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Game-changing cancer research projects awarded $3.3 million lifeline

Monday 27 February, 2023

Thirteen cutting-edge cancer research projects have been awarded a $3.3 million lifeline from Cancer Council Victoria in February.

Cancer Council Victoria’s Grants-in-Aid and Postdoctoral Fellowship programs funds high-quality research projects into the causes, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne and the Royal Women’s Hospital are participating in a ground-breaking international study to determine whether removing the fallopian tubes alone is as effective as risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy (RRSO) in preventing ovarian cancer.

Due to Cancer Council Victoria’s pivotal funding, clinical trials will be able to take place in Melbourne this year. This will be part of a study with well-over a thousand ovarian cancer patients around the world.

“To prevent ovarian cancer, many people with a BRCA1/2 pathogenic variant undergo a risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy (RRSO). While this procedure is effective in preventing ovarian cancer, it causes infertility and surgical menopause with potential short and long-term health impacts,” lead researcher Professor Martha Hickey said.

“If salpingectomy alone is effective in reducing ovarian cancer risk, this would have a profound impact on the short and long-term health of these patients, who could then avoid surgical menopause,” Prof Hickey added.

Since 2015, Cancer Council Victoria has invested more than $40 million in life-saving cancer research and is the largest not-for-profit funder of cancer research in Victoria.

“For well-over a decade, Cancer Council Victoria has heavily invested in understanding the causes of cancer, understanding how we better prevent cancer, and in understanding how we can develop better treatments of cancer,” Cancer Council Victoria’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Todd Harper AM, said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted health and medical research, with the economic consequences of the pandemic likely to be felt by the research sector for years to come, compromising a capacity for breakthroughs and innovation that can improve outcomes and save lives.

“Throughout the pandemic, Cancer Council Victoria has continued to prioritise the funding of lifesaving cancer research,” he said.

Monash University, The Royal Women’s Hospital, the University of Melbourne, La Trobe University, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Nutt Lab, and the Colorectal Oncogenomic Group are the institutions that were awarded grants.

Mr Harper added that as the sector recovers from COVID-19, $3.3 million will provide much needed financial investment in cancer research and will aid the retention of expertise within the sector by supporting Melbourne’s cancer researchers.

Researchers from La Trobe University in Mildura are co-designing and co-developing with researchers from the Netherlands, the first-ever peer-support online psychosocial intervention program for people living in rural communities who have a rare type of cancer.  

“Rare cancers are not that rare - one in five cancer diagnoses involves a rare cancer. Yet patients who live in rural and remote areas with a rare cancer have a more difficult, often lonelier illness trajectory, and worse medical and psychosocial outcomes,” lead researcher Associate Professor Evelien Spelten said.

“Rurality exacerbates the complex trajectory rare cancers patients are already in, because of difficulties accessing treatment and tailored supportive care.
“In our first year of funding, together with people with a rare cancer and clinicians, we aim to design and develop a peer-led online supportive care intervention specifically aimed at those living rurally. The aim is that we can improve quality of life for rural patients diagnosed with a rare cancer,” A/Prof Spelten said.

“Investing in high-quality research is essential to make sure Melbourne research institutions retain the best and brightest researchers. It supports our mission to improve cancer outcomes and save lives,” Mr Harper said.

“Our grants are donor funded and highlight just how important our supporters – the generous Victorian public – are in helping us work towards the next cancer breakthrough,” Mr Harper continued.

Professor Hickey said that the funding was pivotal to her and her research team.

“Without this grant, we wouldn’t have been able to commence potential life-saving clinical trials this year, and this funding allows us to continue for three years,” Prof Hickey said.

This year, eleven new research grants have been awarded under Cancer Council Victoria’s Grants-in-Aid program:

Extending the Victorian Cancer Registry role into the familial cancer testing process

A/Prof. Alison Trainer (CIA), Prof. Sue Evans, Dr Maria Bechelli, A/Prof. Stephanie Best, Dr Michael Bogwitz, Dr Ainsley Campbell, Dr Rachel DelaHunty, Dr Marion Harris, A/Prof Yoland Antill 

Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology 

Using liquid biopsies to optimise prostate cancer radionuclide therapy  

A/Prof Arun Azad (CIA), Dr Heidi Fettke, Prof Michael Hofman, Dr Tu Nguyen-Dumont

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Monash University

Defining and targeting stem-like precursor T cells to improve cancer therapy

Prof Axel Kallies (CIA), A/Prof Shahneen Sandhu 

University of Melbourne, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Supporting patients with a rare cancer living in rural and remote communities  

A/Prof Evelien Spelten (CIA), Prof Carlene Wilson, Dr Saskia Duijts, Dr Eva Yuen, Dr Nienke Zomerdijk

La Trobe University

Uncovering novel mechanisms of treatment resistance in lethal bowel cancers

Prof Helen Abud (CIA), Dr Rebekah Engel, Prof Paul McMurrick, A/Prof Ralf Schittenhelm, Dr Caroline Lum, Dr Stuart Archer

Monash University and Cabrini Health

Salpingectomy with delayed oophorectomy as alternative to salpingo-oophorectomy to prevent ovarian cancer (TUBA WISP II)

Prof Martha Hickey (CIA), Dr Antonia Jones, Dr David Wrede, Dr Frances Petry, Professor Stephen Fox, Professor Tom Jobling, A/Prof Alison Trainer, Dr Joanne de Hullu 

University of Melbourne & Royal Women’s Hospital 

Using BAT to aBATe lethal prostate cancer

Dr Mitchell Lawrence (CIA), Prof Mark Frydenberg, Dr Susanne Ramm, Prof Anthony Joshua 

Monash University 

Elucidating the impact of TCR docking topology on gene-modified cell therapies  

Dr Nicholas Gheradin (CIA) and Prof Jamie Rossjohn

University of Melbourne 

ctDNA to monitor non-genomic evolution in Peripheral T-cell lymphoma

Dr Paul Yeh (CIA), Prof Jake Shortt, Dr Dineika Chandrananda

Monash University, Monash Health and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre 

A novel gene-editing approach for enhancing CAR T cell therapy in solid tumours

Prof Phillip Darcy (CIA) and A/Prof Paul Beavis 

University of Melbourne, Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology 

Deconvoluting the complexity of lipid metabolism for prostate cancer therapy

A/Prof Renea Taylor (CIA), Prof Matthew Watt, A/Prof David Pook 

Monash University 

Support cancer research

Cancer Council Victoria’s Grants-in-Aid program is funded by generous Victorians. Your support today will help Victorian researchers discover news ways to prevent, detect, treat and care for cancer.

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