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The breakthroughs you're making possible

Tuesday 7 April, 2020

2020 sees 14 exciting new Grants-in-Aid research projects getting underway, funded by people like you.

Cancer Council Victoria uses our supporters’ generous donations in the most effective way possible, so we accept only the best applications. These projects have been chosen for their high probability of a major breakthrough in cancer treatment.

More Victorians are surviving cancer than ever before, with five-year survival now at 69%, and this research will see that number continue to rise. That’s only made possible because of people like you, so thank you. You’re helping fund fascinating and life-saving work – particularly in rare, low-survival cancers.

Learning how to treat an uncommon ovarian cancer

While there is a range of treatments available for some ovarian cancers, the low incidence of ovarian carcinosarcoma (OCS) means patients are often treated with therapies suited for other types, such as high-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC).

Dr Holly Barker and her team, from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, aim to find tailored treatments to make sure people affected by OCS see better outcomes than they currently do. Their project is co-funded by the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.

Their “unique toolbox” of pre-clinical models and screening technology will give insight into potential therapies and allow new treatments to be tested.

The aim? To provide faster and better outcomes for patients.

“We aim to challenge and refine the current treatment strategy for this rare, aggressive cancer,” Dr Barker said.

“From the results of this study, we can learn valuable lessons to benefit many rare cancer patients, who account for a third of all cancer patients.”

With a large and expert team, Dr Barker also expects their project will be very productive – hopefully resulting in better treatments soon for OCS patients.

How ageing affects cancer risk

Dr Ian Majewski

Dr Ian Majewski, Dr Peter Valk and their team, also from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, will be tackling one of cancer’s big questions: why does it affect us more as we age?

Having already learnt that the loss of a certain DNA-repair gene leads to higher risk of cancer, the team will now focus on why. To do this, they will actively stimulate DNA damage, which could help unlock the secret of how ageing shapes cancer risk.

Though focusing on the low-survival Acute Myeloid Leukaemia and colorectal cancer, Dr Majewski says his research will have much broader significance by investigating new ways to prevent DNA damage to lower the risk of cancer.

“Cancer is typically seen as an inevitable consequence of ageing,” Dr Majewski said. “We will develop sophisticated monitoring approaches to aid early detection of DNA damage. This occurs in all forms of adult cancer, meaning the approaches we develop will have broad applicability.”

This research could see fewer Victorians in the future being diagnosed with cancer. You’re helping make this a reality.

Using immunotherapy to take on all cancers

Immunotherapy has become one of the most promising new cancer treatments in recent years. But despite its encouraging results in haematological cancers (affecting blood, bone marrow and lymph nodes), success in solid cancers has been limited – until now.

Dr Paul Beavis and his team at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre will use an innovative, novel strategy to overcome the barriers to immunotherapy’s success in solid cancers. They hope to develop a very promising immunotherapy known as CAR T cell therapy to be used against these cancers – which Dr Beavis said would be a major advance.

“Since CAR T cells have the potential to be used in almost all types of cancer, strategies to enhance their activity will have a broad scope in the number of patients that can potentially benefit,” Dr Beavis said.

With Dr Beavis and his team bringing enormous experience and expertise to this project, your generous funding could see exciting results soon.

Dr Paul Beavis

A completed project’s exciting results: How you helped researchers answer a decades-old question

A recent breakthrough in immunotherapy could see the development of better therapies for millions of people affected by cancer around the world.

The findings of the research, which was co-led by Dr Adam Uldrich and funded by Cancer Council supporters, was recently published in the esteemed journal Science.

It is a major advance in understanding how our bodies protect us from disease. Dr Uldrich and the team have figured out how gamma-delta T cells – an important part of the immune system – detect cancer and other infections.

The team will now focus on looking at how to apply their findings to different cancers and other diseases.

“There is a global effort to examine how the immune system can be harnessed to recognise and kill cancer,’ Dr Uldrich said. “Immunotherapy will become a front-line treatment against cancer. Our expertise in gamma-delta T cell biology is allowing us to lead this investigation.”

None of this vital and life-saving research would be possible without generous supporters like you. Thank you – we hope you know what a huge difference you are making through your support for cancer research.