Research begins into drug-resistant cancers in children

Thursday 23 April, 2015

A team of Melbourne researchers has begun investigating how to save more children with a leukaemia that is aggressive or drug-resistant. The study “Tailored therapies for blood cancers” is one of 13 research projects being announced today that will share in $3.4 million from Cancer Council Victoria.

Cancer Council Victoria’s Grants-in-Aid program funds high-quality research projects into the treatment, causes, detection and prevention of all cancers. Other successful projects are:

  • A study into how “suicide cells” can be switched on in blood cancers.
  • An exploration of potential new treatments for melanoma through a newly discovered family of cancer-causing molecules.
  • Research into how a recently discovered form of cell death could be initiating and advancing bowel cancer.

Grants-in-aid recipient Dr Michaela Waibel, of Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, said her team’s investigation into aggressive and unresponsive childhood leukaemia would not be possible without financial support from Cancer Council Victoria.

“The phenomenon of drug resistance is a longstanding problem in treating patients with blood cancer and this is certainly the case in children with so-called high-risk leukaemia. We have been testing a combination therapy approach in a small number of samples from children with a sub-type of leukeamia and the results are very promising,” Dr Waibel said.

“We hope we can build on this research and eventually discover ways to overcome drug-resistance and improve outcomes for cancer patients of all ages.” Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said over the past decade the charity had awarded almost $50 million to external researchers.

“For more than 60 years Cancer Council Victoria has been awarding fellowships and grants to encourage the very best in cancer research,” Mr Harper said.

“The projects announced today have been selected based on their excellence and relevance, and have the potential to impact all forms of cancer. They are also entirely donor funded and highlight just how important our supporters are in helping us continue the fight against cancer.”

Cancer Council Victoria’s 2015 grants-in-aid recipients:

  • Using a novel antibody target in melanoma – $93,089 – Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute
  • Understanding how LRH-1 controls breast cancer - $300,000 – MIMR-PHI Institute of Medical Research
  • Harnessing the immune system against all cancers - $300,000 - Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
  • Creating a new target in the chemosensitisation of tumour cells - $200,000 – St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research
  • Clarifying the role of the aldosterone receptor in breast cancer - $300,000 - MIMR-PHI Institute of Medical Research
  • New ways to treat refractory haematological malignancies - $300,000 - Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
  • Treating prostate cancer through a mechanism for cancer suppression - $300,000 – Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology, University of Melbourne
  • Investigating the role of a virus in types of lymphoma - $300,000 – The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
  • Defining how a novel protein promotes breast cancer - $99,919 – Monash University
  • How does necrotic cell death contribute to bowel cancer? - $299,478 - The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
  • Using “hippo pathway molecules” to treat melanoma - $300,000 - Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
  • Switching on “suicide genes” in lymphoma cells using non-chemo drug combinations - $299,073 - Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
  • Tailored therapies for blood cancer - $299,415 - Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre