NHMRC announces latest funding for oncology research projects

The NHMRC has announced new funding for numerous oncology research projects including studies into the use of CAR T-Cell therapy for solid cancers, projects to investigate ways to overcome tumour resistance and novel therapies to kill these dormant tumour cells.

Oncology and cancer studies were among 248 innovative research projects to receive a share of $239 million from the Ideas Grant scheme.

Associate Professor Renea Taylor

The recipients include Associate Professor Renea Taylor of Monash University, whose grant of $1,744,586 will fund a project aimed at developing novel CAR T cell therapy approaches to treat prostate cancer.

Professor Shane Grey at the University of NSW receives $924,922 for a project that will harness a novel immune check point for cancer killing. “The Project Team aims to test the idea that a patients T cells can be ‘tuned’ to increase the ability of their own immune system to find, infiltrate, and kill pancreatic cancer cells. This may be beneficial as a standalone therapy or most likely, work in synergy with emerging immune therapies” his proposal states.

Associate Professor Vicki Whitehall at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, receives $689,561 to fund a project entitled: “OPN as an Immune Checkpoint in KRAS Mutant Colorectal Cancer”.

“Subgrouping of colorectal cancers based on gene changes can predict response to therapy. Our research project specifically focuses on bowel cancers with a KRAS mutation that are usually resistant to currently available therapies. We are using cutting edge technology to identify novel approaches to therapy that will improve outcomes for these patients,” she writes in her proposal.

Dr David Herrmann of the University of NSW receives $599,808 to fund a project titled: Single-cell intravital imaging guides anti-fibrotic therapy to improve standard-of-care treatment in triple negative breast cancer.

“Tissue fibrosis is a well-known risk factor for breast cancer initiation, progression and prognosis,” he writes. “It is commonly found in aggressive cancers, such as triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). Fibrosis is also known to protect cancer cells from treatment including chemotherapy, which is the standard-of-care in TNBC. In this proposal we will test the hypothesis that reducing tissue fibrosis can improve standard-of-care performance and outcomes in pre-clinical models of TNBC.”

Dr Laura Edgington-Mitchell of Melbourne University receives $588,593 to investigate the role of legumain in oral cancer pain. “We have identified an enzyme that promotes cancer pain, and drugs that block its activity are effective at relieving pain. We will test the contribution of this enzyme to cancer spread and determine whether drugs blocking its activity are effective at preventing spread and alleviating pain.”

Associate Professor David Croucher of the University of NSW receives $674,218 for a project to target metastatic triple-negative breast cancer with a selective oncogenic JNK inhibitor.

“While JNK is a potent oncogene in TNBC, there are no effective JNK-targeting therapies due to the fact that this signalling pathway regulates numerous cellular functions,” his proposal states. “Leveraging a recent screen of 114,000 compounds, we have identified a novel molecule, called K12, that specifically inhibits the tumour promoting activity of JNK. Now, we will further the preclinical evaluation of K12, to generate a world-first drug capable of preventing metastatic outgrowth in TNBC.”

Associate Professor Yeesim Khew-Goodall of the University of South Australia receives $1,121,242 to fund research into overcoming chemoresistance in triple negative breast cancer.

Associate Professor Nicole Verrills at the University of  Newcastle receives $597,824 to investigate a dual approach to activate a tumour suppressor for breast cancer therapy.

Associate Professor Paul Neeson of Melbourne University receives $1,624,510 for a project that will target ‘cold tumours’ with triple therapy.

Other oncology projects that receive Ideas Grant funding include:

  • Professor Wayne Phillips, Melbourne University,  $1,115,454 – Submucosal glands as the origin of Barrett’s oesophagus and oesophageal adenocarcinoma
  • Professor Robin Anderson, La Trobe University, Victoria, $768,784 – Breast Cancer Dormancy – Mechanisms and Development of Rational New Therapies
  • Dr Mitchell Lawrence, Monash University, $952,194 – ComBATing lethal prostate cancer with combination Bipolar Androgen Therapy
  • Dr Jennifer Devlin, Melbourne University, $849,454 – Targeting dysregulated transcription in cancer through Cyclin-Dependent-Kinase 11
  • Professor Helen Rizos, Macquarie University, $1,134,001 – Restoring anti-tumour immunity in melanoma
  • Associate Professor Belinda Parker, Melbourne University, $658,032 – Boosting cellular immunogenicity to combat metastatic cancer

Full details of all grant results are available at the NHMRC website

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