Prof Robert McLaughlin, W/Prof Christobel Saunders; W/Prof David Sampson
Associate Investigators: Dr Anita Bourke; Dr Benjamin Wood

Breast cancer patients often receive chemotherapy prior to surgery to reduce tumour mass. Doctors generally do not know if the chemotherapy was successful until after surgery, which can result in patients having unnecessarily extensive surgery, such as a mastectomy. We have developed a high-resolution imaging probe that will assess tumours prior to surgery. In this project, we will perform the world's first trial of this new technology in patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Aim: We aim to demonstrate the use of a high-resolution imaging probe to assess response to neoadjuvant therapy
Funded
: CCWA $98,551
Supported in the name of:
Estate of Lila Joyce Jennings

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Targeting CSF-1-induced macrophage migration to inhibit tumour invasion and metastasis

Chief Investigators: A/Prof Fiona Pixley - University of Western Australia
Associate Investigators: A/Prof Dianne Cox, A/Prof Wendy Ingam, Prof Wallace Langdon, Prof E. Richard Stanley

Most cancer deaths are caused by spread of the primary tumour. Macrophages, a type of immune cell, infiltrate tumours and help them escape their boundaries. Recent advances in targeted drugs to treat cancer show that it may soon be treated as a chronic disease. Although to attack the complex nature of cancer, combinations of targeted therapies will be necessary. The belief is that inhibition of macrophage migration into and out of tumours will inhibit tumour spread. The intention is to identify drugs that prevent macrophage migration and this is a very promising target.

Aim: To determine whether inhibition of macrophage infiltration into and out of tumours prevents their encouragement of tumour spread. Recent work indicates that inhibiting a critical macrophage migration pathway has important effects.
Funded: 
CCWA $100,000
Supported In the name of
: Janifer Joy Mason, The Jenkins Over The Top Expedition, Wayne Lyon, Patricia & Edward Usher Cancer Research Assistance Fund

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Predicting response to neo-adjuvant chemo-radiotherapy in patients with resectable rectal cancer

Chief Investigators: W/Prof Cameron Platell - University of West Australia. Dr Melanie McCoy, A/Prof Nikolas Zeps, Prof Anna Nowak, Dr Chris Hemmings, Prof Max Bulsara
Associate Investigators: Prof Richard Lake, Mr Tony Addiscott

Chemo-radiotherapy (CRT) prior to surgery is currently recommended for patients with locally advanced rectal cancer. While 20% of patients completely respond to CRT (no residual tumour) and have a better long-term prognosis, factors that distinguish responders from non-responders are not well understood. This study will investigate the role of the immune system in responding to CRT, with the aim of identifying likely non-responders, who may benefit from additional or novel treatment strategies.

Aim: To understand how a person's immune system can fight and kill cancers that develop in the bowel.
Funded:
  CCWA $95,912 ($196,826 total for 2013-2014)
Fully supported in the name of:
Estate of Lila Joyce Jennings

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Elucidating the cellular and molecular mechanisms which link liver progenitor cells, inflammation and hepatocellular carcinoma

Chief Investigators: W/Prof George Yeoh, A/Prof Roslyn London
Associate Investigators: Dr Kathy Hardy

Liver disease is an increasing health problem in Australia due to lifestyle practices e.g. alcohol abuse, viral infection and obesity. Liver cancer is a common cause of death among these patients but the underlying changes that result in cancer and which cells are affected is not known. This study tests the idea that inflammatory cells cause genetic changes in liver stem cells to cause cancer.

Aim: To understand changes in liver cells that cause them to be cancerous
Funded:
  CCWA $100,358
Fully Supportted in the name of
: Jill Tilly

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2012 Research Grants

 

Dissecting the molecular role of DBHS oncoproteins in gene regulation

Chief Investigators: Prof Charles Bond - University of Western Australia. Dr Archa Fox, Dr Shinichi Nakagawa
Associate Investigators
: Dr Mihwa Lee, Dr Aleksandra Filipovskia, Dr Oliver Rackham, A/Prof Matthew Perugini, A/Prof Matthew Wilce, Dr Alex Apffel, Prof Joel Mackay, Dr Tetsuro Hirose, Dr Anthony Duff, Dr Marcel Dinger

This project looks at a group of cancer-associated proteins called DBHS proteins. There is a need to understand how the contacts between these proteins and other molecules can turn genes on and off in cancer. This research will employ cutting edge structural, molecular and cellular techniques to address this question. Findings from this project should pave the way for developing new therapeutics against these factors.

