Caring for the Caregiver

ACRF is pleased to continue a connection with CancerAid – the app which assists cancer patients and their caregivers. One of these caregivers is Lisa, whose father was diagnosed with Stage IV tongue cancer. She shares her heartbreaking story below.

“I wasn’t prepared for the impact of my father’s cancer. The story of my father’s cancer is now our family story. Our story begins when my father was diagnosed with Stage IV base of the tongue cancer.

It is a story I continue to tell, so that other families have the knowledge and the power to help each other.

Our story is a seven-year journey of my father living with chronic pain, losing his ability to eat and drink, spending the last four years of his life surviving solely on a peg tube with severe nerve
damage.

Nerve damage so severe that his entire body would twitch and nothing could help him, nothing could alleviate his pain.

Nerve damage so severe I would walk into my parent’s home and hear my father screaming in pain rendering us all helpless. Nerve damage so severe that my father was housebound the last two years of his life, missing countless family moments.

My mother was my father’s primary caregiver throughout his entire illness, and she did this with unconditional love, dignity and grace. If love could have saved my father he would be here right now. Even as I am writing this, I am not sure how my mother was my father’s sole caregiver for so long.

My mother is the definition of strength and courage while surrounded by heartbreak and human suffering. But caring for a loved one strains even the most resilient, loving people.

When an oxygen mask descends in front of you on an aeroplane, the first rule is to put your own mask on prior to assisting anyone else.

Only when we first help ourselves can we effectively help others and that rule also applies to caregiving. The life of a caregiver is not easy, but when your needs are taken care of, the person you are caring for will benefit as well. Below are some tips on taking care of YOU while caregiving for a loved one.”

Lisa offers the following advice to caregivers going through a similar experience to hers:

1. Set realistic goals – prioritize, make lists and establish a daily routine. Start saying no to requests that are draining, such as hosting holiday meals.
2. Be honest with yourself. Ask ‘am I capable of taking care of my loved one all by myself? Do I need to hire outside help or consider assisted living?’
3. Get connected – Find out about caregiving resources in your community. A support group can provide validation and encouragement, as well as problem-solving strategies for difficult situations.
4. Set personal health goals – Including goals to establish a good sleep routine. Find time to be physically active, eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water.
5. See your doctor – Get all recommended vaccinations and screenings. Make it a priority to see your GP. Make sure to inform your doctor that you are a caregiver.

The CancerAid app is available for free to download and use on Android and Apple devices.
If you, or someone close to you, are diagnosed with cancer and you wish to use the app, Click Here

Dreamlab delivers a new way of making sense of cancer

Research by the Garvan Institute of Medical Research has revealed a new way to group cancers based on their DNA ‘signatures’.

This discovery, among others, is based on data analysed through Project Decode on the DreamLab app, which was fuelled by the growing phenomenon of citizen science.

The findings, posted on BioRxiv (a preprint server) are the product of analyses of 3750 genomes spanning eight different cancer types.

Researchers have found a new way to ‘cluster’ cancers together, grouping individual cancers in a way that could indicate the best treatment for each one.
While the findings are preliminary, it is hoped that this new way of classifying cancers could bring the medical world a step closer to realising the potential of personalised medicine – providing treatment and monitoring that’s targeted to each individual patient.

DreamLab, an innovation created by Garvan and The Vodafone Foundation in Australia, works by harnessing the idle processing power of users’ smartphones to solve complex cancer problems and send the results back to Garvan for analysis. Over 300,000 people have downloaded DreamLab and joined the ‘citizen science’ movement.

Dr Mark Pinese, Senior Research Officer at Garvan, is encouraged by what these initial findings could mean for future cancer treatment.

“By using the power of DreamLab to crunch genomic data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), our team of researchers uncovered a new way of looking at mutations in cancer,” said Dr Pinese. “This is an interesting finding as in the clinic it could help us determine which type of cancer a patient has, and the best treatment for that cancer. This is a key goal of personalised medicine.”

 From body parts to DNA signatures

Traditionally, people think of cancer as being specific to a body part – such as lung cancer or breast cancer. However, researchers now know that it is predominantly the DNA changes in an individual’s cancer, not its tissue of origin, which sheds light on how to best treat and manage it.

Scientists are still in the early stages of understanding exactly how to read a cancer’s DNA for clues as to how best to treat it, and how aggressive it is. So far, researchers have mostly looked for DNA changes in one or a few genes at a time– but the new DreamLab-enabled research takes a more sophisticated approach, looking instead for changes in groups of 7-20 genes.

The DNA-protein connection: uncovering hidden ‘cliques’ 

Genes inside people’s cells code for proteins, and proteins carry out the work of the cell – so gene changes can affect how proteins work. Importantly, proteins are constantly interacting with one another as they carry out the cell’s work.

To achieve this, the researchers used a novel technique, called EPICC (Experimental Protein Interaction Clustering of Cancer), to cluster cancer patients based on DNA mutation profile, leveraging knowledge of protein-protein interactions to reduce noise and amplify biological signal.

