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Blood based biomarkers to define treatment response to targeted therapies in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia patients

Lead researcher

Dr Rishu Agarwal, Dr Philip Thompson, Prof Constantine Tam, Prof Sarah-Jane Dawson and Prof Mark Dawson

Dr Rishu Agarwal, Dr Philip Thompson, Prof Constantine Tam, Prof Sarah-Jane Dawson and Prof Mark Dawson

University of Melbourne – The Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology

Tumour type:

Years funded

Project description

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) is the most common form of leukaemia and is currently treated by chemoimmunotherapy that can have significant side effects and is often ineffective in patients with complex genomics. We are conducting a phase 2 clinical trial of recently developed targeted drugs (ibrutinib and venetoclax) on high-risk CLL patients, and also aim to establish a non-invasive bloodbased test to identify patients that will best respond to these novel drugs.

What is the need? 

Novel targeted therapeutics have significantly improved the outlook of high-risk CLL patients. Most have been developed as continuous treatments, which is costly and results in cumulative risk of toxicity and inducing resistance. We predict that pre-treatment analysis will help us understand how patients will respond to treatment, allowing them to switch to more effective treatments earlier, reducing the risk of side effects and overall costs to patients and society.

I want to continue my research to identify blood-based biomarkers and potential resistance mechanisms that can help us deliver best treatment to our patients.

What are you trying to achieve?

We aim to identify blood-based non-invasive biomarkers for disease monitoring in lymphoma patients, as well as to identify resistance mechanisms to targeted therapeutics and establish best management for CLL patients.

How important is this funding?

Receiving this funding will enhance my ability to conduct collaborative group studies, engage with industry and laboratory researchers, manage teams of investigators and lead haematology research within Australia, as well as participating at a global level. It will have a significant impact on society by funding research that will help establish more effective treatment for lymphoma patients and finding novel ways for disease monitoring.

Project timeline

Timeline 2021 2022 2023
Characterization of baseline genomic lesions      
DNA quantification and correlation with clinical parameters and other MRD markers      
Identification of resistance mechanisms to ibrutinib and venetoclax therapy and functional analysis of selected candidate mutations      

Award / Duration

3 years