Aims: to determine the molecular basis of interactions carried out by nuclear cancer-associated proteins, opening up new ways of developing anti-cancer drugs.
Supported in the names of: Janifer Joy Mason and Patricia New

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Control of nuclear/cytoplasmic shuttling by Liar

Chief Investigators: A/Prof Evan Ingley - WAIMR.  Prof Peter Klinken
Associate Investigators: Prof Charles Bond, Dr Carl Walkley, Dr Archa Fox, A/Prof Margaret Hibbs

In cells the molecules involved in transmitting messages (signalling preoteins) from outside a cell to its control centre (nucleus) require precise control of their activity as well as their sub-cellular localisation. We have discovered a molecule (called Liar/AnkRD54) that controls the localisation of important cancer causing enzymes (tyrosine kinases, e.g. Lyn, Btk). Liar controls the import and export of Lyn in and out of the nucleus of cancer cells, dependent upon the enzymatic activity of Lyn. We aim to determine the biochemical mechanisms of how Liar controls the sub-cellular localisation of Lyn and other important cancer causing molecules (Btk,HCLS1, Vav1, DBNL and LASP1) that Liar interacts with, and thus the signalling pathways that are controlled by these molecules in cancer cells. We will also analyse the phosphorylation of Liar by the enzyme PKCdelta, which controls the nuclear export of Liar.

Aim: To understand the processes controlling the interaction of molecules that are involved in cancer/leukaemia, adding to the development of diagnostics/therapeutics
Supported in the name of:
Brian Goldfinsh

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Verification of long-term outcomes of the randomised TARGIT trial: TARGeted Intraoperative radioTherapy for early breast cancer

Chief Investigators: Prof David Joseph - Radiation Oncology SCGH. Winthrop Prof Christobel Saunders, Prof Max Bulsara, Mrs Tammy Corica
Associate Investigators
: Dr Mandy Taylor, Dr Farah Abdul-Aziz, Dr Roshi Kamyab, Dr David Oliver, Mr Peter Lanzon, Dr Margaret Latham, Dr Diana Hastrich, Ms Anne McKenzie

TARGIT is an international trial comparing the effectiveness of a once-off dose of intra-operative radiotherapy (IORT) with 6-7 weeks of standard external radiotherapy in women with early breast cancer. Early results have shown that patients given the once-off dose are not worse off than patients having standard treatment in terms of risk of local cancer recurrence. Longer term follow-up of TARGIT is required however, before IORT can be considered a standard treatment option in the future.

Aims: to improve the quality of life of women with early breast cancer who are to be treated with radiotherapy
Supported in the names of:
Noonan Family, Women of the Greek Community and Flo Starcevich

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A pilot study of the effect of green tea polyphenols in untreated patients with early stage chronic lymphocytic leukaemia

Chief Investigators: Prof David Joske, A/Prof Min Zhang, Dr Reza Ghassemifar, Dr Gavin Cull, Dr Frank Sanfilippo, Prof Max Bulsara, Prof D'Arcy Holman
Associate Investigators
: Mrs Anne McKenzie, Dr Jill Finlayson, Dr Julie Crawford

B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (B-CLL) is the most common haematological malignancy in Australia with a large number of prevalent cases (>1000 cases in WA). Treatment is expensive and can herald the ‘beginning of the end' for some patients. Green tea polyphenols by slowing B-CLL cell growth and reducing tumour burden, may delay the time until treatment is needed, and improve prognosis, whilst reducing the cost of the disease to community in work days lost, hospital stays and chemotherapy.

Aim: To determine whether green tea extract can slow progression of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia

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The effect of intratumoural CpG-Oligodeoxynucleotide delivery on the tumour microenvironment in mouse models of colorectal cancer

Chief Investigators: Dr Borut Klopcic - University of Western Australia. Prof Ian Lawrance
Associate Investigators:
Prof Ruth Ganss, Dr Nik Zeps

Despite advances in screening and treatment, bowel cancer still remains the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths. This project aims at developing a new treatment strategy in which the immune system is activated in order to recognise alterations in cells and reject the developing tumour. In particular, small nucleic acids that stimulate the immune system will be injected directly into the colonic tumours. The outcomes of this study will greatly enhance our knowledge of bowel cancer and its treatment.