The researchers wanted to know whether groups of interacting proteins – which they call ‘cliques’ – might hold the key to how best to treat cancers. They reasoned that the cancers with changes in the same clique of proteins would be controlled in similar ways, and might therefore respond similarly to treatments.

The Garvan team matched the gene changes in 3750 cancers with the corresponding protein changes and interactions across a massive network of about 20,000 proteins.  This revealed 141 different clusters, which were agnostic of the cancer’s tissue of origin.

Dr Catherine Vacher, is the co-first author on the paper.

“We used an algorithm that can detect communities in social networks to identify groups of proteins that interact with one another – which we call ‘cliques’ – that were altered in the cancers,” Dr Vacher said. “We see a future where one day a genomic test could classify a patient’s cancer and give their oncologist insight into the best treatments for that patient.”

 Citizen science doubling the speed of research

Through the assistance of The Vodafone Foundation’s DreamLab app, Garvan was able to harness the idle processing power of thousands of smartphones across Australia, and more recently in New Zealand and the UK, to halve the time it would have otherwise taken to crunch the data in Project Decode.

“With one in two Australians set to be touched by cancer directly at some stage in their life, we see Garvan’s research as vital to improving the health of the nation,” said Megan Retka-Tidd, Head of The Vodafone Foundation. “Garvan’s initial findings are truly exciting and point to the power of handheld technology, combined with leading scientists, to help speed up cancer research. Collectively, DreamLab users donated sixty million hours to Project Decode to speed up this research.”

Dr Swetansu Pattnaik, is the co-first author and bioinformatician at Garvan.

“Citizen Science, such as the contribution of thousands of people to DreamLab, is truly astounding,” Dr Pattnaik said. “While these are early findings, we look forward to the global medical community poring over, critiquing and adding to them.

“We are already working to translate this clustering approach into clinical practice in the future.”

 Project Demystify launches on DreamLab

Coinciding with the release of the initial Project Decode findings, the next research project – Project Demystify has launched on DreamLab.

Project Demystify seeks to understand, or connect the dots, between physical human traits – hair colour, height, blood pressure, and, at times, symptoms of disease – and their genetic basis.

To achieve this, existing data on individuals’ traits (which will be sourced from clinical information and wearable devices such as fitness wristbands) will be correlated with individuals’ genetic information.

However, to do this correlation is not simple. Complex calculations are required to determine correlations between different traits. These calculations need huge amounts of computing power, and it is these calculations that will be computed via Project Demystify on the DreamLab app.

People are encouraged to download DreamLab from the App Store and Google Play Store.

The DreamLab app was built by Transpire, with Amazon Web Services Australia generously powering the DreamLab server.

– ends –

This release originally appeared on the Garvan Institute’s website.

Julie Organises Golf Day Fundraiser

We often read about the importance of listening to our body and to not neglect having health checks.  It is sound advice and something which I ignored until it was nearly too late.

In 2017, I was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer and my doctor said a delay of another month would have meant less than a year to live. I’m happy to report that surgery was successful, and I have now been in remission for just over a year.

Experiencing first-hand the impact of cancer, I decided to get involved in raising awareness about bowel cancer and fundraising. I am hooked on golf and know the game is a great way to reach out to other people so a Ladies Golf Day was organised for September at the Glades Golf Course, Gold Coast.  Several other enthusiastic golfers joined me and the day was a huge success.  $4,000 in donations was collected for ACRF.  Plans are also confirmed for another golf fundraising event in December.

I am confident that scientific research will someday result in an enduring end to cancer.  In the meantime, please learn from me – don’t put off taking advantage of cancer checks!

Saigon Boys Turn Up the Music for ACRF

I’m Duc, the band leader and manager of the Saigon Boys Band, a Vietnamese pop group established in 2015. We perform mostly at local clubs in south-western Sydney during the weekends.

I have family members and friends who’ve passed away from cancer and the other band members all know of someone who has been affected by cancer.  Because of this, we believe the most important thing is to find a medication or vaccine that will ensure a cancer-free future for everyone.  We wanted to help raise money for more cancer research, and we felt the best way for us to do this was putting on a concert.

As a group that’s been performing for a few years, hosting a charity event wasn’t too difficult for us to organise.  We decided on a date in September, the location, and then posted details of the performance on Facebook.  We set up in Freedom Plaza – choosing an outdoor pedestrian mall in Cabramatta’s CBD so weekend shoppers could take a break, sit and listen to our music, enjoy the good weather and learn about ACRF.  Our stage was decorated with ACRF balloons and we had volunteers placed with donation boxes.  There was a great turnout of people on the day, and we were very happy that so many in the community made contributions. The event was a great success.

I would encourage others to fundraise.  Supporting ACRF and their cancer research work is the best way to stop more people dying every day of cancer.

 

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Chris to run 12 marathons in 12 days for ACRF

Chris Glacken’s dedication to supporting ACRF is inspiring. He is an incredibly selfless individual and is committed to raising $100,000 for cancer research. We could not be more appreciative. His most recent event, the Alanis 12, will see him run 12 marathons in 12 days.

“Both my parents have lost their battle with cancer within the last two years. They were both the same age, diagnosed with the same stage of cancer. Mum passed away only a few months ago in May this year.

