Cancer killing clue could lead to safer and more powerful immunotherapies

cancer research scientist
Dr Misty Jenkins from WEHI Institute.

 

New research could help to safely adapt a new immunotherapy – currently only effective in blood cancers – for the treatment of solid cancers, such as notoriously hard-to-treat brain tumours.

The study, led by Dr Misty Jenkins from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, explains the crucial mechanisms by which CAR-T cell therapy is able to rapidly target and kill cancer cells, and why it may cause serious side effects.

CAR-T cell therapy is an innovative form of immunotherapy that uses synthetically engineered T cells to redirect the patient’s own immune system to fight their cancer. Approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017, it has been successfully used to treat blood cancers such as childhood leukaemia and some lymphomas.

Unfortunately, CAR-T cell therapy has had mixed results in solid cancers, often causing significant side effects such as ‘cytokine storms’ – a potentially fatal inflammatory response that can lead to organ failure in some patients.

Dr Jenkins led the study, working with collaborators Mr Alex Davenport, Associate Professor Phillip Darcy and Associate Professor Paul Neeson from the Peter Mac. It was published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr Jenkins said the new research revealed for the first time how CAR-T cells interacted with cancer cells.

“We found that CAR-T cell receptors have the ability to rapidly identify and bind to tumour cells that would otherwise remain undetected in the immune system, and promptly kill them.

“We have previously shown a correlation between cytokine production and the length of time the immune cells were latched onto the cancer cells. The longer the cells were in contact, the more cytokines were produced, causing ever increasing degrees of damage from inflammation,” she said.

Dr Jenkins said a deep understanding of the biological factors contributing to the success and side effects of CAR-T cells would help to inform a better design and safer delivery methods for the personalised therapy.

“Our research is teaching us how to make CAR-T cells even more efficient, and without the toxic side effects, so that we can safely extend the therapy to cover a broader range of cancers,” she said.

Dr Jenkins said her research focused on how CAR-T cell therapy could successfully be used to treat brain cancer. Brain cancer has some of the poorest survival rates of any cancer in the world and desperately requires new treatment approaches.

“The brain is an incredibly delicate and challenging environment to work within,” Dr Jenkins said.

“Brain tumours are often resistant to traditional treatments, such as chemotherapy; and surgically removing tumours can come with a lot of collateral damage.

“Finding an optimum design for CAR-T cell therapy where we can kill tumour cells with limited invasion, inflammation and side effects could significantly improve the treatment of brain cancer.

“Answering fundamental biological questions about how immune cells and cancer cells function and interact, as we have done in this study, is invaluable in the quest to find formidable treatments for fatal cancers,” she said.

In 2017 Dr Jenkins received a Carrie’s Beanies 4 Brain Cancer Foundation grant and a Financial Market’s Foundation for Children Grant to continue her work to develop CAR-T cell therapies and other forms of immunotherapy for treating children with brain cancer.

The PNAS study was funded by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, the Fight Cancer Foundation and the Victorian Government.

Australian Cancer Research Foundation has proudly supported Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research since 2001 in their cancer research efforts, providing a total of $5.5 million to date.

This research article was originally published on the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.

Can our genes help predict how women respond to ovarian cancer treatment?

Ovarian cancerNew research has shown that the genes we inherit can have a significant impact on how the body processes chemotherapy drugs, which may lead to different clinical outcomes for ovarian cancer patients.

Research has identified gene variants that play a significant role in how women with ovarian cancer process chemotherapy.

The research showed that the genes we inherit can have a significant impact on how the body processes chemotherapy drugs, which may lead to different clinical outcomes for ovarian cancer patients.

Lead researcher, Professor Anna deFazio from the Westmead Institute for Medical Research and Westmead Hospital, said this discovery may help doctors predict which patients will respond positively to chemotherapy.

“Chemotherapy and surgery are the standard treatment for women with ovarian cancer, but each patient responds differently.

“We wanted to know why some women respond very positively to treatment, while others suffer serious side effects, and some have a poor response,” Professor deFazio said.

“We set out to understand which genetic factors influence how a patient processes chemotherapy.

“Our research showed that a gene called ABCC2 plays a critical role in eliminating chemotherapy from the body,” she explained.

ABCC2 is a drug transporter, which means it pumps a variety of different substances out of cells.

“We found that variants of this gene are associated with high rates of drug elimination, which means they pump chemotherapy drugs out of the body quickly and may cause the treatment to be less effective.

“This may explain why chemotherapy is an effective treatment for some women, but not for others,” she said.

Professor deFazio said these latest research findings are an important step towards delivering better outcomes for patients.

“Now that we are beginning to understand the role of the ABCC2 gene, and other novel gene variants that were identified in this research, we can work towards developing personalised cancer treatment for patients,” Professor deFazio concluded.

Ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynaecological cancer and ranks as the sixth most common cause of cancer-related death in women in the Western world.

Professor Anna deFazio, and Associate Professor Stuart Macgregor and Professor Georgia Chenevix-Trench at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute led this research and it was part of a PhD project undertaken by Dr Bo Gao, now a Medical Oncologist at Westmead and Blacktown Hospitals.

Australian Cancer Research Foundation is a proud supporter of Westmead Institute and has provided them with $7 million towards their cancer research efforts.

This article was originally published on the Westmead Institute website.

The full paper is available online at Nature Scientific Reports.

Researchers build tiny DNA nanorobots to block cancer growth

Cancer research scientist
Professor Greg Anderson. Image supplied by QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

 

Scientists have successfully designed tiny nanorobots made of DNA and protein that can be targeted directly at tumours to stop them from growing.

The study was led by researchers at the National Centre for Nanoscience and Technology in Beijing and the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences and involved Professor Greg Anderson, head of the Chronic Disorders Research Program at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

It has been published in Nature Biotechnology today.

Professor Anderson said the nanorobots were made using a technique called “DNA origami”, where specially constructed sheets of DNA were folded up and bound together to form a tube-like structure.

He said the group embedded the blood-clotting agent thrombin within the nanorobots.

“Thrombin is a naturally-occurring protein that causes blood clots to form,” Professor Anderson said.

“This ability can be harnessed to kill tumour cells by developing a system where the thrombin only causes clots in the blood vessels that are feeding the tumour, and not elsewhere in the body.

“When that happens, the tumour cells no longer receive essential nutrients and they die.”

Professor Anderson said the nanorobots were designed so that thrombin was released only after it was “unlocked” by a particular protein found within the blood vessels of tumours.

“The nanorobot keeps the clotting agent disguised until it reaches the place where we want it to act. In this case, that’s the tumour,” he said.

“That’s why this is such a clever delivery method.”

Professor Anderson said it was a highly-innovative example of nanotechnology being used to target tumours.

“This approach is novel in the way the team has combined a number of existing but different elements of nanotechnology to enable the controlled and targeted delivery of the blood-clotting agent,” he said.

“It shows just what is possible with contemporary biomedical technology and hints at what may be the future of intelligent drug delivery.

“Methods like this could potentially be used to deliver a wide range of drugs, and even multiple drugs at once.

“There are really limitless combinations of technologies and drugs that could be tried.

“The applications of the technology are certainly not restricted to tumour development, either.”

The targeted nanorobots also proved highly effective at reducing the growth and spread of tumours with characteristics of breast cancer and melanoma in mice.

Professor Anderson said although the treatment was successful in laboratory tests, it was still some time before the strategy would be tested in humans.

“It is an extremely exciting first step, but more work needs to be done,” he said.

“The term ‘cancer’ covers a broad range of diseases and different types of cancer require different treatments, or combination of treatments.

“Nevertheless, the use of the DNA origami approach potentially provides a new tool that could be used to help achieve the ultimate goal of eradicating primary tumours and their metastases.”

Australian Cancer Research Foundation has proudly supported QIMR Medical Research Institute since 2002 and has provided a total of $8.4m towards their cancer research efforts.

This article was originally published on the QIMR website.

Four ways precision medicine is making a difference

All human characteristics are profoundly influenced by genetic factors, including susceptibility to infectious and complex diseases such as tuberculosis and cancer. Until now it has been virtually impossible to target medicine to a specific individual’s genetic makeup, and medicine has been aimed at the average.

But now “precision medicine” is allowing us to analyse a person’s genetic makeup and target treatments based on their specific needs. A report released this week by the Australian Council of Learned Academies, The Future of Precision Medicine in Australia, notes the cost of sequencing individual genomes has plummeted from more than US$1 billion to US$1,000 over the past 15 years, and continues to fall.

Here are four areas in which precision medicine is making a difference in health care, and some of the ways we hope it will improve health care in the future.

1. Diagnosing and preventing genetic disease

The precision medicine revolution is transforming the diagnosis and prevention of genetic disease. Tragically, at least 2% of all children are afflicted by a severe developmental or intellectual disability, which can result from damage to any one of thousands of genes that encode the proteins we need to function.

Genome sequencing can now identify 40-60% of the affected genes, giving parents and doctors the answers they need to improve treatment.

This information also improves the confidence of parents to have more children, as the problem can be avoided by IVF. For these reasons, the UK National Health Service has recently announced genome sequencing will be used to determine the cause in cases of severe unexplained disability. Hopefully Australia will soon follow suit.

This is just the beginning. The use of genome sequencing for preconception screening of prospective parents is just around the corner, and has the potential to reduce the incidence of genetic disability in our community.


2. Cancer diagnosis and treatment

Cancer is caused by a wide range of cell mutations, but traditional tests do not make clear which of these is driving a particular cancer.

Identification of these mutations has led to the development of effective drugs such as Imatinib, with many more in late stage development. But these are expensive and can be applied only if the precise target is known.

Countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and France are trialling sequencing the cancer’s DNA in order to better target treatment. Unpublished, emerging evidence indicates a substantial improvement in survival, but surprisingly, an overall reduction in costs. This appears to be due to fewer episodes of patients requiring acute care.

Some of the outcomes of genomically-informed cancer treatment are spectacular. I am aware of two children locally with lethal cancers, one of whom was close to death, who have been apparently cured as a result of prescribing the correct drug (which had never before been indicated in the cancers concerned) following genome analysis.

We can also increasingly predict an individual’s risk of getting cancer by analysing genes known to be involved in cancer. A recent study using MRIs of people judged at high risk of cancer because of an inherited mutation in a cancer-causing gene showed 10% already had tumours that weren’t yet causing symptoms. These could then be readily removed.

3. The suitability of medicines

A high proportion of hospital admissions in Australia and other countries are due to toxic reactions to prescribed medications. And many medications are useless in some people.

The main reason for this is we have different forms of the liver enzymes that clear chemicals from our bloodstream, which in turn affects their concentration and how long they last. By necessity, prescriptions are directed at the average.

There are also rare gene mutations that make some medications lethal for some people. Genome analysis can predict and avoid many of these adverse reactions or unproductive prescriptions, saving enormous amounts of money and making medication more personal and precise.

4. Population health data

Given the benefits of genome sequencing for individual health, it’s assumed most people will consent, and have the results incorporated into their personal medical records. Amalgamation of this information with clinical records will provide rich data that can be mined for biomedical discovery, as well as for better management of medical systems and resource allocation.

Personal wearable and implantable devices that can monitor physiological responses (sleep, blood sugar, blood pressure, medication compliance, etc.) will contribute the other half of the personal picture by providing real-time information to assist diagnosis, helping people find the best strategies for improving their health.

The ConversationMedicine will become one of the most data-intensive industries on the planet, changing from the art of crisis management to the science of good health. This will have a transformative effect on health, both individually and systemically, with enormous implications for national economies.

John Stanley Mattick, Executive Director, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Garvan Institute

Australian Cancer Research Foundation has provided Garvan Institute with $6.1 million towards world-class cancer research projects.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Carrie’s birthday bash fundraiser

Charity fundraising eventMy recent 40th birthday celebration with 100 nearest and dearest friends and family was held in memory of my loved friend Anna. On the night, we raised just over $7,000 for ACRF by participating in the Birthday Donations In lieu of Gifts program.

Never comfortable being the centre of attention, I had no intention of having a birthday party. Turning 40 is something of a milestone birthday but all I had in mind was dinner out with my mother, husband and our three young children. Then Anna lost her battle with bladder cancer, suddenly and unexpectedly, which of course had a profound effect on her family, my family, and our mutual friends. So I decided to throw a party to both celebrate life and fundraise in Anna’s memory. I wanted to make a difference, however big or small, to cancer research and awareness. Anna would have loved the big party idea because she had been thinking of ways to help raise bladder cancer awareness when she was going through treatment. Anna didn’t have her chance at raising funds for cancer research but I could do it for her.

The list of my friends and family who have either been affected by cancer or lost their battle to cancer goes on and on. Closest to home was my dad who died of bladder cancer when he was only 56 years old. Losing dad was, without a doubt, the worst day for my mum, my younger brother and me. All of us still miss Dad so much and not a day goes by without thinking of him. He was a wonderful father and husband and an inspiration to us. I am so sorry that he can’t be here with us today.

It is hugely important to me to support the work of the Australian Cancer Research Foundation because my mother has had a few run-ins with breast cancer over the years. If it wasn’t for the research, I doubt that Mum would still be with us today; she has now beaten the cancer twice. Mum is an amazing and strong woman and I’m very proud of her. Both my mother and father are the type of parents any kid would dream of, and I have been so fortunate to have them in my life.

I genuinely hope that raising money can help save the lives of others affected by cancer, and ensure that other young families will live a full life together. I was comfortable asking for donations rather than gifts for my birthday, and it certainly helped that ACRF is a genuine foundation with a long history of funding ground-breaking cancer research. It was also easier for me to push people to “dig deep” knowing that all of the money donated is tax deductible. I would encourage anyone thinking about fundraising to just go ahead and get started. If you don’t ask, you won’t receive, and every dollar counts!

It was a great feeling on my birthday to receive such wonderfully generous support from friends and family. Knowing that we can somehow make a difference to ensuring that cancer research continues is the best gift.

 

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Brighid gets a buzz cut

Headshave eventMy aunt passed away a few years ago to cancer and that really opened my eyes to the struggle that cancer patients go through. Despite so many advances in diagnosis and treatment over the years, there is still not a lot of hope for a cure for some types of cancer. I decided to support cancer research because it is the only way to find those breakthroughs that will end all cancers.

I am nearly 16 now, in grade 10 at high school, love playing volleyball with the Dragons, and spending time with my friends. When looking at ways to raise money, I decided on getting a buzz cut. It was a simple way to fundraise, and I really liked that my hair would be donated to make a wig for a child going through cancer treatment.

Choosing which is the best cancer organisation to support can be confusing. I came across ACRF during an internet search, liked what they’re doing to fund research into all types of cancer, and found it very easy and efficient to create my own personal fundraising page on their website.

Thanks to my generous friends, family and with my own donation, it was awesome to exceed my goal of raising at least $2,000. I’d say to anyone who wants to fundraise to just reach out to as many people as you can, in every way that you can. Raising money and awareness for cancer research is something we can all support.

 

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Josh completes Honolulu marathon 2017

charity fun run

In December 2015, Joshua Toth, his wife Jane and son Charlie were overjoyed to welcome baby Luke into their family. However, at ten weeks old, Luke was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive Rhabdoid tumour. Despite the best efforts of a team of doctors and nurses at Westmead Children’s Hospital, Luke passed away at six months of age.

“Never in a million years did I think our family would experience what we have in the past two years. Not a day goes by that we don’t wish it was possible to see Luke again. Losing a child to cancer also has us constantly thinking of ways to ensure that no other family has to endure what we’ve been through. For the past two years, Jane and I have been drawn to organisations that dedicate their time, money and effort towards research that will hopefully lead to all forms of cancer becoming a curable disease in the near future. In 2016, our family and friends raised a reasonable amount of money for Children’s Cancer Institute of Australia.

I happened across the ACRF running fundraising site in January 2017 while doing some web searches on various organisations that support cancer research. I was inspired by ACRF’s mission to end cancer and one phone call to them was all it took for me to decide to fundraise for ACRF as part of my participation in Honolulu Marathon 2017. Taking on what is described as 26.2 miles in paradise was going to be challenging as my only other distance running experience had been a 10km run in Homebush almost ten years ago. Although I would be 40 by the time the Honolulu marathon got underway in December, it seemed like do it now or never, in my head anyway. Joining in the race with me was my younger brother Brad who has been through a similarly tragic time when his son passed away very soon after birth. We gave the run everything we had on the day and finished within a few minutes of each other in our respective age groups.

It is estimated that over 134,000 Australians will be diagnosed in 2018 with some form of cancer and one out of every two people will be directed affected by cancer. We have made so much progress against other diseases, it’s hard to believe there is still no cure for this insidious disease, especially childhood cancer. I am grateful there are organisations like ACRF that dedicate themselves to cancer research, and thankful that I can contribute to raising awareness and facilitating that research.”

 

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New HPV vaccine boosts teens’ protection from HPV and cervical cancer

As 12 and 13-year-old boys and girls start a new school year, they will have access to the new, improved vaccine to protect against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer in women.

While the previous Gardasil vaccine protected against 70% of cervical cancers, the updated Gardasil 9 version will protect against up to 93% of these. And compared to the three doses required with the previous regimen, only two are needed now.

In Australia, around 900 new cases are diagnosed and around 250 women die from the disease each year. But cervical cancer rates have halved in the past 30 years due to the high quality national Pap cytology screening program.

Prevention against cervical cancer is the main aim of the Gardasil 9 vaccine. But HPV is also linked to a large proportion of anal, vaginal and head and neck cancers, and the vaccine offers protection for these too.


What is HPV?

Genital HPV is a common group of viruses, mainly transmitted through sexual contact, including contact of genital skin to genital skin. Most people are infected with HPV shortly after the onset of sexual activity and most clear the infection on their own.

But for a small number of those infected, the HPV becomes persistent. A proportion of these people will go on to develop abnormal cells that are the precursor to cervical cancer. HPV is the cause of nearly all cervical cancers. But the virus is also linked to 90% of anal cancers, 65% of vaginal cancers, 50% of vulva cancers and 35% of penile cancers and 60% of oropharyngeal cancers (cancers of the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils).

The Australian government was one of the first to introduce a free Gardasil vaccine to all female students aged 12 to 13 years in 2007 (with a catch up to the end of 2009 for those up to 26 years of age). This protected against four different strains of HPV. Two of those strains (HPV 16 and 18) cause about 70% of cervical cancers; the other two cause the majority of genital warts (HPV 6 and 11). 

Australia was also one of the first countries to adopt a school-based, gender-neutral vaccine program in 2013, by introducing free, ongoing vaccinations to young boys 12 to 13 years of age.

What does Gardasil 9 offer?

The new Gardasil 9 vaccine, available from this week, targets nine strains, seven of which cause around 93% of all cervical cancers (in addition to HPV 6/11 so protects against 90% of genital warts). It includes protection for the five next most common cancer-causing HPVs globally (HPV 31/33/45/52/58).

The new vaccine has been tested in global clinical trials involving more than 14,000 women in 18 countries, aged 16 to 26 years. They received either the new Gardasil 9 vaccine or the original Gardasil vaccine. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Lancet, the study looked at the rate of pre-cancerous cell changes in women six years later.

It found the new vaccine was far more effective, targeting an extra five of the most common cancer-causing strains of HPV and potentially preventing 23% more cervical cancers. Thus infection with the new types was markedly reduced too. With a reduction in infection, there is a reduction in the diseases that the HPV can cause.

The common side effects with Gardasil 9 in the clinical trial were the same as with the older Gardasil vaccine. These were pain at the injection site, local swelling in the arm at the injection site and redness. There were no differences between the serious adverse events between the two vaccines.

Who should get the new vaccine?

Australia was one of the first countries to adopt an HPV vaccination program and has one of the highest coverage rates, with around 79% of girls and 73% of boys having received the Gardasil vaccine.

Those who have already had the original vaccine have excellent protection from HPV, so we are not recommending they should go back for the new vaccine.

The new vaccine is free to 12- to 13-year-olds as part of the National Immunisation Program. It’s also available at a cost to adults and has been shown effective in protecting against HPV in people up to the age of 45 years.

Those who have not been infected by the strains of HPV gain the most benefit from the vaccine. However, the vaccine boosts the immune response in sexually active individuals who have been infected previously with any of these HPV strains targeted by the vaccine, should they come into contact with the virus again.

Regular screening important

It’s important women continue to have regular screening to avoid abnormal cells developing into cervical cancer, even if they have had the vaccine. In December 2017, Australia’s screening program changed. The Pap test was replaced by a cervical swab testing for HPV DNA. This is a more sensitive test to detect underlying cellular abnormalities than the Pap test.

