2016 Funded Translational Research Projects

Project: Development of a novel combined radiotherapy / immunotherapy approach in patients with diffuse large B cell lymphoma

Investigators: Dr Eliza Hawkes (Lead Applicant), Associate Professor Hui Gan, Dr Richard Khor, Associate Professor Jake Shortt, Dr Geoff Chong, Professor Andrew Grigg, Dr Nicole Haynes, Professor Andrew Scott, Professor Farshad Foroudi, Professor Michael MacManus, Professor Alexander Dobrovic, Professor David Ritchie
Research Organisations: Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, La Trobe University, Austin Health, Monash Health, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, University of Melbourne
Funding: $2,200,000 over 36 months
Project Description: Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is the most common non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Standard first-line treatment achieves cure in approximately half of patients however 30% die from relapsed lymphoma. Immunotherapies (such as “programmed-cell-death-1-” or ”programmed-cell-death-ligand-1-“ inhibitors; ‘PD1/PDL1i’) fight cancer by blocking barriers to immune-system activity. Immune control of lymphoma provides the prospect of cure, even when chemotherapy has failed. Radiotherapy has striking effects on the immune system and can boost responses to these immunotherapies. The effect of concurrent radiotherapy and immunotherapy in DLBCL is unproven. This study will evaluate the safety and effect of simultaneous radiotherapy plus PDL1i in relapsed DLBCL patients.

Project: Novel approaches for overcoming resistance to therapies for advanced melanoma 

Investigators: Professor Grant McArthur (Lead Applicant), Professor Jonathan Cebon, Dr Mark Shackleton, Dr Andrew Haydon, Dr Andreas Behren, Dr Paul Neeson, Associate Professor Philip Parente, Dr Craig Underhill, Mr Paul White, Dr Shahneen Sandhu, Associate Professor Alexander Dobrovic, Professor Stephen Fox, Dr Karen Sheppard, Professor Rodney Hicks, Associate Professor Kieran Harvey, Associate Professor  Anthony Papenfuss
Research Organisations: Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, The University of Melbourne, Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre, Alfred Hospital, Eastern Health, Border Medical Oncology, Melbourne Melanoma Project Consumer Reference Group, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
Funding: $2,250,000 over 36 months
Project Description: Remarkable progress has been made to significantly extend survival in patients with advanced melanoma. Yet relapse is common and limits the full extent of the potential of these new therapies. Working with the MMP Consumer Group, we have identified the biggest issues in resistance to the new therapies: relapse of BRAF-inhibitors; lack of response of some patients to the new PD1 therapies; and finally control of brain metastases. We will address these issues by running first in clinic trials and integrating the clinical trials with detailed understanding of why some patients respond well and others do not.

Project: Combination of radionuclide 177Lu-PSMA therapy with pembrolizumab in patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer

Investigators: Dr Shahneen Sandhu (Lead Applicant), Associate Professor Michael Hofman, Associate Professor Paul Neeson, Professor Rodney Hicks, Associate Professor Scott Williams, Associate Professor Guy Toner, Professor Ian Davis, Dr Nicole Haynes, Dr Luc Furic, Dr Carleen Cullinane, Dr Ben Tran, Associate Professor Andrew Weickhardt, Dr David Pook, Dr John Violet, Dr Craig Gedye, Mr Mathias Bressel, Associate Professor Lisa Horvath
Research Organisations: Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, The University of Melbourne, Monash University, Austin Health, Monash Medical Centre, Calvary Mater Newcastle, Chris O'Brien Lifehouse, Garvan Institute for Medical Research
Funding: $1,600,000 over 36 months
Project Description: We need to develop new therapies for prostate cancer (PC). Cancer immunotherapies such as anti-program death mAbs (pembrolizumab) have been designated breakthrough treatments for many cancers but have not had success as a single agent in PC. Novel combinations are needed to improve responses in PC. Radiotherapy combined with checkpoint blockade can enhance tumour responses. Most PCs express PSMA. We have developed a radiolabelled therapy (177Lu-PSMA) that delivers radiotherapy to PSMA expressing PCs. We will test the safety and effectiveness of Lu-PSMA in combination with pembrolizuamb and define the group of patients that benefit most from this combination.

Project: The International Acute Myeloid Luekaemia Platform Consortium

Investigators: Associate Professor Andrew Wei (Lead Applicant), Professor Andrew Roberts, Professor Mark Dawson, Associate Professor John Reynolds, Professor David Ritchie, Associate Professor Paul Ekert, Dr Adam Ivey 
Research Organisations: Monash University, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Alfred Health
Funding: $1,500,000 over 36 months
Project Description: Victoria will lead an international effort to develop an innovative and perpetual clinical trial “platform” to screen new targeted drugs for clinical activity in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). The IAPC will link clinical teams from the Australasian Leukaemia and Lymphoma Group (ALLG) and the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) in the UK. The first wave of trials will test novel immunotherapy drugs, inhibitors of cell survival and modulators of gene regulation. Clinical outcomes will be assessed using personalised molecular techniques with unprecedented sensitivity and developed by Victoria's best clinician AML scientists forming a new precision medicine laboratory network.