Research begins into innovative melanoma treatment to provide long-term benefit for patients

Friday 8 March, 2019

A study aiming to understand how we can harness a particular type of immune cell, termed tissue-resident memory T cells, to generate long-term benefit in the treatment of melanoma is one of 11 research projects announced today that will share in $3 million from Cancer Council Victoria.

The study, ‘Long-term immune control of clinically invisible melanoma’, will expand on existing cancer therapies that use the body's immune defence. To date, the mechanisms responsible for long-term benefit from these therapies remain elusive, something that this research project aims to unlock.

The research funding is part of the Cancer Council Victoria’s Grants-in-Aid program that funds high-quality research projects into the treatment, causes, detection and prevention of all cancers.

Associate Professor Thomas Gebhardt from The University of Melbourne said the research will be important for the development and improvement of innovative cancer therapies for melanoma, but also other cancers too.

“We found that tissue-resident memory T cell are important for maintaining long-term control of clinically invisible melanoma cells. Now we will test ways to enhance the function of these immune cells to bolster melanoma control and potentially drive complete eradication of persisting cancer cells,” Associate Professor Gebhardt said.

Other successful Grants-in-Aid projects include:

  • A study into antibody drug conjugates (ADCs), which will guide the development of new treatments for patients with aggressive brain cancer.
  • A possible new vaccine for oral and oesophageal cancers developed by triggering the immune system to protect against cancer cells.
  • Research into differentiation loss – the molecular events that cause colorectal cancer cells to change shape and spread around the body – and whether the loss of two proteins drives this process. The project will aim to identify new treatments which can reverse this process.

More than $50 million in grants has been awarded by the Cancer Council to external researchers over the past decade said Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper, leading to tangible breakthroughs for everyone affected by cancer.

“The projects announced today are varied in their tactics, however they all have the potential to significantly impact how we detect and treat different forms of cancer,” Mr Harper said.

“Leading scientists from Victoria’s cancer and medical research bodies helped to identify these high-quality research projects, which are entirely donor funded and highlight just how important our supporters are in helping us work towards the next cancer breakthrough.”

“As the largest non-government funder of cancer research in Victoria, we have been awarding fellowships and grants to the very best and brightest cancer researchers for more than 60 years and we are proud to be awarding 11 more grants to similarly highly-regarded researchers today.”