I made a promise to my father a few days before his passing that I would continue the battle against cancer. Many other friends, including my sister and brother in law, have also been touched by cancer this year.­­

It was cruel to witness something so heartbreaking and feel so helpless.

I was inspired to create the Alanis 12 as the first Australian event that will challenge anyone who would like to have a crack at completing all 12 marathons. I named the event after my guardian angel, Alanis Morissette, whose music I listen to every time I run.

When I stand at the starting line of my events and brief the participants, it always amazes me to see how many put their hand up when asked if they have been affected by cancer in some way. I believe that if you give people a purpose, they will help – and those who run with me prove this.

It’s tough running so far and so often but nothing compared to what others are suffering through cancer.­

We are running for those who can’t.”

 

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Jola Adventures in the Arctic for Cancer Research

“My name is Jola, and I have a huge taste for adventure. In the past, this has led me to climb mountains and cycle extreme distances, but to fundraise for ACRF I decided on something a little different: hiking in sub-arctic conditions through Iceland, Norway and Greenland.

Last year, I lost a beautiful friend Michelle to cancer. After her passing, I had one enduring thought that I could not shake: that I could be next.

How is it possible to beat this terrible disease that so many people are affected by? When you lose so many people to this terrible disease, cancer takes on a personal quality. As a scientist, what made sense to me was focusing on raising money for cancer research, with the dream that one day a world without cancer would be possible.

This was the decision that lead me to my life-changing arctic adventure.

Did I mention that I do not like the cold at all, that I’m scared of heights, and that I’ve never even walked with crampons before? Sub-arctic temperatures are no joke – with conditions averaging around -6 degrees Celsius, the icy winds relentlessly beat at you, and your hands and toes start to freeze. It takes so much energy just to function, not to mention what it takes to push yourself physically and mentally through challenges.

But, with my goal in mind, I hiked land and glaciers, scrambling along the uneven frozen terrain. I tried my hand (literally) at ice climbing, scaling frozen glaciers at 700m altitude. I kayaked in between icebergs and even snorkelled through freezing, dark water. Although challenging doesn’t even begin to cover how this felt, in the end, I pushed myself completely out of my comfort zone. It was amazing.

Despite all the physical and emotional challenges that were brought before me, I carried with me a sense of drive that was seeded in all those who were trusting me to complete this trip. I was proud to feel like what I was doing was more important than the immediate challenges before me – it was something important for everyone. And in the end, I felt like a superhero.

 ACRF has one singular goal: To outsmart cancer. By providing the brightest minds in Australia the tools they need to make ground-breaking research discoveries, we believe this is possible. Please, donate today to support people like Jola and their immense contribution to moving forward into a cancer-free world.

Some breast cancers have a pause button

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia. It claims the lives of eight women every single day.

Tumours that are contained to the breast are usually treatable. Five-year survival rates have risen to an impressive 90% over recent years. But for those diagnosed with aggressive types of breast cancer, there are fewer treatment options and still much that we don’t know.

It’s the spread of breast cancer — or metastasis — that makes it deadly.  When cancerous cells from the tumour break away and move to other parts of the body, treatment becomes much more difficult and less effective.

Preventing metastasis

A study from Garvan Institute and US researchers has shed new light on the harmful spread of breast tumours. It provides insight into new approaches we might use to stop their growth and spread.

ACRF has provided three grants to Garvan since 2003 for cancer research, totalling $6.1M.

When cancer cells break away from the primary tumour, they travel elsewhere and eventually grow into robust secondary tumours.

The new research has uncovered a natural process: the primary tumour can signal the immune system to follow the breakaway cells and ‘freeze’ them. In this paused state, the cells can’t grow effectively — thereby stopping secondary tumour growth in its tracks.

Although this research was done on mice, there are indications the same process may also happen in people.

Tumour signalling may lead to new cancer treatments

We still don’t know why some tumours pause their own spread; but we know it’s a promising avenue for future treatments.

“We want to understand exactly what the tumour is releasing to activate this immune response, and how immune cells are targeting the secondary sites,” concludes Dr Christine Chaffer who co-led the research. “In principle, all of these steps present therapeutic opportunities that could be used to stop a cancer from developing any further.”

If we can exploit this naturally occurring signalling process in breast cancer, we may eventually find the controls that pause other types of cancer as well. These findings suggest exciting new treatment approaches and avenues for further research.

Broadly considered, these findings suggest a future where people can live with cancers they might otherwise die from.

This article originally appeared on the Garvan Institute website.

Study Finds Spider Peptide Slows Melanoma Growth

An international study has discovered that a compound extracted from the Australian funnel-web spider is highly effective at killing melanoma cells, as well as cells taken from facial tumours on Tasmanian devils.

It is believed to be the first time the spider-derived peptide has been found to have anti-cancer properties in melanoma and Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) cells. The findings mean the compound could potentially become the basis for a new treatment for DFTD and melanoma in future.

The study was led by QIMR Berghofer researchers Dr Maria Ikonomopoulou and Dr Manuel A. Fernandez-Rojo, along with collaborators from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland.

