Nine Sydney academics have been awarded more than $4.6 million to trial new life-saving cancer treatments and online education tools to inform cancer carers.
The Cancer Council NSW grants were announced this week at the Council’s annual research awards night in Sydney.
Professor David Gottlieb, Professor Barbara Fazekas de St Groth, Professor Jacob George, Professor Peter Hersey, Associate Professor Jeffery Holst and Dr Umaimainthan Palendira, from the Sydney Medical School, were each awarded a three-year Project Grant, valued at around $450,000.
Dr Jessamy Tiffen, from the Centenary Institute, was also awarded $347,000 for a Project Grant, while Associate Professor Ilona Juraskova, from the Faculty of Science, was awarded a three-year Priority-driven Collaborative Cancer Research Grant (co-funded with Cancer Australia), valued at $593,000.
Professor Roger Reddel, from the Children’s Medical Research Institute at Westmead, was awarded $988,000 to build online research infrastructure to enable clinicians to choose the right cancer treatment for individual patients.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Duncan Ivison congratulated the researchers on their achievements, adding that their important work to advance patient care and treatment outcomes would directly improve the lives of countless cancer patients and their families.
As part of his grant, Professor Gottlieb will conduct the first human trial of a new immunotherapy treatment for fungal infections that occur after a bone marrow transplant.
Bone marrow, or blood stem cell, transplants, may be used to treat leukemia and lymphoma, however fungus infections occur in 10 percent of these patients. Mortality rates, even with treatment, are very high given the body’s immune system is weak for up to 12 months’ after the transplant.
Professor Gottlieb's team have developed a method to generate immune cells (lymphocytes) that fight fungus and will now test whether giving these along with standard treatments will reduce infection-related death. This will be the first trial of this type ever performed in humans.
Professor George will investigate Sorafenib, the only drug for the treatment of advanced liver cancer, which only extends survival by just 12 weeks given patients develop resistance to the drug. He hopes to target cancer stem cells using a chemical antibody to reduce resistance. If this approach is successful, the study will have immediate implications for improving the outcomes for patients with liver cancer.
Professor Fazekas de St Groth will use her grant to predict responses to cancer immunotherapy, provide new insights into how these therapies work and how therapeutic effectiveness can be enhanced, while Associate Professor Juraskova will conduct a randomised control trial to test online education modules designed to facilitate effective family carer involvement in oncology consultations and patient care.