2015 Funded Projects

2015 Funded Translational Research Projects

2015 Funded Health Services Research Projects

2015 Funded Translational Research Projects

Project: Super-enhancer templated RNAs as predictive biomarkers of BET inhibitor sensitivity in prostate and colorectal cancer

Investigators: Dr Ron Firestein (Lead Applicant), Dr Arun Azad, A/Prof Helen Abud, A/Prof Paul McMurrick, Prof Gail Risbridger, Dr Simon Wilkins
Research Organisations: Monash University, Hudson Institute of Medicine Research, Cabrini Health
Funding: $2,000,000 over 36 months
Project Description: Prostate and colorectal cancer are the two most common malignancies in Australia. Despite advances in early screening, there is significant need to bring new treatments to patients. Herein, we provide strong rationale for use of a targeted class of epigenetic modulators, termed BET inhibitors, in a subset of prostate and colorectal cancers. Our preliminary results in preclinical models show that BET inhibitor sensitivity is predicted by the presence of distinct enhancer RNAs. We aim to translate our findings directly to patients by characterising the utility of enhancer RNAs to predict BET inhibitor response in a biomarker-informed clinical trial setting.

Project: Understanding the Biological Basis of Cancer Cachexia

Investigators: Professor Nick Hoogenraad (Lead Applicant), A/Prof Hamsa Puthalakath, Dr Amelia Johnston, Prof Andrew Scott, A/Prof John Silke, Prof Ulf Eriksson
Research Organisations: La Trobe University, Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, Karolinska Institutet (Sweden)
Funding: $2,466,000 over 36 months
Project Description: Cancer cachexia, a wasting condition that is one of the worst complications of malignancy, is responsible for up to 25% of cancer deaths and has no current effective treatment. We have developed antibodies which effectively block this condition in preclinical models. This proposal aims to assess this new treatment in patients and to develop blood and imaging biomarkers that can identify cachexia.

Project: Targeting mutant p53 in oesophageal cancer

Investigators: Prof Wayne Phillips (Lead Applicant), A/Prof Lara Lipton, A/Prof Michael Michael, Dr Jayesh Desai, A/Prof Niall Tebbutt, Dr Nicholas Clemons, Dr Cuong Duong, Dr Ben Markman, Dr Andrew Haydon
Research Organisations: Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, University of  Melbourne, The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Austin Health, Monash Health, Alfred Health
Funding: $1,853,674 over 36 months
Project Description: This project will test the effectiveness of a new drug (APR-246) for the treatment of oesophageal cancer. APR-246 targets a gene mutated in over 80% of oesophageal cancers and has potent anti-tumour activity in laboratory models. It will be tested as a single agent, and in combination with standard chemotherapy, in patients with advanced oesophageal cancer. We will also undertake laboratory studies to better select patients who will most benefit from APR-246, to establish a blood test to monitor patient response and disease recurrence, and to identify new drug combinations that increase the effectiveness of APR-246.

Project: Vaccination against Adenoid cystic and Colorectal Carcinoma Using MYB cDNA - VACCUMeD Clinical Trial - Immune Modulatory Therapy in Colorectal and Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma

Investigators: Professor Robert Ramsay (Lead Applicant), Dr Jayesh Desai, A/Prof Benjamin Solomon, A/Prof Michael Michael, A/Prof Phillip Darcy, Mrs June Cory, Dr Jordanne Malaterre, Prof John Zalcberg, Dr Emma Link
Research Organisations: Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Monash University
Funding: $1,343,655 over 36 months
Project Description: The tumour cells in patients with bowel cancer and certain head and neck cancer harbour a particular factor that orchestrates multiple pro-cancer processes. We have found that the aberrant production of this factor allows the specific targeting of these cancers by a novel vaccine. Using this vaccine in combination with the blockade of the recently discovered immune system check-point regulators we have developed robust pre-clinical evidence for symptom-free cancer control and cures. In this new project we aim to advance the vaccine into patients to test its safety and as a secondary aim to monitor for evidence of vaccine efficacy. If successful, this specific vaccine has broad applicability and more widely the concept is readily transferable to other cancers.

