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You’re helping to kick-start cancer immunotherapy

Wednesday 15 July, 2020


Associate Professor Shankar Siva (pictured above) has been announced as the most recent recipient of the Colebatch Clinical Research Fellowship, giving the experienced researcher time to dig deep into how immunotherapy can be used to treat cancer more effectively.

A/Prof Siva, a radiation oncologist and researcher at Peter McCallum Cancer Centre, will be exploring how he can use a high-precision, high-intensity radiotherapy technique called stereotatic ablative body radiotherapy (SABR) to “kick-start” the body’s immune response.

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

If the research is successful, it could see immunotherapy, which has improved treatments for haematological cancers such as those affecting blood, bone marrow and lymph nodes, broadened to help even more people affected by cancer.

The exciting part? With A/Prof Siva’s extensive experience investigating SABR treatment, his five-year project will be going straight to clinical trials for patients with several types of cancer, including lung, kidney, prostate and breast.

This means it might not be long until A/Prof Siva’s work is having a real impact on people affected by cancer – and it couldn’t happen without your support.

The Colebatch Fellowship is a $1.5 million grant funded entirely by supporters like you. It’s awarded to the most outstanding cancer researchers in Victoria who show the drive and vision needed to achieve the next cancer breakthrough.

And A/Prof Siva, an internationally recognised leader in radiation oncology who was offered the Fellowship in December 2019, more than matches up.

His many achievements and previous pioneering work on SABR treatment mean this entirely donor-funded project could soon see some exciting results.

“This fellowship will allow me to maximise my ability to execute these novel clinical trials and lead associated laboratory-based studies with two overarching goals,” A/Prof Siva said.

These goals are to test the safety and efficacy of combining SABR with certain existing immunotherapy drugs, and to investigate biomarkers in the blood and tissue which may predict immune responses in patients receiving combination therapy.

With many patients, particularly those with solid cancers, such as lung, breast and colon, not benefitting from current immunotherapy approaches, A/Prof Siva says his project’s aims are focused on one key outcome.

“It is my goal to improve outcomes for patients with advanced solid cancers in the era of immunotherapy,” he said.

This could help advance the entire field of immunotherapy and change clinical practice – and that’s thanks to generous people like you, who have made this Colebatch Fellowship possible.

The Fellowship was named in memory of paediatrician Dr John Colebatch, a pioneer in the use of chemotherapy in Australia in the 1950s.

John Colebatch (centre) in the 1970s with (L to R) Geoff Tauro, Margaret Horan, Wendy Bissett Johnson, Tessa Spatt, Rae Matthews and Alison Crawn. Photo supplied.

Dr Colebatch rebelled against the notion in medicine at the time that cancer could not be beaten. His belief, vision and hard work have seen cancer survival increase enormously since his landmark cancer trial in 1948.

Though he died in 2005 aged 96, the entirely donor-funded Fellowship established in his name two years later means Dr John Colebatch’s dedication to improving cancer treatments lives on.

The support of kind donors like you is crucial to ensuring work like A/Prof Siva’s can continue to improve patient outcomes into the future. These exciting and highly promising research projects make sure we continue to work towards a cancer free future, and the Colebatch Fellowship is a crucial part of that – and it’s thanks to people like you.

A/Prof Siva said he is looking forward to using this Fellowship to make his own contribution to the continuing improvement of cancer treatment and creating better outcomes for people affected by cancer.

“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,” A/Prof Siva said.

Thank you making the Colebatch Clinical Research Fellowship possible. Find out more about the Fellowship, or read more about Dr John Colebatch’s pioneering work.

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