ACRF has awarded QIMR Berghofer $8.4 million in grants since 2002 for cancer research.

‘Very promising’ early results

The researchers tested the peptide – which is very similar to the known Gomesin peptide from the Brazilian spider Acanthoscurria gomesiana – in a series of laboratory experiments.
Dr Maria Ikonomopoulou, who led the study, said the early results were very promising.

“We decided to test this spider compound because it was very similar in chemical composition to a compound from a Brazilian spider, which was already known to have anti-cancer properties although it had never been tested in devil facial tumour cells,” Dr Ikonomopoulou said.

“In our laboratory experiments, we found that the Australian funnel-web spider peptide was better at killing melanoma cancer cells and stopping them from spreading than the Brazilian spider peptide. Additionally, the Australian spider peptide did not have a toxic effect on healthy skin cells.

“When we tested the Australian spider peptide on human melanoma cells in the laboratory, it killed the majority of them. We also found the peptide slowed the growth of melanomas in mice.”
Dr Ikonomopoulou and Dr Fernandez-Rojo also tested the compound on cells taken from facial tumours on Tasmanian devils.

“Similar to the effect in melanoma cells, we found that the Australian spider peptide killed the DFTD cells, but didn’t affect the healthy cells as much,” she said.

“We also experimented with different versions of the compound to try to find which one would be best at killing the DFTD cells,” she said.

“When we altered two particular amino acids in the peptide chain, the compound became even better at destroying the DFTD cells”.

“This research is still at a very early stage, but these results are very promising. There are many years of work ahead, but we hope that this compound could in the future be developed into a new treatment for melanoma and DFTD.

“These findings prompt us to continue investigating the potential of bioactive compounds derived from venom to treat melanoma, liver diseases, obesity and metabolism, as well as against the Tasmanian devil tumours in collaboration with the biopharmaceutical industry.”

Dr Ikonomopoulou and Dr Fernandez-Rojo are now based at the Madrid Institute for Advanced Studies, IMDEA-Food.

The findings have been published recently in two separate studies in the journals Scientific Reports and Cell Death Discovery.

This article originally appeared on the QIMR Berghofer website.

Discovery paves way for improved ovarian cancer care

Melbourne scientists have revealed a better way to identify which patients should respond to powerful ovarian cancer drugs called PARP inhibitors (PARPi), resolving an important question in ovarian cancer care about why some patients respond to the drugs, while others do not.

The findings add to a vital ‘checklist’ that helps match ovarian cancer patients with the right therapy for their cancer. Being able to offer targeted treatment is crucial for patient survival rates which have seen little improvement over the past 30 years.

The study, published in Nature Communications, was led by Professor Clare Scott, Dr Olga Kondrashova, Dr Matthew Wakefield and Dr Monique Topp from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute; in collaboration with Associate Professor Alexander Dobrovic from the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute and LaTrobe University ­­­School of Medicine.

ACRF has provided $5.5 million in grants to fund research to the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute since 2001.

At a glance

A new ovarian cancer study could help to better match patients with the appropriate therapy for their cancer.

The research identified subtle but important epigenetic differences among ovarian cancer patients that could influence their response to treatment.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach for treating ovarian cancer so being able to offer more personalised care is crucial for patient survival rates which have seen little improvement over 30 years.

Subtle yet significant differences

Professor Scott said it was well documented that PARPi could only work when the cancer’s DNA repair process wasn’t functioning as it should.

“For the past two decades, it was thought that ovarian cancer patients whose cancer’s BRCA1 genes are ‘silenced’ – or methylated – had faulty DNA repair and therefore were good candidates for PARPi treatment. Yet the puzzling thing was we were unable to predict the patients for whom the drugs would work,” she said.

Dr Kondrashova said the ‘Eureka moment’ came when the researchers discovered epigenetic differences in some BRCA1 methylated cancers. These subtle yet significant differences explained why some patients would respond to the drug, while others would not.

“It was suddenly clear that all patients in the group could not be treated the same way. We discovered that some of the patients had what could be described as ‘incomplete’ BRCA1 methylation where not every gene copy was ‘switched off’.

“As it turns out, incomplete methylation isn’t enough to cause faulty DNA repair in cancer cells which explains why PARPi isn’t going to be effective.

“At the same time, those in the group who had ‘complete’ BRCA1 methylation in their cancer were responsive to PARPi confirming to us that the treatment should not be discounted,” Dr Kondrashova said.

‘Snap shots’ at key points

Professor Scott said the findings were a result of methodologies developed by Associate Professor Dobrovic at the Olivia Newwton-John Cancer Resarch Institute that could accurately determine the degree of BRCA1 methylation, as well as quality data sets and sophisticated laboratory models called patient derived xenografts (PDX models).

“PDX models are powerful because they mimic the complexity of human tumours at key stages as the cancer progresses. Our models are developed with cancerous tissue donated by patients from the Royal Women’s Hospital, the Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Peter Mac at the time of their cancer diagnosis, or prior to and after treatment with PARPi.

