2016 Funding Recipients

Dr Catherine Granger
Victorian Cancer Agency Allied Health and Nursing Clinical Research Fellowship
The University of Melbourne
Cancer and Physical ACtivITY (CAPACITY) Trial: Implementation of a self-management program in the lung cancer model of care
My vision is to improve the quality of survival of people with lung cancer through implementing exercise into practice. The majority of people with operable lung cancer now survive yet they suffer significant physical hardship. New models of care are urgently required to minimise morbidity for this large and vulnerable group. This project will test the benefit of an exercise and education self-management program for people undergoing surgery for lung cancer to improve quality of life and physical function. I am a physiotherapist clinician researcher with an international profile as a leader in my field of exercise and lung cancer.

Associate Professor Clare Scott
Victorian Cancer Agency Medical Clinical Research Fellowship
The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute Of Medical Research
Pre-clinical models of ovarian cancer sub-types and other rare cancers to enable new therapeutic approaches
Survival rates for most rare cancers have not improved as they have done for more common cancers. Many more Australians diagnosed with certain sub-types of ovarian cancer and other rare cancers will die from their disease. Our aim is to predict which treatment approaches will more successfully match individual cancers by better understanding the "wiring" or control of these rare cancers. Newly developed pre-clinical laboratory models for ovarian cancer can fast-track analysis of the cancer with greater precision. We are poised to extend this approach to other rare cancer types.

Dr Nicholas Clemons
Victorian Cancer Agency Mid-Career Research Fellowship
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
A new paradigm for targeting mutant p53 tumours
Over half of all cancers contain mutations in a gene called TP53, also known as the "guardian of the genome". Mutation of TP53 provides tumour cells with a growth and survival advantage, and leads to resistance to chemotherapy and poor outcomes for patients. We have identified a potential "Achilles heel" in cancers with TP53 mutations that can be targeted with new and existing drugs. In this project I will establish a new paradigm for treating tumours with TP53 mutations that will be applicable to a large number of patients across all types of cancer.

Dr Charbel Darido
Victorian Cancer Agency Mid-Career Research Fellowship
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Novel therapeutic approaches against squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck 
Human head and neck cancer is a devastating disease with poor survival rates. We have recently discovered the genetic defects that trigger head and neck cancer development. This proposal will explore novel treatment strategies aimed at targeting the genetic defects. Our results will lead to new personalised therapies for head and neck cancer patients that are likely to improve their outcomes.

Dr Luc Furic
Victorian Cancer Agency Mid-Career Research Fellowship
Monash University
Targeting MYC driven prostate cancer by combining targeted radionuclide therapy with ribosome biogenesis inhibition as a new therapy in castration resistant prostate cancer and neuroendocrine prostate cancer
Currently prostate cancer is well managed clinically in its early stages. Unfortunately, in a significant proportion of patients the disease will recur and eventually develop into a lethal form known as "castration resistant prostate cancer". Current targeted therapies in prostate cancer have been mostly focused on inhibiting the activity of the receptor for the male hormone testosterone, the androgen receptor. In this project we will test if the inhibition of the protein synthesis machinery in the cell in combination with radionuclide-targeted therapy is a viable novel therapeutic approach to treat advanced prostate cancer.

Dr Belinda Parker
Victorian Cancer Agency Mid-Career Research Fellowship
La Trobe University
Using immune markers to individualise therapy for patients with triple negative breast cancer
Of all breast cancer types, triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a particular challenge for clinicians. This is because targeted therapies for TNBC patients are not available and over 20% develop deadly cancer spread within the first few years of diagnosis, despite being treated with chemotherapy. This proposal will validate novel immune biomarkers as predictors of chemotherapeutic benefit before and during treatment. Identifying biomarkers that predict therapeutic response could not only spare non-responsive patients the side effects of chemotherapy but also inform on patients that may benefit from additional therapies currently being trialled, such as immune activating therapies.  

Dr Tracy Putoczki
Victorian Cancer Agency Mid-Career Research Fellowship
The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute Of Medical Research
A new therapeutic opportunity to improve patient response to current treatments for colorectal and pancreatic cancers
Colorectal and pancreatic cancers are among the deadliest cancers in Australia, for which we still have only limited treatment options for patients with advanced disease. Both of these cancers produce soluble molecules called cytokines that provide the instructions a cancer needs to grow. We are interested in a cytokine called Interleukin-11 that we have shown is important to help cancers to continue to grow during chemotherapy treatments. Together with our industry partner, CSL, we are exploring how a new antibody that targets Interleukin-11 can overcome tumour resistance to chemotherapy, with the aim of increasing patient survival and quality of life.

Dr Sarah Best
Victorian Cancer Agency Early Career Seed Grant
The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute Of Medical Research
Pre-clinical investigation of non-small cell lung cancer
Lung cancer remains a deadly cause of cancer-related death in Australia, with limited research tools available to study the most aggressive sub types of this disease. This project aims to address this major gap by developing sophisticated lab (pre-clinical) models of lung cancer, and investigating the efficacy of novel treatments in preventing tumour growth. These studies will combine immunotherapy with the targeting of key cell signalling pathways (PI-3K) in squamous cell carcinoma. Using a pre-clinical adenocarcinoma model, we also aim to identify 'cancer biomarkers' using a blood test. These models have foreseeable impact on early detection and treatment of lung cancer.

Dr Laura MacPherson
Victorian Cancer Agency Early Career Seed Grant
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Understanding the role of HDAC-3 in acute myeloid leukaemia stem cell survival
Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) is sustained by stem cells that possess the ability to self renew indefinitely and regenerate after therapy. We have previously performed a screen of over 1000 epigenetic proteins in AML stem cells to identify new targets important for stem cell survival. From this, the lead candidate was an epigenetic enzyme named HDAC-3. In this proposed study, we will use sophisticated cellular, molecular and genomic approaches to understand how HDAC-3 is critical to AML stem cell suvival. Our findings will support use and development of new inhibitors that specially target HDAC-3 and eradicate AML stem cells.