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Funding Boost for Immunotherapy Research Project

Wednesday 17 June, 2020

Cancer Council Victoria awards $1.5 million grant to improve immunotherapy outcomes.

A cancer treatment that ‘kickstarts’ a patient’s own immune response will receive a boost of its own, with a $1.5 million grant from Cancer Council Victoria.

The funding means cancer patients with advanced solid cancers could have access to a more precise, highly effective treatment within the next five years.

Cancer Council Victoria’s $1.5 million Colebatch Clinical Research Fellowship recipient has been announced today as Associate Professor Shankar Siva, a radiation oncologist and scientist at Peter McCallum Cancer Centre. Assoc Prof Siva will use the five-year fellowship to investigate the use of a high precision technique called stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy (SABR) to ‘kickstart’ patients’ immune response, maximising the effects of immunotherapy.

Assoc Prof Siva’s research will include clinical trials investigating outcomes in patients with lung, kidney, prostate and breast cancers.

Todd Harper, CEO of Cancer Council Victoria said the fellowship was named in memory of Dr John Colebatch to mark his contribution to the Cancer Council and his work in the field of paediatrics. Dr Colebatch pioneered the use of chemotherapy in Australia in the 1950s to treat and, ultimately, cure childhood leukaemia.

“Thanks to a generous bequest we are thrilled to help fund ground-breaking research like that of Associate Professor Siva and provide Victorian patients with the opportunity to access the latest in cutting-edge treatment to extend survival and, potentially, cure their cancer,” he said.

Over the five-year fellowship, Assoc Prof Siva’s research will be broken into two stages:

  1. Establishing the safety and clinical efficacy of combined SABR and PD and PD-L1 inhibitors;
  2. Identifying predictive blood and tissue-based biomarkers of response for patients receiving these combined therapies.

Solid cancers currently account for the majority of cancer-deaths worldwide.

Assoc Prof Siva said the fellowship is critical for him to complete key studies and help pinpoint key factors in successful combination therapy.

“Immunotherapy is a major advance in cancer therapy, with the potential to improve outcomes in a range of different cancers. However, methods to improve the effectiveness of immunotherapy are urgently needed. This is where radiotherapy fits in,” he said.

“I hope my research will significantly benefit cancer patients by providing them with access to effective, precision SABR + immunotherapy treatment, as well as identifying patients who are most likely to respond to this treatment.”

Cancer Council Victoria supports more than 90 biomedical researchers with grants, fellowships and scholarships. For more information, please visit