Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre welcomes the announcement of the 2016 Victorian Cancer Agency grants, which include an investment of $6.39m in Peter Mac research projects and clinical trials.
One of the major grants announced today will help to advance Peter Mac’s long-term focus on immunotherapy – which is fast emerging as a fourth effective form of treatment for cancer alongside chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery.
Peter Mac researchers will trial a newly developed vaccine in patients who have recently had surgery to remove a common and deadly form of cancer, colorectal cancer (CRC), with the aim of stimulating their immune system to stop the tumour regrowing.
While CRC is Australia’s 2nd leading cause of cancer-related death, researchers also believe the vaccine will be suitable for patients with Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma (AdCC), a much rarer but very difficult to manage cancer type.
“We know that with these particular cancers, patients who have a weak immune system at the time of their surgery have a much greater risk of their tumour returning,” says Professor Robert Ramsay, who is a Peter Mac Group Leader within the Immunology Program.
“It is hoped vaccine-based treatments that initiate a specific immune response, or re-awakens a latent one, will help more patients to remain cancer free in the years following surgery.”
Following the vaccine, antibodies that ‘remove the brake’ from the immune system (checkpoint inhibitors) and have proven effective in other forms of cancer will be used to further stimulate the patient’s immune system. The aim is to target cancer cells that have an abundant supply of the Myb protein, which is known to drive both CRC and AdCC.
Together with his research group, Professor Ramsay is an international leader in studying how the Myb protein drives several cancer types.
CRC causes about 4,000 deaths in Australia each year, and one in every four patients do not survive five years. Patients with AdCC have a better five-year prognosis with conventional therapy, but most do not survive beyond 15 years.
Professor Joe Trapani, (pictured) Peter Mac’s Executive Director of Cancer Research and Head of the Cancer Immunology program, said the trial was one of a number of promising developments in the emerging field of immunotherapy.
“Immune-based therapies represent a new paradigm in the treatment of cancer, and the approach is fast emerging as a fourth effective way of tackling cancer, along with surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy”, Professor Trapani says.
“Peter Mac has made many contributions in immunotherapy research and our capacity will expand further with our move to the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre. It is exciting to be at the forefront with this new vaccine, which was wholly developed by Professor Ramsay and his team at Peter Mac.”
The full list of Peter Mac grant recipients and a summary of their funded research is as follows:
- Dane Cheasley – Improving early detection and management of women at risk of developing interval breast cancer
- Elizabeth Christie – Clinical translation of a newly discovered transcriptional fusion involving the multidrug resistance transporter (ABCB1) in recurrent drug resistant ovarian cancer
- Dale Garsed – A unique cohort of long-term survivors of high-grade serous ovarian cancer: Molecular insights into exceptional responses to chemotherapy
- Jacqui Frowen – A prospective study of swallowing and voice outcomes after treatment for small-cell lung cancer
- Lev Kats – Development of personalised therapy for leukaemia based on a specific genetic mutation
- Enid Lam – Evaluation of tumour heterogeneity in the initiation and maintenance of AML and following response to therapy.
- Kylie Gorringe – Personalised risk evaluation of ductal carcinoma in situ
- Mark Shackleton – Translating melanoma discoveries from the laboratory to the clinic
- Rob Ramsay – Vaccination against Adenoid cystic and Colorectal Carcinoma Using MYB cDNA -VACCUMeD Clinical Trial – Immune Modulatory Therapy in Colorectal and Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma
- Wayne Phillips – Targeting mutant p53 in oesophageal cancer.