State's top medical researchers win grants
Cancer Council Victoria today announced over $3.2m will go towards high-quality research into the causes and prevention of cancer, as well as clinical research that focuses on diagnosis and treatment.
The Cancer Council Victoria supports research in Victorian universities, hospitals and medical research institutes, as well as in its epidemiology, behavioural and tobacco control research centres. This research has significantly contributed to the declining incidence of some cancers and the overall increase in cancer survival in Victoria from 48% in 1990 to well over 60% at present.
The grants have been awarded to top cancer research laboratories and clinics across the State, as oncologists, geneticists, pharmacologists, immunologists and scientists begin to embark on new research.
Project grants are highly competitive. Just 12 grants have been offered to commence in 2010 after the Cancer Council Victoria received 115 applications, all of which were put through a rigorous peer review process.
Exciting research as part of next year's grants incudes work into developing more effective vaccines for the treatment of melanoma, genetic links to breast cancer, as well as research into the effectiveness of the cervical cancer vaccine recently made available to women aged 12-26.
These ‘grants-in-aid' are a fundamental aspect of cancer discovery and building research capacity in the State, according to Cancer Council Victoria Director, Professor David Hill, AO.
"This type of investigator-initiated cancer research is certainly an integral part of our work contributing to our mission to lead the fight against cancer," Prof Hill said.
"Often the best science is done when researchers pursue a question about which they have an insatiable curiosity and drive to find an explanation.
"The criteria for the awards are relevance to cancer, excellence, the value of research and the researcher's capacity to successfully complete the research described in the application," he said.
The prominent and successful recipients of the awards include:
Dr Colin Clyne, Prince Henry's Institute of Medical Research, LRH-1 in breast cancer $196,500 (2010-2011) This research centres on a protein known as "LRH-1" and aims to identify the cellular and molecular mechanisms that drive breast cancer growth and spread, so that new treatments can be developed to combat the disease.
Dr Lisa Ebert, Prof Jonathan Cebon, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Mechanisms that inhibit anti-tumour immunity in melanoma patients, $270,750 (2010-2012). This study will analyse the regulatory T cells in melanoma patients by assessing the way in which they interact with cancer cells, in the hope it will lead to the development of more effective vaccines for the treatment of melanoma.
Prof Peter Fuller, Dr Ann Drummond, Prince Henry's Institute of Medical Research, Granulosa cell tumours of the ovary, $300,000 (2010-2012). These studies will identify the genetic changes that lead to the development of granulosa cell tumours of the ovary and will enable improvements of predicting which tumour is prone to late relapse.
A/Prof Ygal Haupt, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Exploring new ways of activating the body's most important defense against cancer - the p53 tumour suppressor, $300,000 (2010-2012). For improved cancer therapy, this study will aim to trigger p53 to kill cancer cells - this new regulatory mechanism will be studied to test its relevance to human cancers.
Prof Rodney Hicks, A/Prof Grant McArthur, Dr Jayesh Desai, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, The role of glucose in response to cancer treatment, $294,750 (2010-2012). This important research will examine mechanisms by which cancer cells become "addicted" to mutated genes in the cancer. Addicted cancers can be successfully treated by turning off the effects of the mutated gene and this study will determine if glucose metabolism is central to this response.
Dr Louise Purton, A/Prof Kong Wah Ng, St Vincent's Institute of Medical Research, How does Vitamin A regulate bone and blood cells? $300,000 (2010-2012). These studies will determine how vitamin A receptors contribute to blood and bone cell production, which may lead to better treatment of diseases such as leukaemia.
Prof Julian Rood, Prof Martin Brown, Dr Glen Carter, Monash University, Development of an innovative approach to treating cancer, $288,750 (2010-2012). This project involves the innovative use of bacterial spores to treat solid tumours. It is hoped this approach will lead to a novel, very targeted approach to the treatment of solid tumours.
Prof Jamie Rossjohn, Prof James McCluskey, Monash University, Natural killer T cells and cancer progression, $297,750 (2010-2012). This project is focussed on natural killer T cells, which facilitate immunity to a variety of tumours. The study will aim to understand how natural killer T cells interact with tumour Antigens.
Dr Stavros Selemidis, Dr Elizabeth Williams, Dr Grant Drummond, Monash University, New therapeutic targets for cancer, $300,000 (2010-2012). This research will test new drugs that block the activity of a protein (that promotes the development of new blood vessels in tumours) with a view to stopping the development of new blood vessels for the potential treatment of cancer.
A/Prof Melissa Southey, Prof David Goldgar, University of Melbourne, Applying new technology to find the breast cancer gene on chromosome 4, $277,437 (2010-2012). This study will apply new sequencing technology to highly selected individuals from highly selected families in order to identify this gene and translate our research findings into clinical practice.
Dr Trina Stewart, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Using a novel anti-CCL2 antibody to enhance anti-tumour therapy, $300,000 (2010-2012). This study will allow us to develop better combination therapies that can be translated into the clinic and improve outcomes for cancer patients.
A/Prof Sepehr Tabrizi, Dr Julia Brotherton, Dr Matthew Stephens, University of Melbourne, Effectiveness of HPV vaccine in reduction of vaccine types circulating among young women, $80,250 (2010). This study will monitor the effectiveness of the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine for women aged 18-20 which will determine if HPV types targeted by the vaccine are reducing in prevalence.
The state Cancer Councils work in partnership with the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), which provides the Cancer Councils with assessments and rankings.
Support for these new cancer research projects highlights a familiar trend taken by the Cancer Council, who continue to place the upmost importance on research as a means of cancer control and discovery. Over the last two years alone, Cancer Council Victoria has spent in excess of $42 million on cancer research. Funding for this research is a combination of charitable donations and competitively won grants from various funding sources.
"The Cancer Council's board make the final decision when awarding these grants, acting on advice from the Cancer Council's Medical and Scientific Committee which includes representatives of all institutions and disciplines having a stake in cancer research in Victoria," Prof Hill said.