“Like ‘snap shots’ in time, PDX models allow us to accurately track how each patient’s cancer is changing or responding to treatment. The success of this approach shows that a long-term, detailed analysis is invaluable for providing better patient care.”

No ‘one size fits all’

Professor Scott said understanding the various reasons for PARPi resistance was an invaluable approach for developing better, more personalised patient care.

“There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach for ovarian cancer care. We need to keep making these strides in understanding so we can better match patients with the right treatment for their cancer,” she said.

The research was conducted in affiliation with the University of Melbourne and was funded by the Cancer Council Victoria Sir Edward Dunlop Research Fellowship, the Stafford Fox Medical Research Foundation, the Victorian Cancer Agency, Cancer Australia, the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Clinical trials information

Professor Scott’s laboratory is currently involved in studies linked to two clinical trials on PARP inhibitors – the EMBRACE study and the SOLACE 2 study. Find out more about these trials on the Cancer Council Victoria website and at the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry.

This article originally appeared on the WEHI website.

Image courtesy of WEHI. Research led by (L-R) Dr Olga Kondrashova and Professor Clare Scott is helping to match ovarian cancer patients with the right treatment for their cancer.

ACRF connects with CancerAid: The app that assists cancer patients and their caregivers

Anxiety and fear. From the very first moment after a cancer diagnosis, through treatment and beyond, these are some highly experienced emotional responses recorded by people living with cancer.

Initially, there is often little time to process the shock and suddenness of a diagnosis, especially whilst having to make highly stressful decisions about which course of treatment to take.
In the months following the initial diagnosis, most patients find it difficult to absorb and retain information with so much going on.

The CancerAid app was designed to alleviate anxiety and fear. Developed and launched after a comprehensive amount of research, the app’s features are based on expert advice and patient interviews.

Two oncologists listened to patients expressing these emotions whilst working in a cancer centre in Sydney. They wanted to find a way to empower their patients, and allow them autonomy and control over their care.

The free app CancerAid offers access to personalised, medically reliable information about cancer, treatments and what to expect. Patients can track and share symptoms, feelings and appointments, nominate friends and family for support, access reliable cancer research updates and connect with a community of fellow patients and caregivers. This is all done in the patient’s own time, and on their terms.

The app empowers patients to keep loved ones and doctors up to date with their care needs more efficiently, so that their treatment can be done in the most effective way possible.

The app is continuously developed by healthcare professionals and an in-house team of experienced developers and designers who invite patients to give them feedback on how the app can improve.

ACRF and CancerAid

ACRF is pleased to connect with CancerAid to support our community and those affected by cancer.

CancerAid has assisted more than 20 000 patients with managing their cancer diagnosis.

This immense recognition has led to the app being ranked number one in the US, UK and Australian app store, and being given accolades by Steve Wozniak of Apple, and Sir Richard Branson. CancerAid has also won one of the largest deals in Shark Tank History.

Benefits of the app

Today, it is highly evident that tracking symptoms and activities can result in health benefits. Recent research reveals that cancer patients who track symptoms contribute to improved personal outcomes.

A study recently presented at ASCO, the world’s largest cancer conference, revealed that people with cancer who record their symptoms during treatment and share them with their doctors, enjoy a better quality of life, are less likely to be admitted to hospital, and most remarkably, have a better chance of survival. Basch at al (2017).

It’s no surprise to the CancerAid team that the most used feature is the in-app community where patients and caregivers are encouraged to share their stories to support others.

Isolation is a common feeling amongst patients. In the in-app community, CancerAid allows individuals to connect with others going through similar experiences. It’s no surprise to the CancerAid team that this is the most used feature. The community and symptom manager has been received as a comforting resource where patients and caregivers can express their experience with symptoms, treatments and changes to their lives.

The CancerAid app is available for free to download and use on Android and Apple devices.
If you, or someone close to you, are diagnosed with cancer and you wish to use the app, Click Here

References:

Basch at al (2017). Overall Survival Results of a Trial Assessing Patient-Reported Outcomes for Symptom Monitoring During Routine Cancer Treatment. JAMA, 318(2), p.197.

Convert Points into Life Saving Donations

You can make a difference to people and the planet with your credit card. NAB’s NAB Rewards program means at the click of a button, you can transfer your points to a donation and contribute to our important work. Launched in 2017, NAB Rewards credit card customers can convert their points into donations.

NAB is working with community investment specialist, Good2Give, to support this initiative and ensure the efficient and secure transfer of funds to charities.

Login to the NAB Rewards Store via internet banking or the NAB App to make your donation today – remember, every little bit counts.

Last year, your donations helped fund:

  • New imaging technology which will helps develop new therapies by examining tumors.
  • Equipment that will help build in-depth knowledge of all cell types that make up a tumour, and how cancer cells evolve, leading to improved treatments.
  • Developing manufacturing and monitoring facilities which will support new immunotherapy clinical trials.
  • Building a new facility which supports research into improving long-term outcomes of cancer patients and survivors.

 

Learn More Here

To My Dearest Mum – In honour of women’s cancer month

A mother is someone very special. She ia a friend, a teacher, a protector and many other things in the eyes of her children and grandchildren. In October, we honour all the mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters and other women who have been taken away by cancer too soon.