A five year study involving 5,000 women found the new HPV test was far more effective in detecting high grade pre-cancerous changes to the cervix compared to the traditional Pap test. It has the potential to prevent 30% more cervical cancers.

Women will now have their first test at age 25 instead of 18. After their first HPV test, women will be tested every five years instead of every two years. They will be tested up to age 74, and, in an important development, self-collection will be an option for some women who may have difficulty with a vaginal test.

We are already seeing the benefit of the original Gardasil vaccine on rates of HPV. With high coverage of the new Gardasil 9 vaccine, and adoption of the new HPV screening test it is predicted we will see a rapid decline in the cervical cancer rate in Australia in the coming years.


Suzanne Marie Garland, Professor, Melbourne University, The Royal Women’s Hospital

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Thanks to the generous donations from our supporters, ACRF has been able to award grants to ground-breaking Australian cancer research projects such as the development of the Gardasil cervical cancer vaccine. In 1999, we awarded a $1 million grant to Professor Ian Frazer and the Diamantina Institute in Queensland to support research into the development of the vaccine.

Melanoma is in the eye of the beholder

University of Queensland researchers have found that freckles and moles appearing on the iris indicate a high risk of melanoma, particularly in people under 40 years of age.

Dermatology Research Centre’s Associate Professor Rick Sturm said the presence of pigmented lesions was an effective predictor of the risk of melanoma that complemented traditional factors.

“We found the presence of three or more iris pigmented lesions was associated with a 45 percent increased risk of melanoma,” Dr Sturm said.

“This association was particularly strong in people under 40.

“The presence of iris freckling and naevi (moles), provides additional information about an individual’s melanoma risk over and above factors like blue eyes, red hair, fair skin and the number of moles on the skin.”

The study, involving Professor H. Peter Soyer and Dr Antonia Laino, involved 1117 participants of European background living in South-East Queensland.

Dr Laino said the results showed that participants with pigmented lesions were 1.45 times more likely to develop melanoma.

“This association was particularly strong in people under 40, suggesting a genetic susceptibility,” she said.

“It also suggests the potential use of these lesions as a marker for melanoma risk in younger patients (1.8 times more at risk).

“Melanoma is the most common cancer in Australians aged 15 to 39.

“Despite many new advances in treatments, long term prognosis remains poor, therefore early detection is still key in reducing the burden of the disease.

“It’s very easy to look for iris pigmented lesions, and we hope that these findings will help doctors identify those people who may be at increased risk of melanoma and need a skin check.”

“These lesions should be used as markers for melanoma risk in younger patients.”

The UQ Diamantina Institute study is published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

ACRF has provided The University of Queensland with $19.2 million in funding for cancer research.

This article was originally published on The University of Queensland’s website.

Countrywide delivers for ACRF

Workplace giving

 

Countrywide Food Service Distributors, Australia’s largest group of independently owned wholesale distributors of goods to a variety of foodservice establishments and outlets, is no stranger to helping charities. Countrywide initially began to support a charity after one of its distributors introduced a silent auction at the company’s National Awards Night. Since that evening, Countrywide has established partnerships with numerous selected charities where they can work together on a longer-term basis.

Most recently, Countrywide was seeking a new charity partner for the 2017/2018 period. When developing a shortlist, they looked for: a charity that had national coverage so that each one of the Countrywide 115 distributors/members could get involved, a charity receiving little or no government assistance, and a charity which Countrywide distributors and suppliers could collectively engage with. As everyone has been touched by cancer in some way, Countrywide was confident that a cancer charity would be the best fit. Countrywide recognised ACRF’s uniqueness in their funding of research for all types of cancer and their mission to end cancer through providing equipment needed to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

Michelle Wearing, Countrywide Marketing Manager said, “The funding that ACRF is able to provide for grants enables some amazing research to take place. When you hear about the positive results that have been achieved from those research projects and how those results are then implemented to improve patient well-being along with preventing cancer in the first place, it is incredibly exciting.”

Countrywide also values the positive impact that fundraising has on their staff. The company has already held a number of events to raise money for ACRF through staff donations. Those events included a multi-cultural lunch where enthusiastic staff members brought in a national dish to share. It was a lunchtime that celebrated the company’s diversity and enhanced its culture. In addition, Countrywide stakeholders are eager to get involved and support ACRF at the company’s next silent auction.

“Working with ACRF really fits with Countrywide’s Mission, Vision and Values and we look forward to raising more funds for ACRF to continue their great work in cancer research.”

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Image: Countrywide presented Australian Cancer Research Foundation with $90,000 in donations.

A new blood test can detect eight different cancers in their early stages

Researchers have developed a blood test that can detect the presence of eight common cancers. Called CancerSEEK, the blood test detects tiny amounts of DNA and proteins released into the blood stream from cancer cells. This can then indicate the presence of ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreatic, oesophageal, bowel, lung or breast cancers.

Known as a liquid biopsy, the test is distinctly different to a standard biopsy, where a needle is put into a solid tumour to confirm a cancer diagnosis. CancerSEEK, is also far less invasive. It can be performed without even knowing a cancer is present, and therefore allow for early diagnosis and more chance of a cure.


The test has been shown to reliably detect early stage and curable cancers. It has also been found to rarely be positive in people who don’t have cancer. This prevents significant anxiety and further invasive tests for those who don’t need them.

Several cancers can be screened for at once, and the test can be performed at the same time as routine blood tests, such as a cholesterol check. But the test is still some years away from being used in the clinic.

How the test works

Often long before causing any symptoms, even very small tumours will begin to release minute amounts of mutated DNA and abnormal proteins into blood. While DNA and proteins are also released from normal cells, the DNA and proteins from cancer cells are unique, containing multiple changes not present in normal cells.

The newly developed blood-based cancer DNA test is exquisitely sensitive, accurately detecting one mutated fragment of DNA among 10,000 normal DNA fragments, literally “finding the needle in the haystack”.

We used CancerSEEK in just over 1,000 people with different types of early stage cancers. It was shown to accurately detect the cancer, including in 70% or more of pancreas, ovary, liver, stomach and esophageal cancers. For each of these tumour types there are currently no screening tests available – blood based or otherwise.

Along with cancer detection, the blood test accurately predicted what type of cancer it was in 83% of cases.

Published in the journal Science, the research was led by a team from John Hopkins University, with collaboration from Australian scientists at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

Why it’s important

Steady progress continues to be made in the treatment of advanced cancers, including major gains in life expectancy. But this can come at significant physical and financial cost. Early diagnosis remains the key to avoiding the potentially devastating impact of many cancer treatments and to reducing cancer deaths.

However, where there are proven screening tests that lead to earlier diagnosis and better outcomes, such as colonoscopy screening for bowel cancer, these are typically unpleasant. They also have associated risks, only screen for one cancer at a time and population uptake is often poor. And for many major tumour types there are currently no effective screening tests.


There are characteristic patterns of mutations and altered proteins that differ among cancer types. So CancerSEEK can not only detect that there is a cancer somewhere in the body but can also suggest where to start looking.

For example, if the pattern suggests a bowel cancer, then a colonoscopy is a logical next step. When blood samples were taken from over 800 apparently healthy controls, less than 1% scored a positive test. This means the test is rarely positive for people who don’t have cancer, thereby reducing the problem of overdiagnosis.

Overall, these results appear to be in stark contrast to previously developed blood-based tests for cancer screening. Currently the only widely used one of is the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test for prostate cancer. This has multiple limitations and some would argue the jury is still out on whether PSA based testing does more good than harm.


What next?

The ConversationLarge trials are now underway in the US, with CancerSEEK testing being offered to thousands of healthy people. Cancer incidence and outcomes in these people will be compared to a control group who do not have testing. Study results will be available in the next three to five years.

Peter Gibbs, Professor and Laboratory Head, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

Australian Cancer Research Foundation supports The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and has provided their researchers with $5.5 million in funding towards cancer research.

 

Image: Peter Gibbs, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

Breast cancer linked to chronic disease later in life

Women who receive hormonal therapy for breast cancer are at increased risk of developing chronic conditions later in life, according to new research published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Researchers from Flinders University and the University of South Australia found that rates of depression, osteoporosis, diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, chronic pain and gastric disorders were higher among breast cancer survivors who had received hormonal cancer treatment than among those without breast cancer.

Hormonal therapy, also known as endocrine therapy, is currently used to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence for 70% of breast cancers in Australia.

It is typically administered after surgery or a course of chemotherapy, and/or radiation.

“Knowing that hormonal therapy may predispose women to develop chronic illnesses gives us the chance to develop effective, long-term models of care for these patients,” says Flinders University Professor and co-researcher of the study, Bogda Koczwara.

“Developing the strategies and tools to manage co-existing chronic conditions after breast cancer should now be an essential part of every patient’s overall treatment plan.”

The study compared the health of two groups of women over a ten-year period, the first group comprising women who were receiving hormonal therapy for breast cancer and the second group comprising women of a similar age who did not have breast cancer.

The emergence of chronic disease and the frequency with which it developed was mapped in both groups.

“Our study clearly found that chronic illnesses developed more frequently in women with breast cancer than in those without breast cancer,” Professor Koczwara says.

“We also found that the risk for developing chronic illnesses among women with breast cancer was greatest during their first year of hormonal therapy.

“Some of this risk may be attributable to hormonal therapy, and some of it may be the effect of the cancer itself or its earlier treatment.

“Hormonal therapy is still a very important treatment option for women with hormone responsive cancer, but we need to manage its subsequent impact on long-term health in a more informed and impactful way,” says Professor Koczwara.

The study was the first of its kind in Australia to comprehensively examine the relationship between breast cancer treatment and the development of successive chronic disease using the analysis of prescribing patterns.

“The good news is that most women diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia can be cured and we now have a way of using routine data to monitor the risk of chronic disease after cancer,” Professor Koczwara says.

“The next step is to prevent these conditions from developing through healthy lifestyle habits, exercise, diet and other strategies.”

Professor Koczwara is supported by the National Breast Cancer Foundation and is located at the Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer.

Her co-researchers on this study include Huah Shin Ng, David Roder, Theo Niyonsenga and Agnes Vitry from the University of South Australia.

The full findings of the study can now be read in the published paper: Ng HS, Koczwara B, Roder DM, Niyonsenga T and Vitry AI. ‘Comorbidities in Australian women with hormone-dependent breast cancer: a population-based analysis’, Medical Journal of Australia, 15 January 2018, vol. 208, no. 1, pp 24-28, doi: 10.5694/mja17.00006.

This article was originally published on the Flinders University website.

Australian Cancer Research Foundation has provided Flinders University with $1 million in funding towards cancer research.

Image: The Cardrona Bra Fence in Central Otago, New Zealand. Photo: Michael Whitney, Flickr Creative Commons.

Three charts on: brain cancer in Australia

While survival rates for most cancers continue to improve in Australia, brain cancers aren’t seeing the same success. Australians diagnosed with brain cancer had around a 25% chance of surviving for five years from 2009 to 2013. This was compared to a survival rate of 68% for all cancers combined in the same period.

Brain and central nervous system cancers (CNS) can be either malignant or benign, but unlike benign tumours in other tissues, all brain and CNS tumours are associated with significant sickness and death.

Survival rates

It is estimated that 2,076 new cases of brain and other CNS cancers will be diagnosed in Australia in 2017. Around 1,500 people will die from this disease.

While the survival rate is 25% for brain cancer in general, for certain brain cancers it’s much worse. For instance, glioblastoma, the most common form of brain cancer in adults, has a five year survival rate of 4.6%.

So why hasn’t there been an improvement in survival in the last 30 years for patients with brain tumours? A frequent problem is that it’s hard for drugs to actually get to the tumour. The brain has a unique defence, termed the “blood-brain barrier”, that limits the passage of drugs from the bloodstream into the brain.

 

Indeed, most chemotherapies are stopped from getting to the brain by the blood-brain barrier. Those that do, such as temozolomide used to treat brain tumours including glioblastoma, unfortunately have limited efficacy, and only improve survival by several months at best. There is clearly a desperate need to identify new drug targets and more effective therapies for brain tumour treatment.

Incidence rates

Incidence rates for brain and CNS cancers have stayed steady for some decades but the sickness and death that comes with the disease continues to affect many Australian lives. A recent report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that the incidence of many cancers has increased over time.

In many cases this is due to our ageing population, as cancer is more common in older age. But other lifestyle factors also play a role. For example obesity, type two diabetes and alcohol consumption are three major risk factors for liver cancer, rates of which have increased.

The incidence of some other cancers has decreased though. In the case of lung cancer, this is likely due to a decrease in smoking. While the introduction of a vaccine for the human papillomavirus (HPV) (which is responsible for most cases of cervical cancer) would explain the drop in cervical cancer rates.

In comparison, the overall incidence of brain cancer has remained stable over the last 30 years, probably because there are no known lifestyle or environmental factors that contribute to these cancers. While we don’t know what causes brain and CNS tumours, there is evidence to suggest genetics and high levels of radiation may play a role.

Childhood brain cancer

While many cancers almost exclusively present in older people, this is not the case with brain tumours, as these kill more people under 40 than any other cancer.

Perhaps of most concern is that brain tumours disproportionately affect children, killing more children (aged 1-14 years old) in Australia than any other disease. They are only third to land transport accidents and congenital and associated abnormalities as causes of child death in Australia.

The prognosis for children with brain cancers, the most common being medulloblastoma, is much better than in adults though. Around 70% of these patients will have curable disease.

But, undergoing life-saving treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation comes at a long-term cost for these children, as these therapies themselves are associated with detrimental effects on childhood development. These can potentially result in neurological defects, learning difficulties, growth abnormalities and mental health issues.


The ConversationThe Australian government recently announced a A$100 million dollar medical research fund committed to doubling the survival rates and improving the quality of life of patients with brain cancer over the next ten years. It is hoped with this substantial investment, progress will be made to eventually defeat brain cancer.

Melinda Tea, Research Associate, Centre for Cancer Biology, University of South Australia and Stuart Pitson, NHMRC Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Cancer Biology, University of South Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Tony turns on the Christmas lights again for ACRF

Christmas charity fundraising

Prior to settling in Australia, Christmas for our family in the UK was always celebrated in cold and wintery weather. Decorating our house in Lake Macquarie with outdoor lights really began as a way to feel more festive in a warm climate. We started 12 years ago and, over time, it has developed into quite a hobby. My wife and I have three adult sons and ever since our eldest, Adrian, joined in with the decorating, each year’s display has become bigger and better.

This Christmas will be the second year that we’ve raised money for ACRF with donations from anyone who comes to see our lights. When both my wife and I first decided to support a cancer organisation, and after doing some research on the internet, we quickly agreed that ACRF was the one for us. We liked what they were accomplishing. Most people have a family member or friend or acquaintance who has faced cancer. A lot has been done through research to advance treatments, but there is still a long way to go to eradicate or minimise cancer and its devastating effects. My mother died of liver cancer and my family is predisposed to developing bowel cancer so I am acutely aware of what might happen to us in the future.

Setting up each year’s Christmas display does take time, a lot of time. I’m a civil engineer by profession, so you can imagine the amount of planning and structuring that goes into the entire process. It has taken 186 hours this year to set up, working most Saturdays and Sundays in November. As the front lawn is used for six weeks with part of the display and the grass has to be kept short, half-way through we remove all the lights, mow the lawn and then set up again. It takes four hours to accomplish that 15 minutes of mowing!

The complexity of the display has evolved over the years. Five years ago, we started to include computer controlled lights that flash on and off in time with music. More recently, we introduced special RGB lights so we can change every bulb to any colour we like, and then my sons presented me with a snow machine which we use on weekends during the display. The kids love it! This year’s innovation is projections of Santa in the windows waving and getting presents ready. Once the Christmas season is finished, we spend many more hours taking down the display, cleaning and testing all the lights and then carefully packing everything away. We usually don’t complete the task until early February.

In 2017 we had a good-sized flow of people who viewed the lights and who also made a donation. We successfully raised $2,800 for ACRF, and we want to match or exceed that amount this year. The reality is that cancer can affect anyone at any time so everyone should try to do their bit to help. So please come by, see the lights and help support cancer research.

 

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Study reveals a role for micro-RNAS in cancer cell survival

A collaboration between the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and Peter Mac has shed light on how cancer cells can precisely control their behaviour through the action of tiny micro-RNAs. They found these small molecules can make a very big impact on whether a cancer cell lives or dies.

Published in the journal Nucleic Acids Research, the study led by Dr Iva Nikolic at Peter Mac and A/Prof Alex Swarbrick at the Garvan has identified which micro-RNAs (miRNAs) are important in determining whether a cancer cell survives.

miRNAs are small strands of genetic material that have the power to control what signals get turned on and off inside a cell. Through this activity miRNAs can control how a cancer cell behaves, from how they divide to how they spread through the body, and even how they respond to treatments.

There are thousands of different miRNAs in every cell, but until now it has been difficult to assess which of these are important in cancer.

“Most other studies into miRNAs in cancer have looked simply at how many miRNA molecules are in a cell, but not at what they are doing,” says the study’s lead author, Dr Iva Nikolic, senior postdoctoral research fellow at the Victorian Centre for Functional Genomics (VCFG) at Peter Mac.

Dr Nikolic, who was at the time a visiting scientist at Peter Mac from A/Prof Alex Swarbrick’s laboratory at the Garvan, conducted her research largely within the VCFG using high-throughput technologies headed by A/Prof Kaylene Simpson.

“In our study we used techniques that allowed us to either mimic or stop the action of individual miRNAs inside cancer cells and looked to see whether the cells survived or died,” explains Dr Nikolic.

miRNAs are powerful molecules inside a cell with the ability to regulate the expression of not just one, but many different downstream genes.

“By targeting single miRNAs we were able to study the function of whole gene networks and determine their importance in cancer cell function.”

Another unique feature of the study was its assessment of many different cell lines representing diverse cancer types, allowing scientists to draw closer connections between gene expression and cell behaviours that has not been possible in smaller studies.

“We studied the action of each miRNA in the contexts of different cancer types and found quite big differences. For example, miRNAs in breast cancer cells act in different ways to miRNAs in prostate or brain cancer cells.”

“Therefore, miRNA-dependent regulation of cancer is likely determined by the cell type from which the cancer was originally derived. This will help us think about better treatments tailored for cancer type,” says Dr Nikolic.

The study authors also developed a web-based portal that will help cancer researchers from all over the world predict direct targets of individual miRNAs within cancer cells. This may aid the identification of new targets for anti-cancer therapies.

“It was an important aim of the study to create a resource for other scientists to be able to learn from our research. We hope this will help to find new insights into how cancers work and drive new discoveries.”

ACRF has provided $7 million in cancer research funding to Peter Mac and $6.1 million to Garvin Institute.

This article was originally published on the Peter Mac website.

Image: Dr Iva Nikolic and a research colleague from the Victorian Centre for Functional Genomics (VCFG) at Peter Mac.

Missing DNA fragments hold clue to predicting childhood leukaemia relapse

Australian cancer researche
Image courtesy of the Children’s Cancer Institute.

Australian researchers have developed a new risk scoring system for children with leukaemia based on missing DNA fragments or ‘microdeletions’.

The risk score will allow doctors to better predict the chance of relapse of a subgroup of kids currently hidden in a lower risk group. The finding was published today in the British Journal of Haematology.

The international study, led by Australian researchers at Children’s Cancer Institute, discovered that searching for specific gene microdeletions found only in leukaemia, when combined with two other test results, provides doctors with a more accurate way to categorise patient risk than the current approach.

The study tested 475 patients from 6 different children’s hospitals in Australia and New Zealand enrolled on a clinical trial sponsored by ANZCHOG, the Australian and New Zealand Children’s Haematology and Oncology Group.

The patients were all children with non-high-risk B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (BCP-ALL), a subtype of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), the most common childhood cancer with survival rates typically near 90%. Most children with ALL have B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

Study leader, Associate Professor Rosemary Sutton, said the most intensive treatment for BCP-ALL patients was usually given to the 11% or so of children in the high-risk category to limit side effects for kids who don’t need it.

“Children in the standard and medium risk category in the study were given less intensive treatment than high-risk patients. But about one in six of them relapsed. Obviously, some children needed more intensive treatment than previously thought – but which ones?” she said.

A/Prof Sutton said she and her collaborators developed a new kind of risk score which builds on a bone marrow test, the minimal residual disease or MRD test developed at Children’s Cancer Institute, which gives doctors early warning that treatment may not be working.