Aims: Explores a novel strategy to treat bowel cancer
Fully supported in the name of:
Tilly

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A multicentre randomized study comparing indwelling pleural catheter vs talc pleuodesis in patients with a malignant pleural effusion

Chief Investigators: Prof Gary Lee - University of Western Australia.  Prof Grant Waterer, Prof William Musk, Prof Michael Millward
Associate Investigators:
Prof Nick de Klerk, Dr Luke Garske, Dr Edward Fysh, Dr Nicola Smith, Dr Najib Rahman

Cancer-related pleural effusions cause significant breathlessness. Conventional treatment by pleurodesis requires lengthy hospitalization (average 6.5 days) and has low success. The pilot study showed that ambulatory drainage of effusions using indwelling pleural catheters (IPCs) significantly reduced hospital stays by 12 days/patient. This multicentre, randomized trial aims to define the magnitude of the benefits and the safety profile of IPCs over talc pleurodesis, especially in reducing inpatient days.

Aims: Improving end of life care for people diagnosed with malignant pleural effusion, which can be caused by almost any type of cancer
Supported in the name of: The Axford Memorial Research Grant Endowment

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Investigating the immune response in a clinical trial of chemoimmunotherapy for mesothelioma

Chief Investigators: Prof Anna Nowa - University of Western Australia
Associate Investigators
: Prof Bruce Robinson, Prof Richard Lake, Mr Robert Vojakovic

Malignant mesothelioma is almost always fatal. Chemotherapy is standard treatment, but gives only small improvements in life expectancy. There is a clinical trial to test a combination of standard chemotherapy and a novel immunotherapy which has shown promise in the laboratory. In this study, a safe dose for the combination will be determined, and laboratory studies will be used to examine how combination treatment affects the immune response against the cancer and whether we can predict who will benefit from treatment.

Aim:  To examine how a new chemoimmunotherapy drug combination improves the immune system ability to fight cancer in people with mesothelioma
Fully supported in the name of: Patricia New

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Identification of pY721 CSF-1R activated signalling pathways that regulate macrophage migration and tumour progression

Chief Investigators: A/Prof Fiona Pixley - University of Western Australia
Associate Investigators: Prof Richard Stanley

Most cancer deaths are caused by spread of the primary tumour. Macrophages, a type of immune cell, infiltrate tumours and help them spread. Recent advances in drug therapy of cancer show that it eventually may be treated as a chronic disease. However, to attack the complex nature of cancer it needs to be hit on multiple fronts, especially when dealing with metastases. This project aims to identify drugs that prevent macrophage infiltration of tumours and we are working on some promising targets.

Aim: Previous research has identified the primary signalling pathway that causes macrophages to infiltrate tumours and this project will now investigate therapies to inhibit the pathway
Fully supported in the name of: Tilly

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A high fidelity model of malignant mesothelioma

Chief Investigators: Dr Cleo Robinson - University of Western Australia
Associate Investigators
: Prof Richard Lake, Prof Bruce Robinson, Prof Anna Nowak, Dr Amanda Cleaver

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. Unfortunately, current treatments are not very effective so new treatment options are desperately needed. Research has shown that combinations of therapies that include immunotherapy, i.e. treatments aimed at stimulating the body's immune system to attack the cancer, can improve the effectiveness of conventional cancer treatments. This project will refine the analysis using mouse models before progressing to novel clinical trials.

Aim:  Help improve the effectiveness of convential cancer treatments
Supported in the names of: Richard Fawcett and Swan Athletics Senior Citizens

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Establishing the cellular and molecular mechanisms which link liver progenitor cells, inflammation and hepatocellular carcinoma

Chief Investigators: Winthrop Professor George Yeoh - University of Western Australia
Associate Investigators:
Dr Roslyn London, Dr Kathy Hardy

Liver disease is an increasing health problem in Australia due to lifestyle practices e.g. alcohol abuse, viral infection and obesity. Liver cancer is a common cause of death among these patients but the underlying changes that result in cancer and which cells are affected is not known. This study tests the idea that inflammatory cells cause genetic changes in liver stem cells to cause cancer.

Aims:  To document genetic changes at the chromosomal level and in specific genes in liver stem cells during their transformation to cancer. This knowledge will help explain why these cells have become uncontrollable.
Supported in the name of: West Coast Eagles Football Club and Patricia New

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