Below you’ll find Michael’s story about the effect her cancer diagnosis and passing away has had upon his family.

 

What I miss most about you Mum

You always began a phone call by saying “Hi love, I was just thinking of you.” You were always thinking of others and, as I sit here writing this letter, I am waiting for your daily call to ask how your granddaughters and I are doing.

Each morning, I still find myself expecting the phone to ring. I wish I could hear your voice, and say hello. I really miss you Mum, and your comforting way of telling me that everything would be okay.

I won’t lie, some days are a lot harder than others. But, I want to tell you that whilst things here are really tough for everyone at the moment, the endless love you had for us gives us the strength to keep moving on exactly how you wanted us to. We are doing our best to make you proud.

There are some darker moments when it feels like the void that you have left in our lives seems overwhelming. On other days it feels like it has all just been a dream, and that I will come to visit you with the girls soon.

My favourite day of the week was always the day when I came to see you and Dad. You always greeted me with huge hugs and kisses.

I am imagining Olivia and Mia begging you to make your famous ravioli. You would always cook whatever the girls wanted for lunch or dinner when they were visiting, always generous with your secret ingredient of love.

And after we all had sat down together to eat, you would sneak them a treat when I wasn’t looking – much to their delight. I am so thankful they have those special memories in the kitchen with their grandmother.

You were always so passionate about looking after others, and your legendary cooking and hospitality displayed this best. This was your space, where you could be creative and nourish those you loved.

The way you cared for others exceeded levels of what I thought was possible.

You were selfless beyond belief, and always put our needs before your own. I am truly grateful that you were such a loving and dedicated mother to me and Steven, and a committed wife to Dad – we could not have wished for anything more.

Back in March 2015, when we received the news about your illness, you didn’t flinch. Instead, you packed up your stuff, left the hospital and carried on with business as usual. Your only concern upon your diagnosis of an inoperable stage IV lung cancer was for Dad, my brother, me, and my girls.

Our entire family could not have been more shocked – we had no explanation for this. You never smoked and were always so healthy. At 63 years old, you were supposed to be enjoying a well-earned break during retirement, not facing this awful disease.

You did whatever you could, immediately taking on daily chemotherapy in tablet form until the cancer overpowered the treatment. In February 2016, we were so thankful that you had qualified to take part in a clinical trial, and we celebrated as your condition improved and you carried on with your life.

At times it was impossible to even believe you were so sick with incurable cancer, but we were never sure of what the future held for you Mum.

I still sit here wondering why and how this happened, and I daydream about what might have been in store for us as a family. But the reality is that we are still learning to navigate this surreal new world without you.

Steven continues to thrive. You had no doubts about that, he was always the strongest. He got that from you Mum.

We are keeping our promise to you and looking out for Dad, and he is doing the same for us and the girls. You would be proud to know he has been brilliant looking after the kids with me and picking them up from school. He has even been making their dinner – I am not joking!

He is doing his best Mum, but I know that he is truly heartbroken and sad without you here. I have never seen anyone miss someone this much. You two had such a magical, unbreakable bond.

Your commitment to him in the 50 years you shared was absolutely unwavering, as his was to you. I loved that you always did things together and that you never left each other’s side. Do you remember how Dad would always say to you “You are so special to me, Krystyna” and you would reply “Joe, I am just like everyone else, but you make me feel special”. I am lucky to have grown up surrounded by this love, and I am thankful my girls have too.

The girls ask about you every day, they miss you so much. They often ask me to send you a big kiss and cuddle, or ‘smoosh’ as they like to say.

Like you Mum, Mia and Olivia loved nothing more than spending time with you, particularly in the garden. They would jump up and down on the trampoline trying to impress you while you tended to your beautiful plants.

In the rare moments when I have to remind them of their manners, you are still the first person they ask for because you always went in to bat for them!

They are growing up so fast, too fast, just like you always said. I continue to treasure every moment with them, just like you told me to.

I plan on taking the girls to a musical each year to keep your love of music, dance and theatre alive in them.

Later this October I will be running the Melbourne Marathon to fundraise for cancer research. I know how much you wanted to be there with the girls and Dad cheering me on, but I’ll be running in your honour Mum.

I am so grateful that advancements in cancer treatment gave you three and a half more years with us.

And, I am determined to continue to do everything I can to make sure this disease can no longer tear loved ones away too soon.

In the end, we knew your last day was coming, but it crept up on us all so quickly. You took your last breaths in Dad’s arms, surrounded by those who loved you most.
All you wanted was to care for your friends and family, and make sure that we would be okay.

Every day your positivity shone through like a beacon of light. Over the years that you were ill, you refused the limelight and the fuss, but the truth is, you were the real star, and I know you are shining brightly somewhere.

Thank you for being my best friend and for loving our family unconditionally.

Rest easy. Mum, I love you.

Donate to cancer research in memory of women affected by cancer

Many Australian women have been lost to cancer. If you want to help outsmart cancer, and make a difference for Australians like Michael and his family, donate to cancer research now.