The MRD test is so sensitive it can detect just one cancer cell in a million bone marrow cells surviving cancer treatment. The test was a huge boon for some children with leukaemia on this same trial, since it alerted doctors that they had a very high risk of relapsing.  Consequently, they were treated very intensively with chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants, and the survival rate of this subgroup doubled. But MRD alone is not enough.

“For the standard to medium risk group, we needed more information to get a better handle on the biology of the child’s cancer to better determine their risk”, said A/Prof Sutton.

“So, we supplemented MRD results with two other pieces of patient information, the presence or absence of specific gene microdeletions and a score called the NCI (National Cancer Institute) risk, based on age and white blood cell count.

“We tested for microdeletions in 9 genes involved in leukaemia and found that two of the genes, IKZF1 (called ‘Ikaros’) and P2RY8-CRLF2, were important predictors of relapse,” she said.

These measures were combined to calculate a risk score for each patient of ‘0’ (no risk factors), to ‘2+’ (several). The study found that children with a ‘2+’ score were most likely to relapse or die within 7 years after treatment started, while those with a ‘0’ score least likely.

The same microdeletions were found to be important for predicting relapse in a cohort of Dutch children with leukaemia and the new scoring system was validated by researchers in The Netherlands.

If the new risk score system is adopted in future, doctors could give children with a ‘2+’ risk more intensive treatment with the aim of improving their survival.

Dr Toby Trahair, paper co-author and oncologist at Kids’ Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick said the scoring system could make a big difference to the success of childhood leukaemia treatment.

“We are always trying to improve how we diagnose and treat children with this most common childhood cancer. This risk score will mean doctors can fine tune a child’s risk category and so fine tune their treatment.

“It will mean more kids can conquer this horrible disease, which only 50 years ago had survival rates of close to zero” he said.

The study included researchers from Children’s Cancer Institute, UNSW, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle and Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick as well as researchers in The Netherlands and Germany.

ACRF is a proud supporter of the Children’s Cancer Institute and has provided $5.2 million in funding towards their cancer research.

This story was originally published on Children’s Cancer Institute’s website.

Researchers show aspirin added to cancer drug improves effectiveness

Adding aspirin to some existing cancer drugs could increase their effectiveness against a group of tumours resistant to treatment, new research has shown.

University of Queensland scientists are hoping clinical trials could soon be underway for people with lung, pancreatic and colorectal cancers that have not responded to other therapies.

UQ Diamantina Institute researcher Associate Professor Helmut Schaider said cancers driven by mutations in a group of genes, known as RAS, had a low response to treatments with currently no drug directly targeting them.

The group of tumours includes some pancreatic, lung and colorectal cancers with very low survival rates, as well as a small percentage of melanomas.

“We found the addition of aspirin to a cancer inhibitor drug, Sorafenib, strongly enhanced its effectiveness against mouse models of lung cancer and melanoma with RAS mutations,” Dr Schaider said.

“In a multicentre phase three trial for non-small cell lung cancer, Sorafenib alone showed a marginal improvement for patients.

“Our research suggests its combination with aspirin could benefit patients with RAS mutations who don’t otherwise respond to other treatments.”

Dr Schaider said the drug combination could potentially reduce the dose of Sorafenib required, improving quality of life for patients by reducing adverse impacts that can lead some patients to stop treatment.

“By combining it with a relatively high dose of aspirin, two molecular processes are activated and together they work to kill RAS mutant cancer cells.

“This dual activation also might prevent the tumours acquiring resistance to the treatment, which can happen when the inhibitor drug is given alone.”

Dr Schaider said adverse effects of aspirin also needed to be considered, but the doses required would be most likely clinically manageable for patients who have no remaining treatment options.

“A clinical trial of the combination could proceed relatively quickly, potentially piggy-backing on other testing already underway.”

Dr Schaider, based at the Translational Research Institute, said the dual therapy approach could improve the length of time cancer patients have without their disease progressing.

“We believe adding aspirin could also potentially prevent relapse of tumours in patients.”

The research involved Princess Alexandra Hospital oncologist Dr Victoria Atkinson along with scientists from UQ’s Dermatology Research Centre, Mater Research Institute-UQ, and The Wistar Institute in Philadelphia.

Investigations are already underway into combining aspirin with other cancer-inhibiting drugs.

The research is published in Clinical Cancer Research.

ACRF has supported UQ Diamantina Institute since 1999 and has provided $6.2 million in funding towards their cancer research efforts.

Edward is a fundraiser at age 2

charity fundraising eventWe, Jayne and Onan, are the proud and happy parents of a beautiful son, Edward. Originally from the UK and Turkey, we have made Sydney our home for almost 10 years. We work hard during the week in marketing and finance and enjoy taking Edward to the beach on the weekends.

When Edward recently celebrated his second birthday, we organised a party with a theme of his favourite things – trucks and construction. Of course, there was also food, balloons, playtime, laughter, singing, and a special birthday cake. What was unusual for a toddler’s birthday party was our request that everyone make a donation to ACRF rather than bring birthday presents for Edward. Our son is fortunate to already have an abundance of toys, and we thought it would be a special gift for him to contribute to the important cause of cancer research.

Cancer affects so many people, and we’ve experienced one of our nearest and dearest suffer from cancer. Onan’s father sadly passed away from lung cancer three years ago.
We decided to fundraise for ACRF as we’re particularly interested in how they have contributed to impactful projects such as providing the seed funding for the world’s first HPV vaccine. We are impressed that projects which receive funding undergo strong scrutiny by a panel of eminent doctors and scientists.

We are extremely happy to have made Edward’s birthday party into a uniquely meaningful occasion. Friends and family who attended were all very positive about our fundraising efforts and made generous donations. Edward had a wonderful day and we look forward to sharing the story him when he is older.

 

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Tiffany becomes an ACRF regular giver

Regular givingIf I had a personality label, it would read highly motivated and very energetic! I am 47 years old and my husband and I are the parents of two beautiful teenagers. I also work in the busy role of General Manager for a land survey practice. Life often gets absurdly hectic with juggling all of our schedules, but we are a happy and healthy family.

Having previously worked with a medical research institute as the finance manager left me with a good understanding of how much medical research relies on funding support. I chose to become a regular ACRF giver because I particularly like how ACRF funds cancer research of all types.

Sadly, cancer touches all of us at some point. The first time I encountered the disease was with my grandfather. The memory of going to see him during his last few days remains vivid. Although told that he might not remember me, his face lit up when I walked into the room and greeted him. I burst into tears and cried; it was the last time that I saw him.

The next cancer encounter was with my gorgeous father. Some 10 years ago he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and I will always remember how upset we were at the possibility of losing him. Dad recovered fully from that cancer, only to suffer squamous cell carcinoma a couple of years ago. The wound healing process after radiotherapy was long and painful but thankfully he pulled through again. I dread the thought that Dad might face another round of cancer at some point in time.

In more recent times my sister-in-law, Deb, was diagnosed with breast and secondary cancer, and my brother in law is currently receiving treatment for lung cancer. My understanding of his cancer is that it can be managed, but not cured. Deb and Trevor are beautiful people and it’s a long road ahead for them both.

Finally, during the past few weeks, the wife of one of my work colleagues was diagnosed with both breast and lung cancer. They are devastated and trying to come to terms with what their future holds.
There are only so many hugs and good wishes you can send when someone you know is confronted with the distressing news of cancer. I want to honour them all by giving back and taking a positive step toward helping to find a cure.

I would encourage anyone thinking about becoming a regular giver to not hesitate. If you can afford to give even a small amount, it will help and is definitely worthwhile. Continued cancer research is the only way of finding a cure, and to give hope to the many patients and their families suffering from the disease.

 

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Latest genomic technology to analyse tumours in Perth

(From left to right) The Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Professor Alistair Forrest and Mr Tom Dery AO, ACRF Chair.

 

The Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research wins $1.75m grant to establish ACRF Centre for Advanced Cancer Genomics

The $1.75M grant awarded by the Australian Cancer Research Fund (ACRF) will fund three pieces of equipment, including a high throughput next generation DNA sequencer and equipment to isolate single cells from a patient’s tumour.

The equipment will make it possible to analyse thousands of cells from hundreds of tumours and examine billions of genetic sequences to determine the genetic make-up of each tumour and provide new insights into how cancer cells evolve and interact with normal cells.

It will be housed at the world-class single-cell sequencing facility being led by The University of Western Australia’s Professor Forrest at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research in Nedlands.

Single cell analysis of cancer tumours, to see which genes are turned on and off in thousands of cells within a patient’s tumour, is the next wave in cancer research, providing hope to patients that researchers will be able to identify new drugs to combat cancer, better predict a tumour’s response to drugs and develop innovative ways to kill cancer cells.

A consortium of cancer researchers and clinicians across Perth led by Professor Alistair Forrest who heads up the Systems Biology and Genomics Laboratory at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research was recently awarded $3.75M from the Cancer Research Trust to build a comprehensive atlas of the cell types that make up cancer tumours.

“The new equipment funded by the ACRF will make it quicker and less costly to generate large amounts of sequence data, which means the tumours of more patients will be able to be analysed.

“The low survival rates for some cancers, such as mesothelioma, ovarian and pancreatic cancers, highlight the need for these new approaches to understand and target cancer better.

“This new equipment is essential to building an in depth atlas of the cell types in tumours.

“Using advanced single cell profiling technologies, we will survey the cell types, the genes turned on and off in each cell and mutations contained in each patient’s tumour.

“Studying tumours at the single cell level provides opportunities to identify novel biomarkers, predict response rates to drugs and provide a better understanding of cancer which ultimately will lead to new treatments,” Professor Forrest said.

“These technologies are the next wave of genomics and we have a once in a decade opportunity to establish them and remain at the leading edge,” he said.

The Australian Cancer Research Fund (ACRF) has awarded four grants across Australia to research it considers has the greatest potential to change treatment outcomes for all Australian cancer patients.

Australian Cancer Research Foundation Chief Executive, Professor Ian Brown said it was important to invest in technology that will help build in-depth knowledge of cancer cells and their environment.

“The new ACRF Centre for Advanced Cancer Genomics at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research will provide new insights into how cancer cells evolve and interact with normal cells, leading to new cancer treatments that will benefit all Australian cancer patients.”

“Thanks to the generosity of our many supporters from around Australia we are able to award high-impact grants, allowing Australia’s best scientists to embark on ground-breaking research projects.

“These cancer research initiatives are directed at all types of cancer and speed up discoveries, ultimately working to save lives by saving time,” says Professor Brown.

Chief investigators on the ACRF grant were: Prof Alistair Forrest, Prof Ryan Lister, and Prof Peter Leedman from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research; Assoc Prof Timo Lassmann, Prof Ursula Kees, and Professor Terrance Johns from Telethon Kids Institute, Prof Christobel Saunders, Prof Camile Farah, Prof Wendy Erber, Prof Bruce Robinson, Prof Anna Nowak, Adj Prof Richard Lake, Prof Michael Millward and Assoc Prof Benhur Amanuel from The University of Western Australia and Prof Mel Ziman, from, Edith Cowan University.

Recognising the importance of next generation sequencing in Perth, co-funding for the sequencer has also been provided by The University of Western Australia, Curtin, Murdoch, ECU, and CSIRO.
The grant presentation will be made by the Governor General at a ceremony at Government House in Victoria at 6pm EST on 29 November.

New cancer imaging centre to shine a light on the life of a tumour

ONJCRI 2017
(From left to right) The Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria, Professor Matthias Ernst and Mr Tom Dery AO, ACRF Chair.

 

A $2 million grant from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF), announced today, will fund a state-of-the-art imaging centre to understand how and why tumours corrupt the normal cells of their immediate environment.

The grant enables the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI) and Latrobe Institute of Molecular Science (LIMS) to extend its ground-breaking work on the interaction between individual tumour cells and normal cells, and accelerate the speed with which results in the laboratory can be translated into treatments for cancer patients.

‘Cellular interactions are crucial for tumours – they drive the growth of tumours and their spread to metastatic sites; these interactions are also often responsible for tumours becoming resistant to targeted therapy,’ Professor Matthias Ernst, Scientific Director of ONJCRI, said. ‘This new centre will literally shine a light on what happens in the micro-environment around a tumour, giving us the information we need to develop effective, targeted anti-cancer therapies.’

‘We know that tumour cells coerce and corrupt their environment to their advantage. If we understand the interactions and mechanisms they use to do this, we will better understand how to counter them.’

Professor Ernst, who is also the Head of the School of Cancer Medicine at La Trobe University, welcomed the generous support of the ACRF.

‘Australia is blessed with world-class cancer research and is playing a lead in the development of anti-tumour treatment, including those that harness the power of the body’s own immune system. We all recognise that our research achievements have to stay abreast of the rising rates of cancer, and the new ACRF Centre for Imaging the Tumour Environment will facilitate that.’

‘The ACRF Centre for Imaging the Tumour Microenvironment will offer cutting edge capabilities for researchers both at the ONJCRI and at LIMS who are studying the interactions between cancer cells. The collaborative opportunities that will arise from the centre will also greatly benefit advances in cancer research,’ said Professor Andrew Hill, Head of La Trobe University’s Institute for Molecular Sciences.

‘The ACRF Centre for Imaging the Tumour Environment will provide new insights into how the micro-environment impacts tumour growth, leading to new targeted and immune based cancer treatments that will benefit all Australian cancer patients,’ ACRF Chief Executive, Professor Ian Brown, said.

‘Thanks to the generosity of our many supporters from around Australia we are able to award high-impact grants, allowing Australia’s best scientists to embark on ground-breaking research projects. These cancer research initiatives cover all types of cancer and speed up discoveries, ultimately working to save lives by saving time,’ says Professor Brown.

Each year ACRF challenges the Australian cancer research community to propose projects that are bold and have the potential to make a significant impact on cancer prevention, detection and treatment.

In 2017, thirteen projects were submitted from across the country and evaluated by ACRF’s esteemed Medical Research Advisory Committee. The Committee recommended four grants to the ACRF Board for projects that have the greatest potential to change treatment outcomes for all Australian cancer patients.

 

Australian Cancer Research Foundation awards $7.5 million to accelerate cancer research across Australia

grants announcement

SYDNEY, NSW — The Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) has announced $7.5 million in cancer research funding today cutting-edge research technology and infrastructure to speed up discoveries in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Professor Ian Brown, CEO of Australian Cancer Research Foundation, emphasised the importance of the community’s support.

“Thanks to the generosity of our many supporters from around Australia we can award high-impact grants, allowing Australia’s best scientists to embark on revolutionary research projects. These cancer research initiatives investigate all types of cancer and act as a catalyst to speed up discoveries which are ultimately working to save lives by saving time”.

“Every year ACRF encourages the Australian cancer research community to propose projects that are innovative and have great potential to make a significant impact on cancer prevention, detection and treatment. “Thirteen projects were submitted from across the country and assessed by ACRF’s eminent Medical Research Advisory Committee who were impressed by the quality and vision of the applications,” said Professor Brown.

The recipients of the annual ACRF grants in 2017 are:

ACRF Centre for Imaging the Tumour Environment – $2 million for new imaging technology which will help develop new therapies by examining tumours within the patient’s body as well as individual cells in a tumour.

Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute and La Trobe University, VIC

ACRF Centre for Advanced Cancer Genomics – $1.75 million for equipment that will help build in-depth knowledge of all cell types that make up a tumour. This will provide new insights into how cancer cells evolve and interact with normal cells, leading to new treatments.

Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, WA

ACRF Centre for Advanced Cellular Immunotherapy – $1.75 million for the development of manufacturing and monitoring facilities that will support new immunotherapy clinical trials.

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, QLD

ACRF Oasis Research Centre – $2 million for a new facility that supports research into improving long-term health outcomes of cancer patients and survivors.

South Western Sydney Local Health District, NSW

Since 1984, ACRF has awarded $136.8 million in grants to Australian cancer research institutes, hospitals and universities across the country to fund the technologies, infrastructure and equipment.

Funding from ACRF has helped get some of the most successful cancer research projects get off the ground, including the early support of the research that led to the cervical cancer vaccine.

ACRF is dedicated to funding research in Australia that has the power to make substantial breakthroughs in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment for all types of cancer across Australia.

$2 million grant brings Liverpool cancer Wellness Centre one step closer

(From left to right() Mr Anthony Howard QC, The Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria, Professor Geoff Delaney and Mr Tom Dery AO, ACRF Chair.

 

Liverpool Hospital Cancer Services has been awarded a $2 million Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) grant to go towards providing a facility for the first cancer Wellness Centre in south-west Sydney.

Liverpool’s Director of Cancer Services, Professor Geoff Delaney, said the grant was a huge step forward for the innovative Oncology Alliance for the Science of Integrated Survivorship (the ACRF OASIS Centre).

“We are extremely excited, it has taken a lot of effort from the initial idea six or seven years ago and this is good recognition for the treatments and the effort all the staff have put in in this area,” he said.

The centre will work in partnership with universities and research institutes including the University of NSW, Western Sydney University, the Ingham Institute and the National Institute of Complementary Medicine.

“The centre will focus on gathering scientific evidence on the use of a wide range of treatments including massage, acupuncture, exercise, Chinese medicine and diet in improving short and long-term treatment and quality of life outcomes for cancer patients,” Professor Delaney said.

The ACRF OASIS Centre will be the only centre in Sydney collecting data for research and evidence purposes in order to further improve the care that can be provided to future cancer patients.

“UNSW Medicine welcomes this generous grant from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation towards an important initiative for the people of south-west Sydney,” said UNSW Acting Dean of Medicine Professor Anthony Kelleher.

“A Wellness Centre would not only benefit cancer patients in the care they receive, and help improve their quality of life; it would also advance our scientific understanding of new approaches to cancer treatment and aligns perfectly with our thematic approach to research and education. It will further strengthen our links and commitment to the south west.”

ACRF Chief Executive, Professor Ian Brown, said the ACRF was excited to seed fund the development of the facility.

“Research into improving long term health outcomes of cancer patients will benefit all Australian cancer patients,” he said.

“Many times patients are left weakened due to the debilitating impact of their treatment and research into reducing adverse effects of treatment will be welcomed by all.

“ACRF is pleased to support the development and delivery of evidence based models of care, which will significantly improve quality of life for cancer patients.

“Thanks to the generosity of many of our supporters from around Australia we are able to award high-impact grants, allowing Australia’s best scientists to embark on ground-breaking research projects.”

The ACRF OASIS Centre is still about $1.1million from being able to begin construction of the building.

Professor Delaney said he was confident they would be able to attract the remaining funding, and he welcomed anyone who was interested in being involved in funding the centre and helping to significantly further cancer care research.

Each year ACRF challenges the Australian cancer research community to propose projects that are bold and have the potential to make a significant impact on cancer prevention, detection and treatment.

In 2017, 13 projects were submitted from across the country and evaluated by ACRF’s eminent Medical Research Advisory Committee. The Committee recommended four grants to the ACRF Board for projects that have the greatest potential to change treatment outcomes for all Australian cancer patients.

 

ACRF grant to transform Queensland into global immunotherapy hub

QIMR Berghofer grant
(From left to right) Mr Anthony Howard QC, The Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria and Professor Frank Gannon.

 

Brisbane will continue to produce new and world-leading cancer immunotherapy treatments, thanks to a $1.75 million grant from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF).

The funding was announced at a ceremony in Melbourne this evening. It will allow QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute to establish the ACRF Centre for Advanced Cellular Immunotherapy and to expand its capacity to develop, trial and produce immunotherapies to treat cancers, including those treated with bone marrow transplants.

In the last decade, immunotherapy has emerged as the “fourth pillar” of cancer treatment, along with surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It works by “training” the immune system to recognise and destroy cancer cells. The field has given hope to thousands of cancer patients by successfully treating aggressive cancers like melanoma that do not respond to chemotherapy.

The ACRF funding will be used to expand QIMR Berghofer’s existing cell manufacturing facility, Q-Gen Cell Therapeutics, and to buy new equipment needed to produce cellular immunotherapies. In recognition, a new facility named the “ACRF Centre for Advanced Cellular Immunotherapy” will be established within QIMR Berghofer.

QIMR Berghofer’s Director and CEO, Professor Frank Gannon, has thanked the ACRF for its invaluable support.

“QIMR Berghofer is already at the global forefront of research into cancer immunotherapy. We are currently trialling some of the most exciting new treatments in Australia. But because of that success, demands on our facilities are growing,” Professor Gannon said.