Project: Augmented immune targeting of a myeloma-specific tumour antigen

Investigators: Associate Professor Jake Shortt (Lead Applicant), Prof Andrew Spencer, A/Prof John Reynolds, Prof Ricky Johnstone, Dr Hang Quach, Dr George Grigoriadis, Dr Anna Kalff, Dr Tiffany Khong, Dr Patricia Walker, A/Prof David Powell
Research Organisations: Alfred Health, Monash Health, Monash University, Australian Centre for Blood Diseases, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, The University of Melbourne, St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne, Peninsula Health
Funding: $1,974,342 over 36 months
Project Description: Myeloma is an incurable cancer of the bone marrow plasma cell. Recent advances have been made using treatments that stimulate the immune system to remove these cancerous plasma cells. We have developed a treatment called MDX1097 that recognizes and binds only to cancerous plasma cells. Cells coated with MDX1097 then become visible to the immune system. Thalidomide is very useful in myeloma as it kills cancerous plasma cells while also stimulating the immune system. We will combine a thalidomide derivative with MDX1097 in a clinical trial for Victorian myeloma patients.

2015 Funded Health Services Research Projects

Funded in partnership with the Victorian Integrated Cancer Services

Project: The CRISP Trial: an RCT of a risk assessment tool to implement risk-stratified colorectal cancer screening in primary care

Investigators: Prof Jon Emery (Lead Applicant), Prof Mark Jenkins, Prof Finlay Macrae, A/Prof Marie Pirotta, Dr Driss Ait Ouakrim, Dr Jennifer Walker, Dr Fiona Walter, Prof Ingrid Winship, Dr Patty Chondros, Dr Adrian Bickerstaffe, Mr Richard De Abreu Lourenco, Prof Lyndal Trevena
Research Organisations: The University of Melbourne, Royal Melbourne Hospital, University of Cambridge, University of Technology Sydney, University of Sydney
Funding: $300,000 over 36 months
Project Description: There is a mismatch between people’s use of bowel cancer screening tests through faecal occult blood testing or colonoscopy and their individual risk of bowel cancer. Building on the work of our NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence (CRE) on Optimising Colorectal Cancer Screening, this trial will test the effect of an electronic risk assessment tool, implemented in general practice, on use of the most appropriate screening test for bowel cancer based on a person’s risk of developing the condition in the next five years.

Project: Better quality of life for cancer patients through early e-health program

Investigators: Prof Terry Haines (Lead Applicant), Prof Helen Truby, Dr Catherine Huggins, A/Prof Judith Bauer, Ms Maryanne Silvers, Ms June Savva, A/Prof Helena Frawley, Prof Julie Barnett, Mr Paul Cashin, Mr Liang Low
Research Organisations: Monash University, Monash Health, Cabrini Health, University of Queensland, University of Bath (UK)
Funding: $299,981 over 36 months
Project Description: Patients with stomach or oesophageal cancer have very poor prognosis. Tailored nutrition care provided to patients prior to commencing cancer treatment improves health outcomes. Currently, health services have limited capacity to deliver effective preadmission nutrition care, resulting in patients commencing cancer treatment in a very poor nutritional state. This study examines if using an innovative standardised e-platform enables a dietitian to effectively deliver a tailored very early nutrition intervention to improve body weight, body muscle and fat stores and Quality of Life of those newly diagnosed with stomach or oesophageal cancer.