Your donation will help fund groundbreaking research into the development of new ways to detect cancer and new treatments.

 

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Hoover gives hope for nanomedicine cancer treatment

A ten-year-old beagle with prostate cancer is helping researchers at The University of Queensland use nanomedicines to accurately diagnose and target the disease.

Hoover is the first patient in the world to receive the nanomedicine, which the research team hopes will help track and treat his cancer, and lead to better treatment for people with the same disease.

Nanomedicine is the science of developing tiny particles for applications in health – in this case, therapeutics to specifically target a protein found in prostate cancer.

ACRF awarded the University of Queensland’s Centre for Advanced Imaging a $2.5 million grant in 2014, into investigating all types of cancer.

UQ Associate Professor Kris Thurecht said the new technology was important for advancing cancer treatments.

“Chemotherapy is a common treatment for most cancers,” he said.

“Unfortunately, it can also cause serious side effects because it is not always able to differentiate cancer cells from the healthy ones, sometimes damaging healthy cells in the process.

“Nanomedicines with the ability to target specific areas can lead us to target chemotherapy drugs to where they’re needed and kill cancerous cells with minimal impact on healthy cells.

Dr Thurecht said pre-clinical studies had been successful in treating prostate cancer in the laboratory, leading to total remission in some cases.

Our best friends may hold the key

“Validation of this science and technology in companion animals like Hoover is an exciting step forward in nanomedicine and towards human treatment,” he said.

Owner Brenda Douglas with Hoover, the world’s first patient to receive the novel nanomedicine

Dr Rod Straw, Veterinary Oncology Specialist, Brisbane Veterinary Specialist Centre and Australian Animal Cancer Foundation Director with Hoover and his owner, Brenda Douglas

Associate Professor Kris Thurecht and Dr Rod Straw, Centre for Advanced Imaging

Sarah Daniel, CAI Nuclear Scientist, analyses Hoover as he receives the novel nanomedicine; UQ Centre for Advanced Imaging

Hoover was chosen for the trial because dogs – like humans – naturally develop prostate cancer.

Dr Rod Straw, Veterinary Oncology Specialist and Director of Brisbane Veterinary Specialist Centre and the Australian Animal Cancer Foundation, said the beagle could prove to be the vanguard for a revolution in health care.

“Cases like Hoover’s are very important to cancer research,” he said.

“We can learn to develop cancer treatments for not only pets but humans as well.”

This article was published on the Centre for Advanced Imaging website, read the original here.

Prominent cancer research charities join forces

To mark World Cancer Research Day on 24 September 2018, the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) is pleased to announce new collaborations with Australian Prostate Centre, Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF) and the Snowdome Foundation. This will further enhance cancer research capacity in Australia and increase collaboration between cancer research funders.

ACRF provides outstanding Australian researchers with state-of-the-art equipment they need to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all types of cancer. The new collaborations will provide additional funds to support personnel that operates equipment acquired with an ACRF grant. This ensures that the equipment will be used for maximum impact and efficiency.

ACRF Chief Executive Officer Professor Ian Brown says that the new collaborations are an excellent way to enhance the impact and improve the efficiency of funding for Australian cancer research.

“The benefit of the collaborations announced today mark a significant saving on resources and time for researchers. Less time will be spent on writing additional funding applications, allowing researchers to spend time on what really matters – cancer research.”

ACRF grant applications are assessed annually by the Medical Research Advisory Committee, comprising esteemed Australian and international cancer researchers and clinicians who volunteer their time. The Committee ensures that the most promising and impactful cancer research initiatives in Australia are recommended to the Board of Trustees to receive ACRF funding.

“These collaborations are a tremendous acknowledgement of the reputation and integrity of ACRF and its grant selection and governance procedures. We look forward to giving researchers not only the most advanced tools they need to outsmart cancer, but also simplifying the provision of human power to make it all happen.”

OCRF Chief Executive Officer Lucinda Nolan believes that collaborating with likeminded cancer research charities is a smarter way to progress towards shared goals.
“Collaboration makes us stronger, smarter and more efficient.” Ms Nolan says.

“Joint grants will unlock additional funding for ovarian cancer researchers and improve our ability to support a broader range of projects. This partnership is an exciting development for us and will hopefully accelerate progress within the research field.”

Mark Harrison, CEO at the Australian Prostate Centre says: “We are proud to be collaborating with ACRF in recognising and supporting potentially lifesaving cancer research in Australia. This agreement will accelerate research outcomes to benefit all Australian men with prostate cancer.”

Snowdome CEO Miriam Dexter says “The Snowdome Foundation is pleased to be collaborating with ACRF to advance translational blood cancer research. ACRF brings a national approach as well as a transparent, peer-reviewed grant review process. Further, by leveraging each organisations’ key funding focus, we are able to match hi-tech equipment with vital human infrastructure resulting in fast-tracking next-generation blood cancer treatments and ‘making hope real’ for Australian blood cancer patients.”

The current agreements will be in place until 2020.