“This extremely generous contribution will allow us to scale up production of clinical-grade immunotherapies for patients treated within clinical trials.

“But the ACRF’s support won’t only benefit QIMR Berghofer. Research organisations from across Australia and the world will be able to have clinical-grade treatments produced at our regulatory-approved facility, meaning this funding will help to advance the field of immunotherapy globally.”

ACRF Chief Executive, Professor Ian Brown, said the Australian Cancer Research Foundation was pleased to invest in the development of novel immunotherapies that would benefit all cancer patients.

“The new ACRF Centre for Advanced Cellular Immunotherapy at QIMR Berghofer will provide leadership in the development and manufacture of clinical agents for use in immunotherapy clinical trials,” Professor Brown said.

“We are excited to participate in a project that holds a promise to significantly advance the development of cancer treatment as well as improving treatment outcomes for all types of cancer.

“Thanks to the generosity of our many supporters from around Australia we are able to award high-impact grants, allowing Australia’s best scientists to embark on ground-breaking research projects. These cancer research initiatives will help to speed up discoveries that will ultimately work to save lives by saving time.”

The grant is one of four awarded by the ACRF’s Medical Research Advisory Committee Australia-wide. Funding is awarded to projects that have the potential to make a significant impact on the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer.

Stress suppresses response to cancer treatments

New research shows that chronic stress suppresses the immune system’s response to cancer, reducing the effectiveness of immunotherapy treatments.

University of Queensland scientists say they are investigating dual therapies for patients to reduce stress signalling and improve their response to treatments.

UQ Diamantina Institute researcher Dr Stephen Mattarollo said lymphoma progressed more rapidly in mouse models when stress pathways were induced to reflect chronic psychological stress.

“When we used immunotherapies on these mice they were not able to respond as effectively as those which had not been stressed,” Dr Mattarollo said.

“This is because the stress led to poor function against the cancer by T-cells, which are very important in the immune system’s control and surveillance of tumours and are a major target in many immunotherapy treatments.”

Dr Mattarollo said increased anxiety was natural with a cancer diagnosis, and it should be managed to ensure the best possible outcome for patients.

“Absolutely there is now pre-clinical evidence to suggest that treatments and lifestyle interventions to manage or reduce stress levels will improve the chances of these patients responding to therapies,” he said.

“This applies particularly to immunotherapies, but many conventional therapies such as chemotherapy also rely on components of the immune system for their effectiveness.

“It is quite possible that by increasing the immune function in patients they will also respond better to some other therapies.”

PhD candidate Michael Nissen said as immunotherapies became more widely available, it was important to build on the knowledge of factors which influence their effectiveness.

“The more we know, the better chance we have of designing them effectively and efficiently to work in cancer patients,” Mr Nissen said.

Dr Mattarollo said the lab was hoping to combine immunotherapy treatments with commonly used blood pressure drugs that block the effects of stress hormones.

“We hope this will reduce the stress-induced neural signalling and improve immune function,” Dr Mattarollo said.

“We are about to test this combination in animal models.”

Dr Mattarollo said psychoneuroimmunology – or the interaction between the mind, the nervous system and the immune system – is a rapidly growing discipline and is becoming an increasing focus of the lab’s cancer research.

The research has been published in Cancer Immunology Research.

The original news article was posted on Diamantina Institute’s website.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation has supported cancer research at Diamantina Institute by providing three grants, totalling AUD$ 6.2 million, for the purchase of cutting edge research equipment and technology.

New institute to revolutionise cancer imaging and targeted radiotherapy

The ACRF Image X Institute, a world-leading centre for medical innovation, launches today at its University of Sydney headquarters.

The work of the Institute will focus on creating new medical devices for cancer imaging and targeted radiotherapy. The Institute will provide a site and forum where academia, medicine, industry and government can advance the science and clinical practice of cancer treatment.

The ACRF Image X Institute will be led by Professors Paul Keall (University of Sydney), Michael Barton (Ingham Institute), and Associate Professor Michael Jackson (Prince of Wales Hospital), with a team of world renowned researchers and collaborators.

The Institute is funded by $2.5 million from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation and a further $25 million in research support.

There are three main research nodes in New South Wales including the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre; Liverpool Hospital’s Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research; and Prince of Wales Hospital’s Nelune Comprehensive Cancer Centre.

“Our mission is to create, share and apply scientific knowledge to improve human health,” said Institute Director Professor Paul Keall, from Sydney Medical School at the University of Sydney.

“We will revolutionise medical imaging, transform functionally targeted radiotherapy and enable global access to radiotherapy.

“With world class expertise in bench-to-bedside translational research, an entrepreneurial focus and cross-disciplinary collaborations, the Institute will attract top tier researchers with a track record of pioneering technology.”

The $2.5 million funding from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation is supporting three unique cancer imaging and targeted radiotherapy devices. These include an MRI-Linac, a real-time cancer imaging and targeted therapy system; the Nano-X, a smarter, smaller cancer radiotherapy system and a robotic imaging machine to advance patient connected imaging. These devices will increase cure rates and reduce the human and economic costs of treatment-related side effects.

“The ACRF Image X Institute has the potential to make significant advances in the delivery of radiation therapy worldwide,” said Professor Ian Brown CEO, Australian Cancer Research Foundation.

“Improvements in treatment accuracy will minimise harmful side effects and lead to improved patient outcomes. The development of new hardware will reduce the cost of equipment, giving more people, also in underserviced areas, access to treatment.

“ACRF is dedicated to funding innovative research in the pursuit of ways to prevent or more effectively treat cancer. The ACRF Image X Institute will have a worldwide impact and ACRF is proud to stimulate major advancements in radiotherapy.”

The Institute currently has 270 papers published in top international journals, with six clinical world-firsts in research discoveries and technology, and 13 clinical trials taking place in Australian hospitals. There have been 25 commercial R&D projects, with 25 issued and filed patents, eight licenses issued and three spin-off companies.

Image: Courtesy of ACRF Image X Institute, University of Sydney

Two team up and go bald at fundraiser

Headshave fundraiserPenny and Emma created Team Park Balding to participate in Head Shave for Cancer Research and to support ACRF. Both women have a background in science and grasp the importance and impact of scientific research. They chose to raise money for ACRF because of the organisation’s funding of research into all cancers.

“We didn’t want to be exclusive in terms of the type of cancer when we were fundraising as all cancers are impactful and distressful to humanity.”

Penny: Cancer is such a tricky disease to treat and cure. By doing this event for ACRF I hope to contribute to the research that will make life easier for cancer patients and their families. As a scientist in the biomedical field, I am passionate about unravelling the complexities of diseases and using science to improve lives. By facing the challenge head-on with passionate and diligent science, hopefully, we can eventually leave harsh treatments behind and find a cure.

Emma: At some point in life we will all be affected in some way by cancer and yet it is so easy to feel alone or that you stand out during that battle. Penny and I have both seen how devastating cancer is in society and how it impacts on people’s lives. Losing people prematurely to this disease has been a motivator to take action to help further cancer research.

“We both chose to do the shave partly because it’s been shown to be a really successful way of fundraising. We also felt that it was a great call to arms to jump on board as it’s a big commitment and personal change for us to make which showed everyone how seriously we felt about fundraising for cancer.”

Emma: Shaving my head is my way of showing support in the visual sense. Being bald has become a societal flag for a cancer patient and that makes a person’s private battle very public. I hope to show my solidarity with patients with this disease and reduce any feelings of isolation associated with hair loss.

Penny: Hair loss brings with it a unique vulnerability as people often use hair as an expression of vanity or as a shield from the outside world. By removing my hair, I want to show anyone who is dealing with this disease that they don’t have to stand out on their own. I also want to symbolise the cutting back of obstacles and barriers that can obscure our clear view and understanding of cancer, which is what more and more research funding will be able to do for the reality of cancer in the future.

“We wish for a future where a cancer diagnosis is not fatal. The only way we’re going to make it to that end is if we do some really solid research into various cancers and make sure early diagnosis is more prevalent and therapies are more effective at reducing and removing cancer from the body.”

Team Park Balding had a big turn-out of friends, families, kids and dogs at their Sunday afternoon barbeque and fundraising party at Jell’s Park, Melbourne. Over $5,700 in donations was collected at the event for ACRF and cancer research.

“We are proud of what we’ve been able to achieve together and so glad that we undertook this event as a team. It was something really worthwhile to put our energy into. Raising funds was tangible, and there was our sense of accomplishment and pride to actually go through with the head shave.”

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New study aims to deliver better outcomes for triple negative breast cancer patients

New research at the Westmead Institute aims to develop a targeted treatment for triple negative breast cancer patients.

Triple-negative breast cancer accounts for approximately 15 percent of all breast cancers but, unlike more common types of breast cancer, it does not have a targeted or effective treatment leading to poor outcomes for patients.

Lead researcher, Dr Dinny Graham from the Breast Cancer Research Group, said she hopes this study will uncover the receptors present in triple negative breast cancer so that a targeted treatment can be developed.

“We want to be able to develop personalised tests for patients suffering from triple negative breast cancer, but we need to know which receptors to target first,” Dr Graham said.

The most common form of breast cancer is estrogen receptor positive (ER+). The standard care treatment for ER+ patients targets the estrogen receptor and is highly effective.

However, ER+, triple negative breast cancer lacks estrogen receptors and therefore that treatment is not as effective.

The estrogen receptor is just one of a family of 48 different human nuclear receptors that are important to many aspects of human health.

Dr Graham has found that a number of these receptors could perform a similar role as estrogen receptors in diagnosing and treating triple negative breast cancer.

Her team is now testing which nuclear receptors act as biomarkers that may present an opportunity for targeted therapeutic treatments.

“Receptors are recognised as excellent biomarkers and as potential drug targets.

“A number of drugs, targeting a range of receptors are already approved for other clinical applications. We have evidence that some of these might be repurposed to treat triple negative breast cancer.

“This research could mean reduced mortality rates and reduced side effects of untargeted chemotherapy,” she concluded.

This study aims to close the existing knowledge gap and deliver new insights into treating patients with triple negative breast cancer.

Dr Dinny Graham is scientific lead of the Translational Breast Cancer Genomics Group at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research.

Facts:

1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
144 Australian men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
More than 3,000 Australians will die from breast cancer this year.

This research news was originally posted on The Westmead Institute’s website.

ACRF has provided Westmead Institute with $7m in funding towards cancer research.

 

Karen’s Story

 

My name is Karen and I am a high school teacher, a farmer’s wife and the mother of two boisterous girls aged six and four. We live on our family farm near the rural village of Caragabal in Central NSW.

Like you, I am an ACRF supporter, and I am dedicated to raising funds for cancer research to ensure that all families will get to spend Christmas together for years to come.

And, as ACRF supporters, we know all too well that cancer affects all Australians, from the country to the city, to the coast, from my small village to your community.

Cancer is not new to our family. My dad died of cancer almost 20 years ago, and now I am a cancer survivor myself.

Last year, I was diagnosed with aggressive triple negative breast cancer at 35 years of age. I underwent a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, node dissection and radiation treatment.

Thanks to these and other breakthroughs in cancer research, there is no longer any evidence of breast cancer in my body.

And, thanks to all these advances, I have been left with hope.

Hope that the cancer never comes back. Hope that my daughters will never be directly affected by it. Hope that I will be around to help them through puberty, weddings and babies. And, hope that I will live long enough to enjoy retirement with my husband.

After my personal experience with cancer, I urgently wanted to do my bit to help Australian cancer researchers to find ways to beat all types of cancer.

Although cancer treatments are improving, and major research breakthroughs are getting closer, I know that dedicated efforts will require more funding.

When you make a donation to ACRF today, you give Australia’s best researchers access to the equipment they need to end cancer. By funding new technology, we are helping scientists to uncover information that will lead to better cancer treatment and prevention sooner.

We can all do our part to bring hope to all Australians – together we can help put an end to all types of cancer.
With more funds, researchers and scientists can help realise the hopes and dreams of so many Australian families like mine and yours. Thank you for joining me.   

Karen – ACRF supporter and cancer survivor

Please donate by 31 December to equip Australia’s best researchers with the tools they need to end all cancers.

 

Brain cancer in Australia

File 20171110 29341 7bkchy.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
All brain tumours are associated with significant sickness and death, even if they are benign.
from shutterstock.com

Authors Melinda Tea, University of South Australia and Stuart Pitson, University of South Australia

While survival rates for most cancers continue to improve in Australia, brain cancers aren’t seeing the same success. Australians diagnosed with brain cancer had around a 25% chance of surviving for five years from 2009 to 2013. This was compared to a survival rate of 68% for all cancers combined in the same period.

Brain and central nervous system cancers (CNS) can be either malignant or benign, but unlike benign tumours in other tissues, all brain and CNS tumours are associated with significant sickness and death.

Survival rates

It is estimated that 2,076 new cases of brain and other CNS cancers will be diagnosed in Australia in 2017. Around 1,500 people will die from this disease.

While the survival rate is 25% for brain cancer in general, for certain brain cancers it’s much worse. For instance, glioblastoma, the most common form of brain cancer in adults, has a five year survival rate of 4.6%.

So why hasn’t there been an improvement in survival in the last 30 years for patients with brain tumours? A frequent problem is that it’s hard for drugs to actually get to the tumour. The brain has a unique defence, termed the “blood-brain barrier”, that limits the passage of drugs from the bloodstream into the brain.


Indeed, most chemotherapies are stopped from getting to the brain by the blood-brain barrier. Those that do, such as temozolomide used to treat brain tumours including glioblastoma, unfortunately have limited efficacy, and only improve survival by several months at best. There is clearly a desperate need to identify new drug targets and more effective therapies for brain tumour treatment.

Incidence rates

Incidence rates for brain and CNS cancers have stayed steady for some decades but the sickness and death that comes with the disease continues to affect many Australian lives. A recent report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that the incidence of many cancers has increased over time.

CC BY-ND

In many cases this is due to our ageing population, as cancer is more common in older age. But other lifestyle factors also play a role. For example obesity, type two diabetes and alcohol consumption are three major risk factors for liver cancer, rates of which have increased.


The incidence of some other cancers has decreased though. In the case of lung cancer, this is likely due to a decrease in smoking. While the introduction of a vaccine for the human papillomavirus (HPV) (which is responsible for most cases of cervical cancer) would explain the drop in cervical cancer rates.

In comparison, the overall incidence of brain cancer has remained stable over the last 30 years, probably because there are no known lifestyle or environmental factors that contribute to these cancers. While we don’t know what causes brain and CNS tumours, there is evidence to suggest genetics and high levels of radiation may play a role.

Childhood brain cancer

While many cancers almost exclusively present in older people, this is not the case with brain tumours, as these kill more people under 40 than any other cancer.

Perhaps of most concern is that brain tumours disproportionately affect children, killing more children (aged 1-14 years old) in Australia than any other disease. They are only third to land transport accidents and congenital and associated abnormalities as causes of child death in Australia.

The prognosis for children with brain cancers, the most common being medulloblastoma, is much better than in adults though. Around 70% of these patients will have curable disease.

But, undergoing life-saving treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation comes at a long-term cost for these children, as these therapies themselves are associated with detrimental effects on childhood development. These can potentially result in neurological defects, learning difficulties, growth abnormalities and mental health issues.

The ConversationThe Australian government recently announced a A$100 million dollar medical research fund committed to doubling the survival rates and improving the quality of life of patients with brain cancer over the next ten years. It is hoped with this substantial investment, progress will be made to eventually defeat brain cancer.

 

Melinda Tea, Research Associate, Centre for Cancer Biology, University of South Australia and Stuart Pitson, NHMRC Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Cancer Biology, University of South Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Kelly’s second fundraiser is a roaring success

I started working in aged care 12 years ago and during that time I saw many people and their families suffer from cancer. Then a few years ago my Nan was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia and she passed rather quickly. All these sad events reinforced my desire to assist ACRF by fundraising. I believe it’s important to support cancer research, not only in hope of a cure one day, but for the advances in treatments, including less side effects, to aid in a better quality of life.

Since giving up my nursing career, I’ve been working in massage therapy and now thoroughly enjoy helping clients with reducing stress and promoting a sense of health and well-being. Running my own small business also gives me the important flexibility of spending more time with our young two children, Lucy and Connor. Outside of family commitments and fundraising, I try to slot in time with my horses too.

For my second ACRF fundraiser, I chose to host a dinner and murder mystery party; it’s something different and so much fun! The event was sold out a couple of months before the event date and there was a waiting list of others who wanted to attend. The party gave everyone the chance to dress up, enjoy a delicious three-course meal and dance the night away with new friends. A personal highlight of the evening was when my very poised six-year-old daughter welcomed everyone to the party.

The feedback from guests was really positive, and there were several requests for me to host another party next year! It is gratifying to raise $5,600 for ACRF, and I thank everyone for their support and generosity.

I would say to anyone thinking about organising an event to just have a go and do something that is fun. Every cent collected for cancer research does count.

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charity fundraising event

Pancreatic cancer patients to benefit from breast cancer drug

Pancreatic cancer research discovery

A newly approved breast cancer drug could be highly effective against some forms of pancreatic cancer, including metastatic cancer. The study also revealed a new straightforward way to test which patients might respond positively to treatment.

Dr Marina Pajic, leader of the Personalised Cancer Therapeutics Group at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, said the test was designed to meet an urgent need for new, targeted therapies for pancreatic cancer.

“We know that the underlying drivers of pancreatic cancer at the molecular level differ from person to person. Despite this, there are currently few treatments that directly target the molecular drivers of an individual’s pancreatic cancer, but only a one-size-fits-all combination chemotherapy approach – and the fact is that this simply isn’t effective for most patients,” said Dr Pajic.

The researchers examined over 550 tumour biopsies from pancreatic cancer patients. In about two-thirds of those tumours, they found, a cellular pathway known as the ‘Cdk4/6 pathway’ was switched on, driving tumour cells to grow and divide.

“This was an important clue for us and we started to look in depth at how best to block the Cdk4/6 pathway. We know that the drug palbociclib switches off the Cdk4/6 protein, so we reasoned that palbociclib might halt the growth of the many pancreatic cancers where this pathway is on.”

Biomarker helps predict which patients will benefit

The researchers also showed that the RB protein – another protein in the Cdk4/6 pathway – was present in high levels in Cdk4/6 “ON” tumours and so could act as a biomarker of the tumour subtype.

“Having a good biomarker is essential for personalised medicine, because it gives us a way to predict who is likely to respond to treatment,” said Dr Angela Chou a pathologist and researcher at Garvan and St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney.

Dr Chou also said that RB levels help to identify and treat metastatic tumours.

“Excitingly, data from our patient samples shows us that, if a primary tumour has high RB levels, then it’s likely that the metastatic tumours will also. This means there’s a possibility that both primary and metastatic tumours could be targeted in the same patient in the future,” added Dr Chou.

More information on the potential of palbociclib as a targeted therapy to treat pancreatic cancer could be coming soon.

“Therapies that target the Cdk4/6 pathway are already in clinical trials for pancreatic cancer here in Australia – and we’d love to see testing for tumour RB levels in those trials to learn more about its power to predict treatment success in people,” Dr Chou concluded.

Currently, five-year survival rates after pancreatic cancer diagnosis stand at just 7% – a figure that has scarcely improved in the last four decades. Most pancreatic cancers are diagnosed after the tumour has spread beyond the pancreas, making treatment even more challenging.

The findings have been published this week online in the journal Gut.

The research news was originally posted on Garvan’s website.

ACRF has proudly provided Garvan Institute with $6.1m towards cancer research since 2003.

 

Hannah cuts her hair for charity

cancer fundraising eventWe are the very proud parents of Hannah. Our 7-year-old daughter has a sweet and sensitive nature and is generous of heart. Hannah was born deaf in one ear but that has not slowed her down in the least. She attends a mainstream school, is now in grade 2 at St. Peter’s Primary School, and this year was asked to be part of their advanced reading programme.

Not long ago, Hannah heard from her good friend and classmate about children with cancer and how these children lose their hair from chemo treatments. Hannah spent about a week pondering this information and asked a lot of questions which I answered the best that I could. Hannah sometimes seems wise beyond her years and is very empathetic for such a young girl.

When Hannah came to her Dad and me about cutting her hair off and donating it to a charity to raise money for cancer patients, we were shocked. However, there are times as a parent when you need to accept your child’s good-hearted intentions, despite your own feelings, and this was one of those times.

My mother Brenda, who is a professional hairdresser, was happy to help with her granddaughter’s request. On Sunday, October 22, Hannah’s lovely long brown hair was shortened by nine inches. Yes, I cried and Hannah cried because I was crying! Then Hannah hugged me and we smiled away the tears.

