Cancer Council NSW has awarded nearly $6million to 15 ground-breaking cancer research projects. The grants help fund future breakthroughs in cancer research, with 15 of Australia’s leading research teams paving the way for new ways to treat the disease.
The project grants were announced and awarded at Cancer Council NSW’s annual Research Awards, this year held in the evening of 1 March at Westpac’s Barangaroo tower in Sydney.
“We are excited to be able to fund pioneering new ways to treat cancer – our project grant recipients are all extraordinary scientists who do essential and highly innovative work,” said Dr Jane Hobson, Research Grants Manager at Cancer Council NSW.
“The broad range of projects that we fund – across many types of cancers and aspects of the cancer journey – shows Cancer Council NSW’s commitment to work across every area of every cancer,” Dr Hobson said.
“One key theme that runs through the grants is innovative strategies to enable cells to fight back against cancer. For example, enabling the immune system to help it attack cancerous cells has become an increasingly significant area of cancer research,” Dr Hobson said.
One of the awarded projects will explore how to empower T cells in their fight against lymphoma. T cells are a type of immune cell that can recognise and kill tumour cells – but when tumours are too big, these T cells become inactive. With special technology, the research team at UNSW Sydney, led by Professor Kat Gaus, will aim to rescue T cells, so they can keep fighting cancer cells.
Another awarded project is testing the impacts of genetically modified immune cells to cure cases of leukaemia, which is currently incurable. Using a new ‘PiggyBac’ technology, a University of Sydney research team led by Dr Ken Micklethwaite is developing ways to make cell and gene therapy simpler and more broadly available. The team has developed a simplified way for generating gene modified leukaemia and lymphoma-specific immune cells and is developing a process of translating this to clinical trials and expanding the technology to target other tumours.
And a third project in the space will investigate the effectiveness of targeting a specific immune protein in the treatment of osteosarcoma (a cancer of the bone with poor survival rates). Based on how the osteosarcoma responds, this will help the team at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, led by Dr Maya Kansara, identify new strategies of targeting the immune system in treatments.
Another ongoing theme is how to overcome resistance to chemotherapy medications. A University of Sydney research team led by Associate Professor Greg Neely is studying the molecular ‘signatures’ that define resistance to gemcitabine, a medication used in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. If the team can overcome molecular resistance to gemcitabine they may be able to broaden this understanding to other chemotherapy drugs to make them more effective, a step that would revolutionise cancer treatment in Australia and around the world.
“Many of the research teams we have funded this year are world leaders in their domain, and are positioned to rapidly translate their findings into practice. We look forward to seeing the results of this vital research.”
“We’d also like to thank our supporters – as an organisation that is 96 per cent community funded, these grants truly have been made possible by the community”, concluded Dr Hobson.