The Silk Rags Project

We’re thrilled to announce a new collaboration with The Silk Rags Project, a performance designed to entertain, educate, start conversations and raise vital funds for cancer research.

Whilst undergoing cancer treatments, Briohne Sykes and Dee Handyside separately created two projects which reflected their personal experiences through theatre and music.

Combining their passions, The Silk Rags Project was formed: a one-act musical which guarantees audiences will laugh, cry, and learn. We’re honoured they’ve chosen to fundraise for the Australian Cancer Research Foundation through the project, where profits from performances will be donated.

Described as “poetic and pragmatic” by Ros Johnson of Dramaturg, and a “joyful musical reaction to a deadly serious subject” by Noel Mengel of The Courier Mail, The Silk Rags Project encourages theatre groups to organise a fundraising event and perform the mini-musical, which is simple to organize and is sure to be both challenging and educational.

At the conclusion of each performance, a handout is provided to audiences to provide tools to effectively communicate regarding different experiences of cancer. This has been created in conjunction with Griffith University, and builds on the themes of the play to better prepare audiences in dealing with a cancer diagnosis of a loved one.

We’re very honoured to be working with Scriptwriter Briohne Sykes and Composer Dee Handyside on this inspiring project, which is perfect for Australian theatre group’s 2019 production.

Find out more here, share this post with your local theatre group, and get ready to come along!

Promising Results from Zero Childhood Cancer Clinical Trial

The Zero Childhood Cancer program has just released initial results of its national clinical trial, revealing promising outcomes within its first 11 months.

Of the 128 children enrolled in the trial from across Australia with high-risk and relapsed cancers, 67% were provided with personalised treatment plans aimed at killing their unique cancer cells. For most children enrolled in the trial, there were otherwise few to no treatment options available to them.

Led by Children’s Cancer Institute and the Kids’ Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, Zero Childhood Cancer is one of the world’s most comprehensive child cancer personalised medicine studies. The trial uses sophisticated genetic tests to scientifically analyse each child’s individual cancer cells to identify and recommend new personalised treatment options.

ACRF is one of the founding funders of the Zero Childhood Cancer Project, a $1.5 million grant was awarded to the project in 2014.
Associate Professor Tracey O’Brien, Director, Kid’s Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick says the trial is giving a small group of children a better chance of survival, where current treatment affords little hope.

“Zero Childhood Cancer is about using the best science we have to give hope to children with high risk cancer. We must try a different approach. Accepting the status quo means that 70% of these children won’t survive to celebrate another birthday,” Associate Professor O’Brien said.

“Our early results are encouraging and as we learn more, I see future potential for targeted drug therapies to be used more broadly in all child cancers as a smarter way to achieve cure, while minimising therapy side effects.”

One step closer to personalised medicine

Executive Director of Children’s Cancer Institute, Professor Michelle Haber AM, said the Zero Childhood Cancer program is bringing us one step close to personalised medicine for all childhood cancers.

“Zero Childhood Cancer is giving unprecedented genetic and biological information for children with the most aggressive cancers. It is arguably the most comprehensive personalised medicine program for children with cancer in the world,” Professor Haber said.

“The information we gather will not only benefit children on the national clinical trial but will inform new discoveries and further clinical trials that we believe will impact all children with cancer in the future.”

No story exemplifies the impact of Zero Childhood Cancer more than that of Ellie. At just 11 months old, Ellie was diagnosed with infantile fibrosarcoma, a rare and aggressive tumour that was resistant to chemotherapy. The tumour was so large that she was on life support.

Following sequencing of the entire genetic material of Ellie’s tumour, the whole genome sequencing identified the specific genetic change likely to be driving Ellie’s cancer. The Zero Childhood Cancer team were then able to identify a new drug that specifically targeted that particular genetic change. The drug was sourced, after four weeks of treatment, Ellie’s cancer had shrunk enough for her to be taken off life support and breathe independently. Six weeks later, Ellie was home.

Ellie’s parents, Mina and Rob, know their daughter is only here today because of the Zero Childhood Cancer program.

“We were told to think about saying goodbye, she was so sick we didn’t even know if she would reach her first birthday. Now, to be celebrating her second birthday, when she is such an active, boisterous and energetic two-year-old is beyond our wildest dreams. We can’t thank the teams at the hospitals and research centres involved in the Zero Childhood Cancer program enough,” Mina said.

Outcomes of the Zero Childhood Cancer program over the past 11 months

  • 128 children registered for the trial after just 11 months, each of these are children with an aggressive cancer that is identified as having less than a 30% chance of survival
  • Of these, 36% have been enrolled at the time of relapse, 38% at diagnosis and 26% with progression of disease
  • In terms of cancer types, 36% have brain cancer, 29% sarcoma, 13% leukaemia, 6% neuroblastoma and 16% other rare cancers
  • For 67% of children a personalised treatment plan has been recommended
  • Average turnaround time from receipt of samples to personalised treatment recommendation is 9 weeks

Despite the dramatic increase in childhood cancer survival rates over the last sixty years from virtually 0 to 80%, three children and adolescents still die every week in Australia from cancer.

The original article was published on the Children’s Cancer Institute website,  read the original article here.