Because Hannah wants to turn her hair into a wig for one child with cancer and wants to raise awareness of cancer, we decided to select two charities: Pantene and Australian Cancer Research Foundation.

We learn every day from our selfless daughter and hope that others will as well. A world free of cancer can happen one little step – like Hannah’s – at a time.

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Nigel will bare his chest for ACRF

charity fundraising event

I’m a huge believer in the phrase “no pain, no gain”! Given this, and with some encouragement from my wife and friends, I have agreed to have my chest waxed to raise funds for cancer research in memory of my Mum.

In April 2016, my Mum passed away back home in Northern Ireland as the result of a short illness from bowel cancer. My brother who is also in Northern Ireland recently organised a whisky tasting event to collect donations for Marie Curie, which is one of the organisations that assisted with Mum’s care. He was successful in raising almost $7,000 so I took inspiration from that and decided to do something in Perth, where I work as an environmental advisor. Because the Marie Curie charity isn’t set up in Australia, I chose to support ACRF for their commitment to funding cancer research.

Unfortunately, my family has been hit a few times by the devastating effects of cancer so it doesn’t take any other incentive for me to back cancer research. I also feel that it’s important to champion the research discoveries made with any type of cancer. It is a powerful motivator and people sometimes need a bit of hope, inspiration and confidence to help financially support this vital work.

I am pretty certain Mum wouldn’t be in favour of the whole chest waxing malarkey which will happen on what would have been her 67th birthday – 2 December. Yet again, she might approve on this occasion as the funds raised are going to an organisation that is striving to end this horrible disease.

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Collaboration leads to search for new cancer treatments

Melbourne researchers have produced the first three-dimensional (3D) map of a molecular ‘scaffold’ called SgK223, known to play a critical role in the development and spread of aggressive breast, colon and pancreatic cancers.

Armed with the map, the research team is looking at ways of targeting parts of the scaffold molecule critical for its function. They hope the research will lead to novel strategies to target cancer.

The research was the result of a long-standing collaboration between Walter and Eliza Hall Institute researchers Dr Onisha Patel and Dr Isabelle Lucet and Monash University’s Biomedicine Research Institute researcher Professor Roger Daly, with important inputs from Dr Michael Griffin at Bio21 Institute, University of Melbourne, and Dr Santosh Panjikar at the Australian Synchrotron.

Dr Lucet said SgK223 was a member of a family of proteins called pseudokinases and had been classified for a long time as a ‘dead enzyme’.

“SgK223 doesn’t have the measurable activity that we see with other types of enzymes, and this meant it was largely ignored. However in the past decade, we’ve come to understand that this ‘dead enzyme’ plays an active and important role in cell signalling,” Dr Lucet said.

SgK223 is unique among pseudokinases because it acts as a molecular scaffold, facilitating the assembly of vital signalling molecules whose activities control the normal functions of a cell, such as cell shape and migration.

“Because of its primary role in facilitating the assembly of signalling molecules, high levels of SgK223 can jeopardise the normal functions of a cell and contribute to changes that lead to cancer,” Dr Lucet said.

“High levels of SgK223 have been found in some aggressive subtypes of breast, colon and pancreatic cancers, suggesting that SgK223 could be a potential target for novel anti-cancer therapies.”

Dr Patel said facilities at the Australian Synchrotron enabled the team to get an unprecedented view of SgK223.

“Because molecular scaffolds such as SgK223 are structurally quite large, we focused on a critical part of the protein and produced a 3D map using facilities at the Australian Synchrotron. With this map, we have now identified several regions of SgK223 that are essential for its ability to assemble signalling molecules,” Dr Patel said.

“Solving the 3D map of SgK223 is a critical step in the effort to discover how this molecular scaffold functions, and future research will verify whether targeting SgK223 could have an impact in treating cancers.”

Professor Daly said the 3D map would enable researchers to investigate how targeting SgK223 impacts cancer cells.

“With this 3D map, we can now start to look at how inhibiting the function of SgK223 by targeting particular regions of the scaffold affects cell growth and spread in cancers where it is present at high levels, such as triple negative breast cancers,” Professor Daly said.

World-class facilities at the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne were instrumental in the discovery, Dr Lucet said. “The Australian Synchrotron is the only facility in the Southern Hemisphere that has the specialised technology required to provide us with detailed knowledge essential for seeing molecules at an atomic level. This is essential if we wish to discover and develop drugs that target and interfere with molecules that drive cancer and other diseases,” Dr Lucet said.

The research was recently published in Nature Communications.

This news was originally published on the WEHI website.

ACRF has supported cancer research at the at the Australian Synchrotron with a $2 million grant and Walter Hall and Eliza Institute by providing them with three grants totalling $5.5 million.

Grace does the cut for ACRF

cancer fundraising headshave

If asked to describe myself, I would say: determined, compassionate, disciplined, and aspiring to develop a career in the field of mental health. I study a Bachelor of Psychological Science (Honours) at the University of Queensland, just handed in my one-year research thesis, and will be graduating from my undergraduate degree in December 2017. I recently submitted my Masters of Clinical Psychology and PhD applications and now wait to hear back with the outcome.

There is also the sporty side of me. I am very lucky to have represented Australia multiple times in Taekwondo at world championships.

I decided to fundraise for ACRF because too many people around me in the past 12 months have been diagnosed or affected by cancer. I struggled with not being able to do anything to help them so gathering donations for ACRF and cancer research was the perfect way for me to do just that.

After looking at ways to raise money, I decided on a salon event where 15 inches of my hair were cut off. The funds collected went to ACRF and my hair to Variety the Children’s Charity, which makes specialised wigs for children who can’t grow their own hair because of medical conditions such as cancer or alopecia. As a budding developmental psychologist, I recognise the impact that physical differences can have on children while they’re growing up.

We all know that cancer is a horrible condition that doesn’t discriminate who it affects. It impacts a person in so many ways. I believe in the values of ACRF, and what they can do for cancer research. Continued vital research is the only way that we can beat this monster disease.

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Breast cancer pioneers win Victoria prize for Science and Innovation

Breast cancer researchers Professors Jane Visvader and Geoff Lindeman, who jointly lead the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute’s ACRF Stem Cells and Cancer division, have been awarded the 2017 Victoria Prize for Science and Innovation in the Life Sciences.

The $50,000 prize celebrates the researchers’ two-decade commitment to cancer research, involving landmark discoveries in how breast cancers arise and could be prevented and treated.

Institute director Professor Doug Hilton said the scientists were pioneers in their field and responsible for advancing research throughout many years of dedicated work.

“Geoff and Jane, along with their teams, have made crucial discoveries describing both healthy breast development and how errors within this process can lead to cancer,” Professor Hilton said.

“Most recently, their efforts were instrumental in discovering that a new class of anti-cancer drugs, when combined with existing drugs, could potentially supercharge treatment for some of the most aggressive types of breast cancer.

“The researchers also identified the cells that give rise to breast cancer in women who carry a faulty BRCA1 gene and that an existing medication for osteoporosis could provide these patients with a non-surgical option for cancer prevention.

“Their dedication to breast cancer research since 1997 is now benefiting women in Victoria through early phase clinical trials,” he said.

Professor Visvader acknowledged the importance of team-work. “Geoff and I really have been very fortunate to work with exceptionally talented teams of scientists and collaborators. This award reflects their hard work and commitment,” she said.

Professor Lindeman, also a medical oncologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter Mac, said that sustained State Government support had helped to progress fundamental discoveries from the laboratory through to the clinic.

“Victorian Government support has over the course of our careers helped to advance basic research from the bench to the bedside,” Professor Lindeman said.

“Jane and I are passionate about developing more effective targeted therapies for the treatment and prevention of breast cancer. We are humbled to receive this award, which highlights the importance of long-term investment in basic and translational research to improve the lives of people affected by cancer,” he said.

Professors Visvader and Lindeman’s research is supported by Australian Cancer Research Foundation and others.

This news was originally published on the WEHI website.

ACRF has supported cancer research at the Walter Hall and Eliza Institute by providing them with three grants totalling $5.5 million.

World’s biggest genetics study of breast cancer unearths 72 new genetic markers

breast cancer 72 new genetic markers

The world’s biggest ever genetic study of breast cancer has discovered 72 new genetic variants that put women at higher risk of the disease.

Researchers from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute co-led the major international collaboration, which collated and analysed data from 275,000 women across the globe.

The findings were today published in the journals Nature and Nature Genetics.

The coordinator of QIMR Berghofer’s Genetics and Computational Biology Department, Professor Georgia Chenevix-Trench, said the study found 65 genetic variants that predispose women to the overall risk of breast cancer.

She said a further seven genetic variants were discovered that predispose women specifically to oestrogen-receptor negative breast cancer, which often leads to poorer health outcomes because it does not respond to drugs like tamoxifen.

The discovery was made possible through collaboration between the Breast Cancer Association Consortium (BCAC) and the Consortium of Investigators of Modifiers of BRCA1/2 (CIMBA), which is led by Professor Chenevix-Trench.

“This work helps us to understand why some women are more at risk of developing breast cancer than others and what genetic markers we should be looking for in order to assess that risk,” Professor Chenevix-Trench said.

“We know that breast cancer is caused by complex interactions between these genetic variants and our environment, but these newly discovered markers bring the number of known variants associated with breast cancer to around 180.

“Our hope is that in future we will be able to test for these genetic variants in order to inform preventative approaches and treatment for women who may be at a higher risk of breast cancer.”

Professor Chenevix-Trench said the inherited component of breast cancer risk was due to a combination of rare variants in genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 that indicate a high risk of the disease, and genetic variants that confer only a small risk, as identified in the latest research.

QIMR Berghofer senior researcher Dr Jonathan Beesley said that one of the main findings in the Nature paper was that scientists can now predict which neighbouring genes the risk variants might act on.

He worked alongside colleagues at QIMR Berghofer, including Functional Cancer Genomics specialists Associate Professor Stacey Edwards and Associate Professor Juliet French, to conduct lab tests that confirmed some of these predictions.

“We were able to show for the first time that these risk genes are often the same ones that are mutated during the development of breast tumours, which tells us much more than we knew previously about the genetic mechanisms that may cause breast cancer,” Dr Beesley said.

“We think that this ability to pinpoint the genes associated with risk of breast cancer will eventually enable us to develop more effective screening interventions and even risk-reduction medications and treatments.”

Around 70 percent of all breast cancer is oestrogen-receptor positive, which means the cancer responds to the hormone oestrogen and helps the tumour to grow.

A smaller number of breast cancer cases are oestrogen-receptor negative, so they do not respond to oestrogen but respond to other mechanisms.

Professor Chenevix-Trench said a greater understanding of a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer may help to change the age at which that woman is offered mammogram screening.

“Many women are offered mammogram screening when they are middle-aged, but if we know a woman has genetic markers that place her at higher risk of breast cancer, we can recommend more intensive screening at a younger age,” she said.

The studies involved collaborators from 300 different institutions, including the University of Cambridge, University Laval in Quebec and Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

This news was originally published on the QIMR Berghofer website.

ACRF has supported cancer research at QIMR Berghofer Medical Cancer Research Institute since 2002 when they were awarded the first of three grants totalling $6.7 million.

In full swing for the 2018 marathon

I’m Hannah, born in the UK, now an Australian citizen, and living near Canberra with my partner Trent and our rescue-shelter dog Odin. My current job brought me to Australia; I work as a Textile Conservator at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Art conservation is quite a unique profession that requires skills which ordinarily don’t go hand-in-hand: art and science.

Running in the London Virgin Money Marathon has been on my bucket list for a while. In 2016 I ran the Canberra Times Fun Run for ACRF, and then became interested in other sporting and fitness events where ACRF needed fundraisers. I find that being part of a wider fundraising group gives a real sense of achievement and meeting fundraising goals becomes less daunting.

I have a personal reason for wanting to raise money for cancer research. My family and I lost our much-loved and long-time friend Barry to cancer this year. As a teenager and university student in the UK, I earned extra money for school expenses by working in a restaurant with my mother’s best friend Sally and her husband, Barry. I had the dream job of making desserts, and Barry and I had all kinds of funny conversations while working together in the kitchen. Like many teenagers I also went through a tough phase with my parents and was quite rebellious. Barry and Sally would always drop me off at home after work shifts; they became my surrogate parents during that time. I will never forget the love, support and kindness they showed me.

The indiscriminate nature of cancer is heartbreaking. Of all the people in the world, Barry and Sally have been two of the most emotionally generous people you could ever wish to meet. Having spent their lives imagining they would grow old together, they have been ripped apart. Although our family is heartbroken, Barry’s death has brought us closer together and we are more appreciative and caring of one another than before.

As someone who works in the science field, I am always interested in new scientific developments. I want to raise funds to enable continued research and scientific breakthroughs as well as help people improve their chances of survival and limit the side effects of cancer treatments. Although it could be some time before cancer is eradicated, tangible progress is happening now. I recently visited the ACRF funded John Curtain School of Medical Research where pioneering researchers such as Prof. Ross Hannan and his team are making solid advances in cancer medicine and treatments. This is where I wanted my fundraising dollars to go.

My London 2018 fundraising campaign has come with its share of doubts. Will I make my fundraising goal? Will I be able to run the entire distance? Will people be interested or care about what I am doing? So far, I have been thrilled by the response to my fundraising efforts from so many generous people. The ACRF team is also fantastic with their continued support and encouragement.

Running in the 2018 London Marathon will not be for Barry alone. It will also be for my friends and colleagues who no longer have mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters because of cancer. Those gaps can never be filled.

 

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Improving outcomes for patients with a common type of blood cancer

Australian cancer research
Peter Mac’s Director of Haematology, Professor John Seymour

Using a second generation immunotherapy drug for the long-term management of a common type of blood cancer has been shown to give patients more durable control of their cancer. A clinical trial has shown patients who took the antibody drug Obinutuzumab together with and after their chemotherapy had a 34% reduced risk of their disease getting worse, over three years.

This was compared to our current standard therapy which instead uses the first generation version of a similar antibody drug Rituximab in the same manner.

The trial involved more than 1,200 patients – many treated at Peter Mac or Monash Health – with follicular lymphoma and a paper reporting the outcome is published online today by the New England Journal of Medicine.

“We know standard treatment with chemotherapy and an antibody can suppress cancer activity for several years but, for many patients, effectiveness will wane and a relapse will occur,” says co-researcher and Peter Mac’s Director of Haematology, Professor John Seymour.

“Broadly we are looking for ways to improve and extend the durability of this response and, in this clinical trial, we’ve identified a drug that does this and is already available and funded in Australia for a related disease, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.”

Obinutuzumab is already used to treat other types of blood cancer and, in follicular lymphoma and other non-Hodgkins lymphomas, it is used as a second-line treatment in cases where patients no longer respond to Rituximab.

The trial data supports Obinutuzumab’s use as the first-line treatment in follicular lymphoma.

Patients in the trial were split into two groups who received chemotherapy with an antibody drug and then ongoing antibody drug; either Rituximab (standard therapy) or Obinutuzumab. At follow-up three years later:

  • Progression-free survival was 73.3% in the standard therapy group, compared to 80% in the Obinutuzumab group.
  • The proportion of patients alive was 92.1% for standard therapy (46 deaths) compared to 94% in the Obinutuzumab group (35 deaths).
  • There were more high-grade adverse events in the Obinutuzumab group, but a similar frequency of fatal adverse events in each group.
  • The overall relative reduction of risk of cancer progression, or death, in the Obinutuzumab group was 34%.
  • Both Obinutuzumab and Rituximab are anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody drugs, an emerging new class of targeted immunotherapy drugs.

“This is a cancer we cannot yet cure but newly emerging immunotherapy drugs, used in conjunction with conventional chemotherapy, are giving us powerful new tools to extend patient lives,” says Prof Stephen Opat, from Monash Health, and who was also on the international clinical trial research team.

“This clinical trial data supports the use of Obinutuzumab as the first-line treatment in the immuno-chemotherapy and maintenance setting for previously untreated follicular lymphoma, as it would give patients a significant improvement in progression-free survival.”

The trial also involved researchers from the UK, Japan, Germany, Canada, Prague, Czech Republic and Switzerland.

This news was originally published on the Peter Mac website.

ACRF has supported cancer research at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre by providing three grants, totaling $7 million, towards cutting-edge cancer research equipment and technology.

Ashleigh’s Story

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My name is Ashleigh. I support the Australian Cancer Research Foundation and I am committed to doing what I can to end cancer.

In June 2015, I was 25 years old. I had just graduated from university and started my first full-time role as a lawyer. Everything seemed to be going according to plan…

Then one night, on a weekend away with my girlfriends, I felt a strange sensation in my throat and said so out loud. It was at that point one of my friends noticed that there was a visible lump on the side of my neck. I had no idea where it came from, or what it was, but I was pretty quick to assure her that it was nothing. Thankfully, she didn’t back down and made sure I went to the medical centre the next day.

One week later, the biopsy results arrived. The lump was cancerous and I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

For someone who had always planned their day down to the nth degree, my diagnosis came as a stark reminder that no one can ever really know what is around the corner for them. My diagnosis came at a time where everything in my life seemed to have finally clicked into the place that I had meticulously carved out. But, what I hadn’t planned for was processing a cancer diagnosis at 25.

I very quickly realised that cancer isn’t one of those things that you can predict and it isn’t something that you can immediately control. It doesn’t follow a script and it certainly doesn’t come with a manual. But what you can control, is the way you respond to it.

I also realised that many thousands of other Australian women face this life-altering reality every year and I was determined to change this

Thanks to the support of people like you and I, the survival rates for many types of cancer, including thyroid cancer, has increased by more than 20% over the past 30 years. That’s an incredible statistic – but it is also a fact. Cancer research breakthroughs are now happening at a faster rate than ever before because of our ongoing community support and advancements in scientific technology.

With this in mind, I wanted to do everything I could to help bring an end to all cancers. I approached the Australian Cancer Research Foundation with a small idea and it grew into something much, much bigger.

With their support and much planning, I hosted a charity black tie gala event called ‘Dinner for a Difference’ that raised over $26,000 for cancer research in June 2016.

By funding cancer research, we will get closer to a breakthrough that will change the way we think about cancer and the many lives that it continues to affect

When you donate to the Australian Cancer Research Foundation today, you give Australian cancer researchers access to the advanced technology they need to find better methods of prevention, detection and treatment for all the types of cancer that affect women.

None of us can know exactly what is around the next corner. But we can all take action today to help ready ourselves for whatever it is that we may find.

So, please join me in supporting the Australian Cancer Research Foundation, and a community that believes ending cancer is possible – because it absolutely is.

Please donate by 31 October to equip Australia’s best researchers with the tools they need to end all cancers that affect women.

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Daniella’s tea for tomorrow and ACRF

High tea for cancer research

It was my love of the magical world of tea that prompted me to start my own business, Amity Created. Tea has this amazing ability to create a sense of calm and peace in almost any situation. That same sense of calm and peace also reminds me of spending time with my beloved Nonna (grandmother).

Last year I held my first Tea for Tomorrow event in support of my grandmother who was in the midst of a long battle with cancer. In the spirit of Amity Created and my obsession with anything tea related, it made sense to host a high tea. From our pretty teacups and delicious teas to the beautiful cakes; everyone who attended was really spoilt on the day. The response from the public was overwhelming; people attended from interstate and we raised just over $2,000.

Tea for Tomorrow has now become a new tradition. This year’s event, held again in Sydney, also quickly sold out. We more than doubled our fundraising amount to $5000, and we doubled the number of sponsors, all of whom were amazingly generous. Yet again, we had people fly in from Queensland and Melbourne to attend. Everyone came with their own story of how cancer had impacted their lives in some way. It was a very empowering and inspiring feeling to be surrounded by these wonderful people. Although my Noona has passed away, I like to think she was with us at this year’s event, saluting with a cup of tea!

ACRF and its staff have been a wonderful support to me over the past few years. I am appreciative of their help in organising my first event to the very kind words they sent to my family when we were experiencing the grief that comes with losing someone we cherished.

When it comes to fundraising, I chose to support ACRF because of their sole focus on cancer research. There is nothing more gut-wrenching than hearing the news that a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer. Until research leads to a cure for all types of cancer, it is vitally important to continue fundraising and raising awareness. I encourage anyone else who is thinking of fundraising and who genuinely wants to make a difference to act without delay. Without the support of the wider community, cancer research won’t continue at its current pace and every step forward leads to progress.