Project: Shared care of Colorectal cancer survivors – A randomised controlled trial of hospital-based follow up versus shared hospital / community follow up for survivors of colorectal cancer

Investigators: A/Prof Michael Jefford (Lead Applicant), Prof Penelope Schofield, Prof Jon Emery, Prof Eva Grunfeld, Prof Alexander Heriot, Dr Andrew Martin, Mr Richard De Abreu Lourenco, Mrs Dorothy King
Research Organisations: Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Swinburne University, The University of Melbourne, University of Toronto (Canada), University of Sydney, University of Technology Sydney
Funding: $300,000 over 36 months
Project Description: After finishing treatment for bowel cancer, survivors can experience a range of issues – with ongoing side effects, emotional, psychological and practical concerns. Most people have follow-up with their cancer specialists (surgeon or oncologist). However, people often report needs that are not met. Follow up with general practitioners (GPs) is a reasonable option for some survivors. A combination of follow up with cancer specialists and GPs (called shared care) may offer a range of advantages and may be cheaper than the standard follow up model. This study will compare standard follow up to a shared care model for bowel cancer survivors

Project: Development of an Ethical Framework and Resources for Decision-making in the Application of Genomic Sequencing and Personalised Medicine in Paediatric Oncology

Investigators: Dr Maria McCarthy (Lead Applicant), Prof Lynn Gillam, Dr Francoise Mechinaud, Mr Richard De Abreu Lourenco, Prof Sylvia Metcalfe, A/Prof Paul Ekert, Dr Rachel Conyers, Dr Peter Downie, Dr Michael Sullivan
Research Organisations: Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Royal Children's Hospital, The University of Melbourne, University of Technology Sydney, Monash Children's Hospital
Funding: $250,839 over 36 months
Project Description: Many rare and relapsed childhood cancers are difficult to cure. A new treatment approach called ‘personalised’ medicine involves whole genome sequencing with the aim of identifying specific drugs to target the tumour. This is an exciting new field but there are many complex issues. In particular there are ethical questions about which patients should be offered genomic sequencing, who should pay for this and for potentially expensive experimental drugs, and how risks should be managed. This study will identify preferences of families and healthcare professionals develop an ethical framework to help decision-making and develop much-needed informational and educational resource.

Project: A Randomised Phase 2 study to examine feasibility of Standardized, Early Palliative Care for patients with Advanced Cancer

Investigators: A/Prof Jennifer Philip (Lead Applicant), Prof Peter Hudson, Prof Jon Emery, A/Prof Linda Mileshkin, Ms Anna Collins, A/Prof Brian Le, A/Prof Vijaya Sundararajan, Ms Susan Hanson, A/Prof Caroline Brand, Dr Sibilah Breen, Dr Sam Mancuso, Dr Sonia Fullerton, Ms Soula Ganiatsas
Research Organisations: St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne, Centre for Palliative Care, The University of Melbourne, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne Health, Cancer Australia, Palliative Care Research Network of Victoria
Funding: $296,513 over 36 months
Project Description: Patients with advanced cancer have unmet symptom burden and information needs. Early evidence reveals referral to palliative care appears to address these needs. Yet gaps in understanding remain, particularly around the timing of palliative care for specific cancers, and its impact upon the patient, family and health care system. This study will explore introducing standardized early palliative care at designated time points for patients with advanced lung, breast, prostate and brain cancers. We anticipate early palliative care will improve support and experiences of care for patients, and reduce the current variations in quality cancer care.

Project: Telehealth for Rural Palliative Cancer Care: A prospective controlled pilot study of video-consultations for patients & carers of a domiciliary palliative care service

Investigators: A/Prof Peter Poon (Lead Applicant), Dr Leeroy William, Dr Michael Franco, Dr Jackyn Yoong, Dr Beisi Zhang
Research Organisations: Monash Health, Monash University, West Gippsland Health
Funding: $141,000 over 36 months
Project Description: Regional Australia desperately needs palliative care (PC) expertise for cancer patients. Telehealth uses telecommunications technology to deliver health services over distances. There is surprisingly little research in telehealth to support bedside community PC. Video-consultation by metropolitan PC physicians to home/bed-bound patients during nursing visits has great potential to model an invaluable process to support PC needs throughout our ageing rural population. Our study addresses a viable paradigm to deliver earlier specialist palliative care to rural cancer patients especially those with difficult-to-manage symptoms. Working together with rural medical practitioners, this will lead to improved care planning, carer support and multidisciplinary management.