 

2017 Amity Created Sponsors: Almond Breeze Australia, Tea at Henry’s, Zen Green Tea, The Love Letter Collective, La Vita E Dolce Biscotti, Glow by Beca, Healing Hands Message Therapy, Wanderluxe and Co, The Tea Nomad, The Rabbit Hole Organic Tea Bar, Vellaris Boutique, Soul and Ark, Just Glow, Loho Stationary, Frank Trimarchi – Photography, Tulloch Wines

 

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How we can overcome the lack of treatment options for rare cancers

Colman Taylor, University of Sydney and John Zalcberg, Monash University

Rare cancers are just that: rare. This means research into each of these particular types of rare cancers is limited, and so are the treatment options. As a consequence, patients diagnosed with rare cancers face significant challenges.

In November 2016, the Australian Senate established a select committee to examine funding for research into cancers with low survival rates. More recently, the health minister announced A$13 million from the Medical Research Future Fund will be used for clinical trials to help achieve better health outcomes for people with rare or uncommon cancers.

The minister also commissioned new work on evaluating cancer medicines that treat multiple tumours and have a specific genetic feature (biological marker). This could improve access to therapies that might benefit some patients with rare cancers.

These recent steps are in recognition of the significant challenges associated with undertaking research into rare cancers. By their nature, rare cancers include small and variable patient populations making gold-standard randomised trials challenging or even impossible.


Read more: Unfair if rare: should the PBS change the way it lists cancer drugs?


The lack of evidence resulting from few or no randomised trials creates challenges for registering and reimbursing new medicines. This ultimately leads to a lack of subsidised medicines for these patients. As a result, the improvements seen in patient outcomes related to new therapies for more common cancers like lung cancer, melanoma and bowel cancer over the last two decades do not extend to rare or less common cancers.

What is a rare cancer?

The definition of a rare cancer is debatable. The RARECARE collaboration in Europe uses an operational definition of fewer than six cases per year per 100,000 population. In Australia, the medicines regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), has recently updated the eligibility criteria for medicines treating rare diseases to fewer than five cases of the disease in a population of 10,000 people.

Historically cancers were categorised by the anatomical location, such as the breast or kidney. But with the discovery of new biological markers, common cancers can be grouped into smaller, more homogeneous and genetically similar subsets. So the number of rare cancers will continue to grow as medical technology advances.

Why don’t they have many available medications?

The lack of government-approved and subsidised medicines to treat rare cancers primarily stems from the lack of evidence supporting their use. Submissions to the current inquiry also cited problems such as a lack of research funding; the need for international collaboration; lack of investment by industry; attracting sufficient interest of researchers and recruiting sufficient patients.

It’s hard to recruit enough patients for research studies.
from www.shutterstock.com

Even if patients can be identified and recruited to a trial, it’s difficult to generate meaningful data from so few patients.

The lack of evidence presents challenges for new medicines trying to meet registration and reimbursement criteria in Australia. To be registered through the TGA, a new medicine must have demonstrated efficacy and safety.

In order for new medicines to be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), it must have a demonstrated benefit over standard treatment, as well as being considered an efficient use of tax payer dollars.

New medicines for rare cancers are often expensive, especially when randomised trials are not possible.

What can we do to improve this situation?

With the changing nature of medicine and research, new opportunities are emerging to address the current inequity. The shift to treating patients based on the genetic profile of their tumour rather than the location of the cancer has increased treatment options for rare cancer patients.


Read more: How cancer doctors use personalised medicine to target variations unique to each tumour


To harness the benefits, changes are required with input from multiple stakeholders, including government, industry, clinicians, researchers and patients.

Better access to new medicines ultimately starts with better research. To achieve this, experts have called for additional targeted funding, innovative trial designs, and better partnerships between industry and researchers.

There is also the opportunity to collect better “real world” data via platforms such as the My Health Record, which could supplement existing research and allow performance monitoring of recently approved new medicines.

Organisations such as Rare Cancers Australia and the Cancer Drugs Alliance are liaising with government regarding changes that could improve access to novel medicines for patients with rare cancers. This includes greater input from patients and more flexibility in the way we evaluate medicines for public reimbursement.

The ConversationIt should also be recognised the problems faced in providing innovative treatments to patients with rare cancer extends to rare diseases in general. With modern medicine providing the potential to improve outcomes for patients with rare cancers as well as other serious chronic diseases, we need to have a broader conversation about what we can afford and what we are willing to pay for new medicines.

Colman Taylor, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, The George Institute; Conjoint Senior Lecturer, UNSW; Owner and Director, Health Technology Analysts, University of Sydney and John Zalcberg, Head, Cancer Research Program, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Jess shaves her head for cancer research

My name is Jess and when I was 14 years old, my mum was diagnosed and successfully treated for breast cancer. Eleven years later, Mum was diagnosed with metastatic (secondary) breast cancer, which really took her by surprise, being unaware that this could occur after being in the clear for so long. Mum is such a strong and brave woman, and someone that I look up to. I am determined to fight this battle with her, every step of the way, and getting behind cancer research is one way I can help to make a difference.

In taking on a fundraiser event, I decided to shave my head for donations. I haven’t had short hair since primary school so it was very long! I knew it would be a nerve-racking event but would also be my special way of supporting Mum as she is going through cancer treatment and experiencing hair loss. After doing some research on how my hair could be used, I decided to donate it for children who also experience hair loss. Hopefully, it will make a great wig for someone!

The whole experience of fundraising for ACRF was extremely rewarding, and the amount of support and love received from so many was overwhelming. Taking on my own fundraiser event has also inspired others to do the same. For example, a friend of mine is now hosting her own head shave fundraiser. The most important step in planning for a fundraiser is making sure you give yourself enough time to brainstorm ideas, including with others who have hosted similar events. If I didn’t have the support from friends, family, work colleagues, ACRF and local businesses, my event would not have been possible.

So many lives continued to be affected by cancer and when you see the suffering of others, especially those close to you, it encourages you to want to strive toward making a difference and support cancer research.

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Janet gets clipped at fundraising event

I am 65 years old and ready for retirement this year. I’ve been working since age 15 so it’s time! My current employer is Bunnings, and the company team was great in supporting my fundraising efforts this year.

My motivation for raising money for cancer research is one that’s close to home. Two young members of my family have been diagnosed with cancer since 2015. When my sister’s daughter, Kylie, was discovered to have ovarian cancer, the cancer was already advanced and classified as terminal; her prognosis was 12 months, at best. Kylie went ahead with her 30th birthday celebrations in February 2016 just prior to having chemotherapy treatment and surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible and to improve her level of comfort. After several weeks of recovery in hospital, she returned home and then passed away two weeks later while sleeping next to her beloved husband. My niece had known about her cancer for less than six months.

The family is also supporting my brother’s daughter, Leanne, while she fights bowel cancer. Her outlook is encouraging, having reacted really well to chemotherapy treatment. There were shadows on her lungs and liver where the cancer spread, but surgery has successfully removed lung tumours destroyed by the chemotherapy. We are hopeful it will be the same outcome with her liver. Leanne is 35 years old with a wonderful husband and two young children.

When I decided to go ahead with fundraising, I was very overdue for a haircut so shaving my head seemed the best way to go. Bunnings let me use their public BBQ area for the event. Several of my co-workers gave up their rostered day off and along with my family cooked and served the BBQ, sold at the cake stall and mixed with the Bunnings customers who stopped to see what was going on. The amount of donated jams, pickles, relish, cakes and biscuits was astounding and well received by the customers, making over $600 in that area alone. The Bunnings Manager, Damian, cut my hair the same way he does his own – short and with clippers. The whole day was really great, a wonderful atmosphere, fantastic customer attendance and successful with approximately $2700 raised altogether.

Fundraising for cancer research is something we can all do – there is strength in numbers. Being able to do something that will assist in the discovery of a cancer cure is well worth while.

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Brent in endurance competition for ACRF

I’ve been involved in Surf Life Saving since age eight and played sport my whole life so it was a natural to get involved in Coolangatta Gold, the ultimate endurance race in surf sports. I have competed numerous times, three years taking out the 30-39 age group, and runner-up twice. This year’s Coolangatta Gold for me will be unique in two ways. I plan to push the boundaries a little further by taking part in both the 21 km course and 41.8 km course, and I’ll be fundraising for ACRF. My goal is to raise $10,000 and generous donations have already pushed that goal over the half-way mark.

I have known many people over the years who have been affected by cancer; most recently a good mate’s daughter had a tough fight with cancer. Myself and others felt helpless, so I had been wondering just how I could support my friend and others. I believe that kind of support is best represented by ACRF and their ongoing cancer research. Research not only assists in treatment advances; it will ultimately result in a cure for all cancers.

I’m sure there are people who think it’s crazy to take on two races in the same weekend and in reality that is probably true. Thankfully, my wife, family, friends, coaches and colleagues have been truly supportive, which helps me to forget about the cold mornings paddling in winter, being tired and having sore muscles. I don’t believe anyone has done both courses on the same weekend so this is my chance of pushing myself to achieve it.

My two-year-old daughter won’t remember her Dad’s efforts in this year’s competition, but I do hope she has the opportunity to remember a long lifetime – free of cancer.

 

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Girls with curls fundraise for cancer research

We are four aqua aerobic friends, the Curly Girls. Sadly, cancer has impacted all of us in some way – family members, colleagues and friends. If we are to lessen cancer’s grip on us, it means continued research and the cost of that is enormous, well beyond government funding and grants. We wanted to help out and decided to fundraise for ACRF by holding a head shave event. The Curly Girls would become the Baldy Babes!

In planning our event, we decided to think big and involve the whole community of Sussex Inlet. We canvassed local shops and businesses seeking donations of raffle prizes and BBQ supplies and lined up volunteers to help out on the day. The event was held for three hours on a Saturday to coincide with our local market that is always popular and draws extra people into town. There was a coin toss, golf putting competition, door prizes, wig library demo, raffle draw, and entertainment by local musicians. Everyone in the community was enormously supportive and our head shave day raised over $11,000. There are many memorable highlights: the buzz on the day, the personal stories shared by raffle ticket purchasers and the hugs that followed, the generosity of anonymous donors, the many friends and people in the community who gave their time, money and support without hesitation, and of course the excitement of having raised such a sizeable amount of money.

We love our new less hair look and some of us are thinking how easy care it is. Our friends, family, and people on the street are having fun sharing comments as our hair slowly grows back.

We’re proud of our fundraising achievement, and we had a great time doing it. To anyone else planning a similar event, our advice would be to give yourself time to plan – we took 10 weeks – and don’t be afraid to ask others for help. Plan to print and sell raffle tickets, plan an event schedule for the day, do a test run, and then plan some more. After all, you want the best opportunity possible to raise funds on the day.
Kerrie, Kim, Denise & Pam

 

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Scott is shaving his beard for cancer research

Australia cancer researchMy mother was Dawn by name and Dawn by nature. She shone every day and had an amazing ability to turn our world into a brighter place. Losing her this year was the single most devastating thing to happen in my life.

I am 37, an only child, and fortunate to have always enjoyed a wonderful relationship with my parents. The three of us have done everything together, including working in the marketing and creative agency that I started in 2000.

Mum was a remarkably selfless person. She saw the good in everyone and everything, giving her love freely and openly. Mum battled rheumatoid arthritis for over 50 years and to also be diagnosed with cancer was doubly harsh, but she remained resolutely strong.

Because Mum never really liked my beard, and certainly wouldn’t as long as it is now, it’s a gesture to her and to honour the way she approached life that I’ve decided to shave it off and fundraise for cancer research. Even before Mum knew she was ill, I had thought about fundraising but didn’t act on it. My advice now to anyone, who wants to fundraise, is to stop just thinking about it and get started! You will be amazed by the support you’ll receive from people when you put it out there.

My fundraising goal is $10,000, and I’m working hard to achieve that amount – and more – for the researchers determined to find the answer to cancer. While my Mum initially contracted breast cancer, she passed away from secondary cancer to the liver. Finding the answers to one type of cancer will help to unlock the key to another. It’s vitally important to continue supporting research into this horrible disease so that a cure will be discovered.

There are a lot of people who can’t wait to see my beard of three years gone, or who are just curious about what my chin looks like these days! Even those who don’t want me to shave it off totally understand the cause and support me because they know how special Mum will always be for me.

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New drug to supercharge immune cells in the fight against cancer

Australia Cancer Research
The vascular team at the Harry Perkins Institute, Image courtesy of the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.

A new cancer treatment with the dual ability to normalise tumour blood vessels and boost the body’s immune system, has been developed by researchers from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and The University of Western Australia.

Many tumours can become resistant to the body’s immune system by creating a barrier of tangled blood vessels that feed the tumour while locking out immune cells that would attack cancer cells.

Professor Ruth Ganss, head of the Perkins Cancer and Cell Biology Division, said the new treatment worked by generating more “normal” blood vessels and lymph-node-like structures within the cancer, which together enabled immune cells to better reach the cancer core.

“Lymph nodes, a vital component of our immune system, normally only exist outside of the cancer and work to filter cancer cells and generate white blood cells that fight infection,” Professor Ganss said.

“Our drug strengthens the immune response against tumours by inducing these lymph-node-structures together with normalised blood vessels, producing immune cells that infiltrate deep into the cancer. There are currently no single treatments available which can produce these two features in cancers.”

“Our research shows that once our drug has triggered the lymph-node-structures within the cancer, current immunotherapies that have been approved for clinical use, can work more effectively,” Professor Ganss said.
“We’ve tested our treatment on pancreas and lung cancer models, which are particularly difficult to treat, and have had very promising results.”

“We envision that a combination of our drug and existing immunotherapies, will greatly enhance the outcomes for patients in the future.”

Perkins Director, Professor Peter Leedman, said the treatment was a novel approach to overcome the challenge that occurs when tumours become resistant to the body’s immune system.

“Immunotherapy is an exciting new area of research, whereby the immune system is amplified to support the body’s natural defenses to help fight cancer,” Professor Leedman said.

“Professor Ganss and her team are building on this groundbreaking work, to develop combination therapies that could deliver the best outcomes for patients.”

The research was published in the journal Nature Immunology.

This news was originally published on the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research website.

ACRF has supported cancer research at Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research by providing two grants, totalling $3.6 million, towards cutting-edge cancer research equipment and technology.

QLD jewellers do charity run for ACRF

Charity fundraising event

Original story written by Talia Paz for Jeweller Magazine

Two Queensland jewellers have completed the Sydney Running Festival in an effort to raise money for the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) and pay tribute to a sales representative who passed away earlier this year.

House of Harvey jewellery store owners, Alannah and Bob Harvey, participated in the running event on Sunday 17 September and have so far raised $2,750 for ACRF in 2017.

The Ingham-based retailer has supported the cancer research foundation for many years; however, Alannah said the 2017 fundraising efforts were in honour of Mike Griese, a sales rep for Ikecho Pearls, Jewellery Centre, Imajpack and AM Imports who lost his battle with cancer in March.

“We have always supported cancer research; having lost family, and with a team member’s survival from cervical cancer, it is the best ‘fit’ for our store,” Alannah explained.

“After Mike Griese lost his battle, we felt compelled in 2017 to honour him, another life cut too short,” she added.

Alannah said the Sydney Running Festival was an ideal way to generate industry support for the retailer’s charity efforts and increase customer relationships.

“It’s a high-profile event with many spectators and national media coverage, and therefore is a great platform for ACRF to create awareness, recruit participants for vital funding for cancer research and showcase achievements,” she explained.

“It also gives us a fundraising platform for our clients – who support us each and every year – to regularly see just how a little effort can achieve great results.”

Industry support

Alannah said her store’s ACRF fundraising initiatives would continue through to Christmas, noting that several suppliers including the Jewellery Centre and Adina Watches had also supported the business’ efforts.

She stated that there were additional industry benefits to promoting charitable causes.

“We believe today perhaps more than ever, the public seeks businesses that have a social conscience,” Alannah explained.

“The opportunities are there for all of us in retail to contribute to society by simply being a little creative every time we run a promotion, and it is our philosophy that most of the public appreciate that a business is constantly working to assist ‘something’; they feel apart of it, and they get a bonus in return.”

ACRF was established in 1984 and aims to end cancer by providing scientists with the equipment required to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Founded in 2001, the Sydney Running Festival is conducted by non-profit organisation Athletics Australia.

The event supports numerous national-based charities and has raised more than $16.9 million since its inception.

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Melbourne teenager makes generous donation to ACRF

Hello, my name is Ben. I am 13, attend McKinnon Secondary College, like hanging out with my friends, watching classic films – my favourite is No Country for Old Men – and listening to music.

I also had my Bar Mitzvah celebration this year, which is quite an important occasion. It’s traditional for family members and friends attending the ceremony to give gifts, and I ended up receiving a generous amount of money. At first I really couldn’t think of what to do with all of it. Sure, I could have bought some expensive clothes and other stuff which I probably don’t need, but then I got to thinking about one of my favourite musicians, George Harrison, who died of cancer. That’s when I decided to make a donation towards cancer research.

I read somewhere that 8.2 million people die of cancer related deaths each year, and like everyone, I want to see that number at zero. I know that ACRF is funding cancer research and researchers are getting closer every day to finding the cure for many cancers, so my donation will hopefully help make that happen a little faster.

To anyone thinking of fundraising or making a donation to cancer research, I have to say, 100% you should do it. If you can donate to research, you are pretty much closer to helping save people’s lives.

Surprise discovery to help those with prostate cancer

Cancer researcher Dr Katherine Morel Flinders University
Dr Katherine Morel, image courtesy of the Flinders Foundation

 

A surprise discovery by researchers at Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer is giving hope for men with the most aggressive and incurable form of prostate cancer.

Two years ago, a Flinders University research team led by Professor Pam Sykes started investigating how parthenolide – a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory compound found in feverfew daisies – could aid radiotherapy by attacking tumours while also protecting nearby heathy cells, potentially increasing survival rates while also helping to eliminate the nasty and debilitating side effects of radiotherapy.

Further research has demonstrating that Parthenolide may also have the ability to prevent aggressive and incurable metastatic prostate cancer.

“When we started this research, we were really just focusing on using parthenolide in radiotherapy, but this side-project looking at slowing down tumour progression evolved and has been a bit of a surprise,” says Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer (FCIC) postdoctoral researcher Dr Katherine Morel from the Flinders University College of Medicine and Public Health.

“Many men with localised prostate cancer can live for a long time, but when the cancer becomes metastatic – meaning it spreads from the prostate to other parts of the body – unfortunately it’s incurable,” she says.

Part-funded by Flinders Foundation, preliminary results of the latest research have shown slower tumour growth and a reduction in metastatic tumours when treated with dimethylaminoparthenolide (DMAPT), a water-soluble version of parthenolide.

“When combined with radiotherapy, the drug induces greater cancer killing, particularly targeting high-grade tumours which tend to metastasise,” Ms Morel says.

“If we could give it to men with early stage prostate cancer, or men who may be more susceptible to prostate cancer, then it may have the potential to reduce the severity of the cancer or even reduce metastasis all together.”

The latest research holds great hope for the thousands of men who will be diagnosed in future.

“Science is long-haul and it can take time to see results – the work that’s now emerged on metastatic tumours has far and away exceeded what we expected to find.”

Dr Morel has been collaborating with Professor Christopher Sweeney from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard Medical School in Boston, who is currently testing parthenolide in leukaemia clinical trials.

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australian men.

While significant improvements have been made in prostate cancer therapy, there is still a need for novel treatment options, particularly for preventing and treating metastatic prostate cancer which has a very poor prognosis, and for protecting from unwanted debilitating side effects of radiotherapy due to damage done to healthy tissues near the prostate.

“When delivered prior to radiation, DMAPT was able to reduce cell death in healthy cells during radiotherapy while also increasing prostate cancer killing particularly in more advanced regions of prostate cancer, providing the potential to increase cure rates,” she says.

“Analysis of the prostate tumours identified important molecules involved in the mechanism of parthenolide protection, which support the potentially broader application of DMAPT for a number of different cancer types.”

The research was published earlier this year in the journal Radiation Research.

This news was originally published on the Flinders University website.

ACRF has supported cancer research at Flinders University by providing a $1 million grant towards cutting edge cancer research equipment and technology.

Stef is losing her locks to fundraise for research

Australia cancer research

I admit to being completely obsessed with my hair – it’s my crown and a huge expression of my personality. I also love unicorns and unicorn coloured things, which explains why my hair is dyed in ever-changing bright colours. Despite the hair fascination, I decided to shave it off when a really close friend of mine was recently diagnosed with brain cancer and started chemotherapy. If she was going to lose her hair during treatments, mine could go as well. I didn’t want her going through the experience alone.

I was apprehensive about my decision but any doubts vanished after one of my lovely work colleagues shared her hair loss experience while receiving cancer treatment. She was on a weekend away with her husband for his birthday when all of her hair fell out. I could only imagine how confronting and distressing that would have been for her. While I can choose to lose my hair, and when, she couldn’t.

Like so many others, my family and friends have been affected by cancer; we’ve lost one of my aunties and my Noona to cancer and my best friend’s mother and sister have both died of cancer. Fundraising for ACRF and cancer research is my way of giving back to a community that dedicates so much time and effort into finding a cure for all forms of this horrible disease.

I have been really thrilled by the big-hearted support and encouragement received from my co-workers, local businesses, ACRF, and my family and friends. Since starting my fundraising page, I have received several generous donations, including from people who have never met me. And, retailer Peter Alexander sent a plush stuffed unicorn for my unicorn themed party on the night of the big shave – just one week before my 26th birthday.

The world needs more doers. I’m really stoked that I’m making a difference and hopefully taking ACRF one step closer to finding an end to all cancers.

Zero Childhood Cancer national clinical trial launched

Personalised treatment for childhood cancers in Australia is a step closer thanks to the Zero Childhood Cancer program’s national clinical trial launched today.

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.

The trial will see scientists from thirteen leading Australian and international research institutes and doctors from all eight of Australia’s kids’ cancer centres will work together to identify and recommend new treatment options. These will be specifically tailored to suit the individual cancers of children with the highest risk of treatment failure or relapse.

The Zero Childhood Cancer program recognises that each child’s cancer is unique, so they respond differently to anti-cancer treatment. Detailed laboratory analysis of tumour samples will help identify the drugs most likely to kill each child’s specific cancer.

Pilot study paves way for national launch

The national clinical trial builds on a successful NSW pilot study of nearly 60 children begun in late 2015 for children with the most aggressive cancers whose chance of survival on standard treatments was less than 30%.

The pilot study proved the program’s feasibility, successfully putting in place the complex logistics and laboratory testing needed to analyse patient tumours and get meaningful results back to doctors in real-time.

The clinical trial expands the program to give hope to families across the country and will enrol more than 400 Australian children over the next three years, bringing the most advanced diagnostic technologies close to home.

Professor Michelle Haber AM, Executive Director of Children’s Cancer Institute and Research Lead for Zero Childhood Cancer, said the pilot study showed the urgent need for personalised medicine.

“Originally this pilot study was planned for 12 young patients. However nearly 60 children have been enrolled in the program due to the high demand by clinicians and parents.

What’s next?

Professor Haber said personalised treatment gives kids with the most aggressive cancers the best chance of surviving their disease because it is based on reliable scientific information, such as individual genetic mutations, unique to that child’s cancer.

“Using the latest molecular profiling techniques and laboratory testing of patient cancer cells with anti-cancer drugs, Zero Childhood Cancer will give the most detailed diagnosis possible in Australia to date for children with the most aggressive cancers. It is one of the most complex and comprehensive personalised medicine programs in the world,” she said.

Another benefit of personalised medicine is the potential to refine or change an individual child’s cancer subtype. Cancer diagnoses may be changed once detailed genetic and other molecular tests are done, opening up new treatment options. Several children on the pilot study had changed diagnoses as a result of detailed testing.

A/Professor Tracey O’Brien, Director of the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, said targeted therapies such as those identified through Zero Childhood Cancer will allow a much more sophisticated approach.

“The information we gather will benefit children on the program first and foremost but will also be incorporated into future front-line treatments. The knowledge gained is likely to unlock further scientific discoveries that will also ultimately benefit future patients.  Most of all, it will bring us a step closer to our vision of one day curing all children of cancer.”

The Zero Childhood Cancer initiative will be led by Children’s Cancer Institute and The Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick, part of The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network. Participating hospitals and research centres in this collaborative national project include a number of previous ACRF grant recipients:

NSW

  • Children’s Cancer Institute (Program research leaders)
  • Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick (Program clinical leaders)
  • The Children’s Hospital at Westmead
  • John Hunter Children’s Hospital
  • Kids Research Institute, Westmead
  • Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics, Garvan Institute of Medical Research
  • The ACRF International Centre for the Proteome of Cancer (ProCan), Children’s Medical Research Institute, Westmead

QLD

  • Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital
  • University of Queensland Diamantina Institute

SA

  • Women’s and Children’s Hospital
  • South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute
  • Centre for Cancer Biology

VIC

  • Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne
  • Monash Children’s Hospital
  • Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne
  • Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

WA

  • Princess Margaret Hospital (moving to Perth Children’s Hospital)
  • Telethon Kids Cancer Centre, Telethon Kids Institute

Any interested parents of children with cancer should contact their child’s paediatric oncologist in the first instance.

Children's cancer

Image: Minister Greg Hunt MP with a young cancer patient and their family. Photo courtesy of Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick.

New bioinformatics tool to improve the early detection of cancer

Matcol is a bioinformatics tool which helps determine protein and DNA co-localisations visualised using fluorescence microscopy. Co-localization is the observation of the spatial overlap between two or more different fluorescent labels and their biological interaction –  this process allows cancer researchers to see whether a protein of interest is in proximity to cancer marker proteins.

Previously, most scientists used image analysis software to manually perform co-localization identification.Yet the challenge with manual co-localization quantification is that it’s subjective, prone to human error, and takes longer to perform.

Dr Khushi told the Daily Telegraph, “Single image analysis takes up many hours and scientists are required to study a large cohort of images.”

This pioneering development can replace manual co-localisation counting, and be applied to a wide range of biological areas including cancer detection.

MatCol automates this quantification task and can quantify hundreds of images automatically within a few minutes,” Dr Khushi said.

With MatCol’s automation and more streamlined processing, scientists can identify cancer in its early stages—allowing for early medical intervention and the potential to save lives.

This news was first published on CMRI’s website.

In 2015, ACRF  awarded one of the largest private grants for medical research equipment in Australian history – $10 million – for six cutting-edge machines to establish The ACRF International Centre for the Proteome of Cancer (ProCanTM) at Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI) in Westmead. The Centre was officially opened in September 2016.

Image: Dr Dr Matloob Khushi, image supplied by CMRIDr Matloob Khushi, postdoctoral researcher at Children’s Medical Research Institute, has developed a new bioinformatics tool to improve early detection of cancer.

Cell surface receptors guide immune cell attacks

Researchers at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) have discovered how immune cells use a unique set of assembly instructions to ‘mix and match’ how they respond to, and kill, tumour and diseased cells.

Cell surface receptors form groups that the body assembles using different molecular combinations, much like logo blocks. These combinations guide how the immune cell acts when it makes contact with a cancerous cell, an infection, or other external signals.

The new research identifies the features that allow these pieces to assemble in specific combinations. Understanding how these groups assemble naturally could pave the way for future improvements in immunotherapy, such as engineering cancer-specific immune killers.

How do cell surface receptors work?

Cell surface receptor groups consist of an external receptor that binds to signalling molecules, an internal molecule that instructs the cell how to respond, and a cell membrane-embedded portion that anchors and links the other two segments.

In the past, these cell membrane-embedded sections of the receptor were largely ignored, partly because they are so difficult to work with, said Associate Professor Matthew Call at WEHI.

Associate Professor Call said the team discovered an entirely new set of assembly instructions used by molecular sensors embedded in the thin fatty cell membrane to build receptor complexes in response to different stimuli.

“Effectively, these membrane-bound sensors determine ‘who’ the immune cell talks to. This is really important in the promising field of cancer immunotherapy, because it could help us better engineer cells to specifically talk to – and destroy – cancer cells,” Associate Professor Matthew Call said.

The new findings

The researchers began by studying the receptors on natural killer (NK) cells, but found that the same assembly instructions were used in a host of immune cells that “run around and eat and blow up” cancerous and other diseased cells, Dr Melissa Call at WEHI said.

“One subset of these receptors, called Fc receptors, were the focus of this research. We were particularly looking at the subset of Fc receptors found on natural killer (NK) cells – immune cells that poison tumour and virus-infected cells that have been ‘marked’ by antibodies,” Dr Melissa Call said.

She said the study showed that different subsets of Fc receptors used completely different assembly instructions compared to other, similar receptors.

“Over the past decade or so, this has become really important therapeutically because of a new field of cancer immunotherapy called chimeric antigenic receptor therapy, or CART,” Dr Melissa Call said.

“The idea of CART is that you create specially engineered receptors in immune cells that are highly specific for an individual cancer. Understanding in depth how these receptors are assembled naturally is vital for us to understand how best to design them ourselves for cancer therapy, to look at improved ways of stimulating the immune response to cancer.”

The finding were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The news was first published on the institute’s website.

ACRF has supported WEHI by providing three grants, totalling AUD 5.5 million towards cutting edge cancer research equipment and technology.

Image: ‘T-cell receptors interact with MHC class II antigen complexes’ from istockphoto for illustrative purposes only.

Samantha is taking part in Blackmores Sydney Running Festival 2017

Australia cancer research

Honestly, I have never been interested in running a marathon but after the recent loss of two very special people, I wanted to do something to raise money for cancer research.

My god-daughter Jessica passed away at age four last year, after months of treatment for neuroblastoma. My Grandad Graham also died, and very suddenly, with lung cancer being a contributing factor. Both of them lived in the UK, which was my home before moving to Australia three years ago to take a job in the banking industry.

The impact of cancer is huge. I see how my friend Nicki struggles every day, having lost her daughter, and my own family was shattered by the death of my Grandad.

I cherish memories of Jessica and it’s sad to know that Aunty Sammie, as she called me, will never be able to build the relationship I really wanted to have with my only god-daughter.

My grandfather and I were very close and there are so many wonderful memories of times we spent together. He was a very patient man which was undoubtedly tested while teaching me how to drive a car, and he was an enthusiastic football fan, convincing me to support his favourite association club.

When thinking about the many options for fundraising, nothing stood out that would challenge me to push out of my comfort zone. At the same time, I also wanted to highlight the importance of on-going fundraising for cancer research. One of my work colleagues suggested running in a marathon – a suggestion that I entertained for about five minutes before dismissing it as too hard. It took me about a week to come to the conclusion that any pain that I would encounter in distance running would only be a shadow to what Jessica felt on a daily basis while trying to beat cancer.

I started off unable to run 5 km and now my longest distance has been 35 km. It’s thrilling to come so far in so little time.

I chose to support ACRF at the Blackmores running festival after learning that ACRF have a panel of medical advisors that ensure funding is provided to the most promising research initiatives. Those researchers need funding to work out the combined clues that will eventually end this disease.

I am probably a bit addicted to running now. It’s not just the mental and physical challenges, it also really shows how much you want to raise money to support this cause. Memories of Jessica and my Grandad will be with me every running step of the big race on 17 September.

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Potential treatment for brain cancer as drug shrinks tumours

An international team of researchers has found a drug previously approved to treat breast cancer could also be used to shrink medulloblastoma, the most common malignant brain tumour found in children.

The discovery, made by The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, has led to a clinical trial using the drug palbociclib to treat children with medulloblastoma.

Professor Brandon Wainwright from University of Queensland said brain tumours were the most common cause of cancer death in infants, children and adolescents. And, even survivors can end up with significant long-term side effects from existing treatments.

“Clearly, we need new therapies that increase survival of young patients and reduce the side effects they suffer, such as delays in brain development, growth problems and increased risk of other cancers,” Professor Wainwright said.

Genetic code leads to remarkable discovery

Fellow UQ researcher Dr Laura Genovesi examined the genetic code of medulloblastoma to predict whether these tumours may respond to already-approved drugs.

“This analysis led us to believe that palbociclib, an oral drug approved in 2015 for the treatment of breast cancer, would be effective against medulloblastoma,” Dr Genovesi said.

“We expected that palbociclib would arrest the growth of medulloblastoma, but we were stunned to find that it went a step further and actually shrank the tumours to a size where survival is possible.”

“The finding is remarkable since the tumours were very advanced and were treated for only a short period of time and we did not use any other therapy such as chemotherapy in combination.

“Some tumours recurred once treatment with palbociclib stopped, probably due to resistant cells within the tumour.

“It means that palbociclib, or drugs like it, could be used against medulloblastoma in combination with other drugs to treat resistant cells.

“If the clinical trial is successful, it would represent a major step forward to taking this research from the genome to the clinic.”

The study is published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

The research was supported by many American and Australian organisations. The news was first published on the UQ website.

ACRF has supported cancer research at IMB by providing four grants, totalling AUD $7.1 million, for the purchase of cutting edge research equipment and technology.

Image: Courtesy of IMB UQ

Cooper Rice-Brading

Australia cancer research

Sarcoma claims the lives of two in five people with this cancer. Hope lies in research, which will aim to significantly increase the prospects of survival for adolescents and young adults.

Eighteen-year-old Cooper, will leave the Sydney Grammar School gates for one final time on Friday 1 September 2017, but not as an HSC student with his life ahead of him, but instead, surrounded by many family and friends, who are left broken hearted at his passing. He lost a protracted battle with osteosarcoma on Thursday, 24 August 2017, in the arms of his loving family, and life will never be the same for those left devastated by his passing.

As were Cooper’s wishes, his family, Mitchell, Colin and Tania will continue the meaningful work of their son Cooper, through the Cooper Rice-Brading Foundation, for sarcoma research. Cooper identified the need for critical research for this cancer, very early in his treatment regime. He spent the past eighteen months passionately telling his story, in order to raise awareness and funding, so other adolescents did not have to suffer his plight.

In lieu of floral tributes, the family have asked if you may consider donating to the Australian Cancer Research Fund (ACRF), to facilitate the critical research required to prevent another adolescent needlessly losing their life to sarcoma.

 

Donate now

Zoë’s Story

 

My name is Zoë and I’m writing to you because I believe in a world without cancer is possible. But it will not be possible without your help.

To me, actions speak volumes. There are times when cancer can make us feel powerless, but I’ve chosen to take action.

I wanted to share my story with you, because like me, I know that you want to see an end to all cancers. In December 2013, my father Ron was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma. I don’t remember a lot about the moment we found out, except that I was with my parents in the oncologist’s office and he told us it was rare. When you stop and think, you realise not a single person goes through life without being impacted by cancer – either through a friend, family member or by experiencing it themselves.

So I am asking you to please help me fund the technology researchers need to stop this suffering.

My dad did everything he could to beat his cancer over the next three years. It was hard work and he had set backs – including a heart failure, multiple infections and countless trips to the ER. And to his dismay, his golf game got much worse. But the treatment was working and his tumour went from 119mm to nothing. We had been celebrating a year of remission for my dad when I got married in July 2016. He was in good spirits.

But we all know that with cancer things change quickly and without notice.

The day after my wedding, dad told me he had relapsed. The cancer was in a new spot and it was aggressive. He had known for two weeks – in fact he found out on my birthday. My father loved his family so much so that when faced with heartbreaking news that required unrelenting support towards him, he buried it, gave me away, delivered a beautiful speech and danced and mingled the night away. When he told me, I cried. I sobbed actually. It turns out you can never feel comfortable about defeating cancer. It is a beast and it’s not polite about when or where it will occur. It is the worst house guest and it is never, ever invited. Once I finished crying, my thoughts went to my parents who had to stump up and do this again. My dad had good days, bad days and damn ugly days. There were days when he wanted to eat super foods, drink super drinks and exercise. And there were days when he just wanted to hide, when he was angry and absolutely deflated, when no one could say anything to make it better. He lived as best he could, inside hospital walls and even with a drip attached to him.

My mother (pictured above with my dad and their granddaughter) had one of the hardest jobs of any of us. They had been married for 48 years, they were best friends. But you cannot deny that cancer changes a relationship; they became comrades, standing side by side every day.

What I would love is for us, as a community, to remember that everyday there are people and families around us who are struggling with this.

Cancer changes the way people interact with you. It makes people uncomfortable – cancer patients look different and they look unwell. Friends can go missing for a period of time too. When times are hardest, it is the patient in the middle of it with their family, and a small handful of friends, who stand on the edges for support. Sometimes you don’t know what support you need, sometimes you just need someone to hold you up.

In September 2016, my father died. It is hard. There is no amount of time between dad’s death that will make it easier or less present for me.

That person has gone and naturally there is a huge hole in my life. I will always miss him. Every memory of my dad is clearer than it was when he was alive. Everything that I knew he loved is even more present in my days. There is no getting over it, there is simply taking steps forward knowing I have his spirit with me. I think we need to support each other in this community in whatever way we can. Together we can make life better for those who are living with cancer.

If you feel like I do, and you want to make sure that no one else has to experience the pain and heartache of cancer in the future, join me to give Australia’s best researchers the tools they need to end cancer.

The sum of what you give doesn’t matter, what matters is the sum of people who give. Together we can change the future. We can create a world without cancer.

Please donate by September 30th. Your donation will go directly to cancer research.

Study confirms: Over 90 per cent of cervical cancers are preventable by vaccination

Up to 93 per cent of cervical cancers in Australia could be prevented by a new HPV vaccination, and researchers hope one day vaccination will almost entirely eradicate the disease.

In the largest study of its kind, researchers in Melbourne have taken an in-depth look at a large number of cervical cancer samples to determine the types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause cancer in Australian women.

The results show that 77 per cent of cervical cancers in Australian women carry the HPV types 16 and 18, which the current quadrivalent HPV vaccine (Gardasil) protects against. This is higher than the international prevalence of 71 per cent.

The study further identified that 16 per cent of Australian cancers contain the next five most common cancer-causing types globally (types 31, 33. 45, 52 and 58), which a new HPV vaccine would protect against. The new vaccine is currently under consideration for use in the Australian National HPV Vaccination Program.

HPV is a group of viruses mainly transmitted through sexual contact and most people are infected with HPV shortly after the onset of sexual activity. A small number of those infected will go onto to develop abnormal cells that are the precursor to cervical cancer.

Published in the International Journal of Cancer, the collaborative study was led by the Royal Women’s Hospital and Victorian Cytology Service (VCS), in partnership with expert cancer pathology laboratories in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

Lead author Associate Professor Julia Brotherton, Medical Director of Australia’s National HPV Vaccination Program Register at VCS, said the findings were “great news for our daughters and all young Australian women”.

“This study highlights that the new HPV vaccine yet to be released in Australia could prevent over 90 per cent of cervical cancers, which is an incredibly exciting prospect,” Prof Brotherton said.

Director of the Royal Women’s Hospital Centre for Infectious Diseases and study senior author Professor Suzanne Garland said the research confirmed that girls who are vaccinated against HPV with the new vaccine should have a very high level of protection against cervical cancer, and that one day this could potentially mean women need to screen less often.

“The new vaccine still protects against genital warts but is expanded to cover the seven most common viral types that cause cervical cancer. I do believe that if we continue with this high coverage of vaccination, we could almost wipe out cervical cancer in women,” she said.

The outcome of a Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) review of the new vaccine is scheduled for release mid-August. If recommended, the vaccine could become part of the National HPV Vaccination Program as early as next year.

The study Looking beyond human papillomavirus (HPV) genotype 16 and 18: defining HPV genotype distribution in cervical cancers in Australia prior to vaccination was jointly authored by Prof Brotherton and the Women’s Dr Sepehr Tabrizi.

This news article was first posted on The Royal Women’s Hospital Victoria website.

Will attempts to break Guinness World Record at Blackmores Running Festival

Australia cancer researchWill Bond took on the 2017 City2Surf, running 14km in a full Chinese Lion Dance costume raising over $5,000 for cancer research.

Now, Will is taking on a whole new challenge by pushing limits and competing for a Guinness World Record at the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival this 17 September 2017.

“I am running the Sydney Blackmores Marathon on the 17 September 2017, and as a mark of respect and memory to my Kung Fu Sifu (at Jow Ga Kung Fu Academy Australia) who recently passed away from cancer, I will set the world record for FASTEST MARATHON RUN IN A KUNG FU UNIFORM!!”

Will is running this in the official Jow Ga Kung Fu Academy uniform, including black Jow Ga tunic, full length black Kung Fu pants, a black belt, and black Kung Fu training shoes. Note: these shoes are not made for running! They are very thin, canvas shoes. Will, we bow down to you!

“Sifu Randy Sullivan Bennett was (and always will be) an amazing person who brought so much energy and vibrancy into the world. He was a teacher, mentor, Kung Fu Master, and good friend… Every time I practice Kung Fu I will feel his energy there watching over us all (and silently correcting our forms)!

I want to be able to do anything I possibly can to help the fight against cancer, and to help people who have cancer in any possible way!”

 

Marking the anniversary of world’s first HPV vaccine

Article by Professor Ian Frazer

Eleven years ago, on 29 August 2006, the first Human Papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation was administered in Australia. The opportunity to develop the vaccine resulted from the discovery of a linkage between HPV and cervical cancer, and an insightful funding body, the Australian Cancer Research Foundation.

Looking back – how did we get here? 

Human Papillomavirus and cervical cancer

In the early 1980s a research group headed by Harald Zur Hausen at the German Cancer Research institute discovered that cervical cancer was associated with infection with Human Papillomavirus (HPV). This discovery was later recognised by being awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2008.

Subsequent careful epidemiological studies by many groups showed not only that all cervical cancer could be attributed to infection with this virus, but also that a limited subset of about 10 of the many different papillomaviruses, termed “high risk” were the culprits.

Two HPV types (HPV16 and HPV18) were responsible for about 70% of the cervical cancer burden worldwide, and also contributed to the risk of other cancers relating to the anus and genitals, and some cancers of the mouth and throat. These studies also showed that cancer was a rare consequence of persistence of infection, that infections are largely without symptoms, generally transmitted sexually, and very common.

Vaccine development

These observations initiated a search by many research groups for vaccines to prevent HPV infection. Initial seed funding from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation helped to enable our research team at the Diamantina Institute in Queensland to achieve a breakthrough discovery and to attract more funding.

Professor Ian Frazer
Professor Ian Frazer at Diamantina Institute.

By mid-90s a technology for making a mimic of the virus, termed a virus like particle, had been shown to induce virus neutralising antibodies in animals, and was therefore a likely candidate for a vaccine.

Vaccine manufacturing companies subsequently developed methods for large scale production of the virus like particles. Early in the following decade, there were large scale clinical trials, that showed that vaccines based on these particles were safe and effective at preventing infection, and the subsequent development of cervical pre-cancer. By June 2006 the first vaccines were licensed for use, and deployment started in August 2006.

Dramatic reduction in presence of HPV

Over the past decade, HPV vaccine programs have been rolled out in many countries around the world. Australia was one of the first to adopt universal immunisation of school girls and young women, and also one of the first to add immunisation of school boys to the vaccine program. The vaccine used in Australia prevents infection with the two papillomaviruses most commonly responsible for cancer together with the two papillomaviruses that cause genital warts.

Over the past decade there has also been a dramatic reduction (over 80%) in new presentations with genital warts amongst young women and men. There has been a corresponding reduction in the presence of HPV in the cervix of young women undergoing pap smear screening for cervical cancer. These results have been achieved through immunisation of about 70% of the eligible females.

Young girl at an immunisation clinic.

Recently, similar results have been demonstrated in immunised women in the USA, where immunisation rates are much lower. Currently vaccines are licensed for use in every country of the world that regulates vaccines. Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and most European countries now have some form of universal immunisation program, and China has recently licenced the vaccine with the intent to introduce universal immunisation, while funding from the Gates Foundation and the WHO have enabled limited demonstration and pilot programs of HPV immunisation in many countries with developing and emerging economies, including India, Bhutan, Thailand, Mexico, Kenya, Vietnam, Fiji and Vanuatu. The majority of the more than 250,000 annual deaths from cervical cancer occur in these developing economies.

Immunisation is most commonly offered to 10-12 year old girls, prior to the onset of sexual activity. Although there have been some attempts to discredit the safety, the utility, or the moral justification of the vaccine programs, they have generally proven safe and well accepted. Over 150 million doses of vaccine have been delivered worldwide to date.

Looking forward – the next decade

Vaccine delivery in the developing world

One future challenge is to develop effective means of delivering universal vaccination in the countries of the developing world, where cervical cancer incidence is high and where strategies for prevention of cervical cancer are non-existent or ineffective.

Universal vaccination delivery remains a challenge in developing countries.

Barriers to all universal immunisation programs include vaccine cost, development of infrastructure for vaccine delivery and education to raise vaccine awareness, and the HPV vaccine is no different.

The relatively high cost of the vaccine itself in the developed world, which pays for the 15 year development program, has been sharply reduced by the manufacturing companies for the developing world. A further subsidised cost is available to those countries with with annual GDP of less than US$1580 per person. Nevertheless this vaccine is expensive in comparison with others.

Further, there are few countries that routinely deliver public health measures, including immunisation, to teenage and pre-teen girls, further hindering effective delivery. Considerable education about safety, efficacy, and purpose is necessary to ensure community acceptance of universal immunisation.

New vaccine technologies

The current two virus type (Cervarix, GSK – HPV16, HPV18) and four virus type (Gardasil, Merck HPV 16 , HPV 18, HPV 6 and HPV11) have proven equally effective in preventing cervical HPV infections. Gardasil also protects against genital warts. A new virus like particle vaccine (Gardasil-9) includes seven of the most common cervical cancer HPV types plus HPV6 and 11. This is now being made available and is likely to replace the others, at least in the developed world.

Alternative and potentially cheaper vaccine products, some with broader coverage against HPV types are being developed. These are made in bacteria rather than yeast or insect cells and, if effective, may replace the current technologies. However, these are still in early development and it is unlikely that they will have much impact within the next 10 years.

Alternative and potentially cheaper vaccine products, some with broader coverage against HPV types are being developed.

Better vaccine delivery

Over the past ten years, the original vaccine delivery schedule of three doses over six months has been shown effective in extensive clinical trials at an individual and population level. However, data from subsequent trials suggests that two vaccine doses delivered over the same period gives comparable immune responses in younger people and two doses may therefore be as effective in preventing infection.

Data on the duration and individual and population efficacy of two dose regimens will need to be gathered over the next decade. Ideally, the HPV vaccine might be given with other routine childhood vaccines to preschool children, perhaps topped up with a single booster shot in adolescence. Studies are underway to determine whether this strategy for delivery will prove effective.

New targets for prevention

Use of the current vaccines may turn out to prevent other cancers caused by HPV infection. There is particular interest in head and neck cancers, where a formal clinical trial is unlikely because of the long lag time between infection and disease.

One area of particular research interest is whether immunisation against HPV might prevent reinfection after successful treatment for HPV associated disease, and therefore avoid the need for ongoing surveillance in women treated for the infection.

The current vaccines do not cure people already infected with HPV. Mostly, current infections cure themselves, but if they don’t, then the vaccines do not diminish the future risk of cancer.

Therapeutic vaccines that might cure people of cancer or at least of persisting infection are therefore under development, with a number of strategies showing some evidence of efficacy. However, none have proven 100% effective and all are still at the stage of early phase clinical trials.

Observations from over the past ten years are that the HPV vaccines, if delivered effectively to the majority of 10-12 year old girls in the developing world from today forward, should lead to the global elimination of new cervical and other HPV associated cancers by 2050.

Article author, Professor Ian Frazer is the Chair of the Medical Research Advisory Committee at the Australian Cancer Research Foundation.

Speaking with: Professor Peter Koopman on CRISPR and the power of genome editing

Editing DNA has the potential to treat disease by repairing or removing defective genes.
Kyle Lawson/flickr, CC BY-NC-ND
 

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Speaking with: Professor Peter Koopman on CRISPR and the power of genome editing

CRISPR, or clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, is a technology that is able to alter DNA.

While this sounds like the realms of science fiction, right now scientists are investigating its potential to eliminate genetic diseases in humans by repairing or replacing defective genes.

The University of Melbourne’s William Isdale spoke with Professor Peter Koopman from the University of Queensland about his research into CRISPR and the possibilities it could offer to future generations, as well as those suffering from genetic conditions right now.


Subscribe to The Conversation’s Speaking With podcasts on iTunes, or follow on Tunein Radio.

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Music

William Isdale, Research Assistant, Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Karen organises a clearing sale for cancer research

Karen supports cancer research in Australia

I am a high school teacher, a farmer’s wife, and the mother of two rambunctious girls aged four and six. We live on our family farm near the rural village of Caragabal, in the middle of NSW.

Unfortunately, cancer is not new in our family; my dad died of cancer almost 20 years ago, and I am a cancer survivor myself.

I was diagnosed in 2016 at age 35 with aggressive triple negative breast cancer, I underwent a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, node dissection and radiation. My outcome is there is no longer any evidence of the disease. With treatment over, hope is left. Hope that the cancer never comes back, hope that my daughters are never directly affected by it, hope that I am around to help them through puberty, weddings and babies, and hope that I live long enough to enjoy retirement with my husband.

After my personal experiences with cancer, I urgently wanted to do my bit to help cancer researchers in this country to beat this disease. Although cancer treatments are improving and major research breakthroughs are getting closer, continuing those efforts needs more money.

My first, and small, event to raise funds for cancer research was shaving my head for donations, just before starting chemo last year. The next event will be massive! On August 26 there will be a combined farming machinery clearing sale in Caragabal with buyers and sellers attending from all over the district. Our village is well known for both its strong community spirit and making any event into a social event, and the upcoming sale will be no different. There will be plenty of good company throughout the day, bar and canteen facilities on offer, and a club dinner after the sale. Because the stock and station agents are all generously donating their time, the usual commission associated with a clearing sale will instead be donated to the Australian Cancer Research Foundation. We are hoping to sell $100,000 worth of machinery.

I know that there are many worthy causes out there, and all of them are important. If you’ve chosen to raise money for cancer research, I just want to say thank you. Your hard work, and the dollars that you raise mean so much to every cancer survivor. You’re giving hope for a brighter and more certain future. If cancer research is successful in its aims, my own hopes and dreams will all be realised.

Breast cancer study reveals new treatment targets

Cancer researcher Dr French at QIMR Berghofer
Associate Professor Juliet French at QIMR Berghofer

 

Researchers at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute have identified two new genes that influence the risk of breast cancer.

The study was a collaboration between Associate Professors Juliet French and Stacey Edwards.

Associate Professor French said the genes, known as CUPID1 and CUPID2, affect the way cells respond to potentially cancer-causing DNA damage.

“When damage occurs to certain parts of our DNA, it can lead to cancer developing,” Associate Professor French said.

“That’s why our bodies have well-developed ways of constantly repairing damage to our DNA. “

“We found that these two genes are involved in switching the mechanism by which cells repair DNA damage.”

“If you have these genes, your cells will repair DNA damage without causing any errors. However, if you don’t have these genes, your cells will switch to repairing DNA in a way that is prone to errors, and can actually cause more damage.”

Associate Professor French said the finding could, in future, provide a new target for treating the most common type of breast cancer, estrogen receptor positive breast cancer.

“While it’s still a long way off, we hope that in future a new treatment could be developed that could target these genes and switch them on,” she said.

“CUPID1 and CUPID2 fall within new class of genes called long non-coding RNAs.”

“Long noncoding RNAs are an under-studied class of genes that are likely to provide a wealth of opportunity for uncovering major breakthroughs for treating a range of diseases.”

The findings have been published recently in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

This post was first published on QIMR Berghofer’s website.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation has supported cancer research at QIMR Berghofer by providing three grants, totalling AUD$ 6.65 M, for the purchase of cutting edge research equipment and technology.

New way to empower the immune system to detect and kill cancer

Cancer researchers find new immunotherapy targets An international team of scientists led by Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre has identified a new way to potentially stop cancer cells hiding from the immune system.

Their research has identified a master regulator of a protein (PD-L1), which is over-expressed by tumour cells, and which suppresses the immune response to these rogue cancer cells allowing them to proliferate.

 “For some time we’ve known that PD-L1 plays an important regulatory role for our immune system – and when it is operating normally it is a handbrake that prevents over-reactions,” said Professor Mark Dawson, Head of the Translational Haematology Program at Peter Mac.

“We’ve also know that cancers exploit this process and an over-supply of PD-L1 on the surface of tumour cells effectively shields them, stopping them from being killed off by our immune system.”

“If we had a way to control the production of PD-L1 this would be a powerful new addition to our armoury of immunotherapy agents, and that’s what the research has identified.”

New protein target for immunotherapy

The researchers found the protein CMTM6 is needed to maintain the expression of PD-L1 and in a wide variety of cancers cells they showed that as CMTM6 levels decline so does the cancer’s ability to suppress the immune response.

The discovery opens a new avenue to develop immunotherapy drugs that target CMTM6. These would use the similar pathway as emerging “anti-PD1” class of antibody therapies, which have already shown great promise for the treatment of a broad array of cancers.

“If we can develop new drugs that re-activate a patient’s immune response to their cancer, this would be a major world-wide advance,” said Professor Joe Trapani, Executive Director of Research and Head of the 70-strong Cancer Immunology Program at Peter Mac.

“Immunotherapy is the first totally new treatment for advanced cancer in over 50 years and our capacity for this exciting research project and many more is rapidly expanding.”

A paper describing this work, titled “CMTM6 maintains the expression of PD-L1 and regulates anti-tumour immunity”, has been recently published in the journal Nature.

The study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and other collaborators.

This post was originally published on Peter Mac’s website.

ACRF has supported cancer research at Peter Mac by providing three grants, totalling $7 million towards cutting edge research technology and equipment.

Sandra celebrates her birthday by fundraising for cancer research

Sandra raises money for Australian cancer researchThis year I decided to support a charity as part of my 65th birthday celebration. This was a heartfelt decision as I’ve survived breast cancer and my partner Terry saw his wife die of cancer 23 years ago. The birthday party was Terry’s idea and gift to me.

I love life and celebrate every day. Retirement is not for me, yet. After many years of working in adult educational management, I currently run my own consultancy business doing small projects mainly for health department agencies. Family time is also a priority – there is my partner, my two grown sons and my 2-year old grandson. I am also a passionate amateur photographer and express my creativity through this art form as often as possible.

Invitations to the celebration included the request of no presents please. Having all that I need in life, it seemed appropriate and timely to ask people to make a donation to cancer research rather than bring me presents. The request didn’t particularly surprise my family, as I’ve done overseas mission work in the past which included raising money for the mission. I knew about ACRF and its efforts in cancer research from another friend, whose wife died last year, and donations in lieu of flowers were requested then.

The theme colours used for the party were purple and orange with silver and our large outdoor area was decorated in these colours with balloons, lanterns and anything else we could find. At the party entrance there was a large purple box decorated with the silver ACRF ribbons and donation envelopes. Nearly everyone who made a donation has been affected by cancer.

It is sad how many families are dealing with this horrible disease. One of my dear friends died of breast cancer in 2014, there is my own experience and that of my partner. There are undoubtedly many cancer not-for-profit organisations deserving our support but the most important thing to me is that better methods of prevention, detection and treatment are found for the many cancers affecting us and that is the goal of ACRF through continued research.

To anyone thinking about supporting cancer research, I would say, why hesitate – just do it! Give someone a chance to live, help put an end to all cancers.

Share your story Organise your own event

 

Judy opens her home again to fundraise for cancer research

Judith supports cancer research in Australia“My name is Judith, but I am Judy to family and friends and any new acquaintances. If asked to describe myself, I would say 71 years young, an optimist, pacifist, wife, mother of two, grandmother of four, and a friend to many.

In 2013 I decided to open my home and fundraise for cancer research, because I felt, and continue to feel today, that I should do something to help end this dreadful disease. Over the years, cancer has taken the lives of so many people that I love, and currently, four of my friends are receiving cancer treatments. I also had bladder cancer in 2014, but all has been well with check-ups since the operation.

Getting ready for a fundraiser is hard work and while my husband John thinks I’m a bit crazy for doing it, he does support me in every way. I also have friends who wouldn’t undertake a similar event themselves, but they are more than willing to lend a hand each year. Believe me, they are always a tremendous help!

My home is small compared to many others, but we manage to cram a lot of people in each year (from 20 to 41). There is always coffee and cake, or sometimes soup and sandwiches, for everyone who drops by. In addition to the table of gift items for purchase which I make, there is an auction of donated items, a guessing competition, a coin toss, and plenty of lively conversation. We are sometimes a bit short on space, but no one complains and we do have a lot of fun. Every person who was at my first fundraiser has attended all of my others. It is quite a thrill to have raised over $10,000 for cancer research since 2013. 

I plan to go on supporting ACRF and their cancer research efforts for as long as possible. If we stop raising funds for research, cancer wins. We can’t allow that to happen!

Share your story Organise your own event

Tumour blood supply stopped by a modified natural compound

Researchers have discovered how a modified natural compound can disrupt the formation of blood vessel networks in neuroblastoma tumours, thus preventing tumours from laying down the vital supply lines that fuel cancer growth and spread.

The international study paves the way for less toxic treatments for neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer that has an average age of diagnosis of just one to two years old.

The discovery is based on an earlier study by Dr Orazio Vittorio of Children’s Cancer Institute (CCI). In 2012, he found that the natural polyphenol catechin slows tumour growth in the laboratory but breaks down too quickly in the body to be effective.

“We joined catechin with a sugar called dextran. We found this dextran-catechin complex is much more stable in the body and that it slows tumour growth by affecting copper levels – but we didn’t know precisely how,” Dr Vittorio said.

The new research showed that copper is needed by endothelial cells, the cells that line blood vessels, and that dextran-catechin disrupts the cells’ copper levels in several ways.

The result is clearly visible down a microscope. When human endothelial cells were cultured and treated with dextran-catechin, the normally branching networks of blood vessels failed to form properly. Likewise, in animal models, neuroblastoma tumours treated with dextran-catechin had significantly fewer blood vessels than tumours treated with saline control.

“Instead of forming a neat, branching network of blood vessels, you see a mess of cells all over the place, which means cancer cells can’t get the blood supply they need,” explained Dr Vittorio.

“This is exciting because it’s a new target for the childhood cancer neuroblastoma that appears safe and has minimal side effects”, he said.

Further laboratory research into dextran-catechin’s potential as a future treatment is underway. The study was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

This news article was first published on the CCI website.

ACRF has supported cancer research at CCI by awarding three research grants, in total $5.2 million, towards cutting edge research technology.

Behind the Scenes with the Department of Human Services

supporting Australian cancer research

Throughout the months of May and June, ACRF was lucky enough to have the Department of Human Services (DHS) support us as their national 2017 DHS Games charity.

On Monday 3 July, Clare Halloran from the Social Work Services Branch – a former cancer patient with Hodgkin’s lymphoma had the chance to see things

from the other side of the fence. Clare donned a lab coat during a visit to The ACRF Department of Cancer Biology and Therapeutics at the Australian National University’s The John Curtin School of Medical Research. Joined by colleague, Jackie Paul, as well as Tamara Shaw and Stephanie Luck from the communications team, Clare got the low-down on the latest research into cancer detection.

Led by Professor Ross Hannan, Centenary Chair of Cancer Research and Head of the ACRF Department of Cancer Biology and Therapeutics at the ANU, the private tour was coordinated by ACRF’s Priscilla Leong.

“What better way to learn about ACRF and the research we fund than by entering the home of top ANU scientists?” said Priscilla.

“The tour gives participants a behind-the-scenes look into discovery-based research and the development of new compounds, drugs and diagnostic approaches for cancer treatment.”

The emphasis of the School’s research is on an understanding of the fundamental principles of human life processes and the pathologies of these processes which cause human disease.

Leading cancer researcher Professor Hannan and his team at the ANU received a $2 million grant from ACRF in December 2015. The grant was used to establish the ACRF Department of Cancer Biology and Therapeutics which features a one-of-a-kind drug screening facility, commissioned to identify new combinations of the 4,500 FDA-approved drugs that can lead to new treatments and potential cures for cancer patients. As it can take 10 years and $1.2 billion to get a new drug approved, using pre-approved drugs is a much more cost-effective, ready-made and safe option.

At the conclusion of the tour, Professor Hannan praised the work undertaken in the labs.

“The work they do could not be underestimated, we are currently expanding the department with new cancer researchers and our current goal is to raise $10 million by next year,” he said.
Clare was equally effusive.

”The lab was spectacular and it was great to see research being done in the heart of the city I call home,: she said. “Of particular interest to me was getting to look through a microscope at 20-year-old Leukemia cancer cells that were donated for research studies.

“I feel very privileged; not many people get the opportunity to see the great research and equipment inside a medical research lab! I was blown away by the enthusiasm, dedication and expertise on display today. It gives me a great deal of hope for the future.”

We’d like to send out a big thanks to DHS and all their staff who supported us through the months of May and June. Through their efforts ACRF raised just over $19,000. But to keep labs like these funded—so hope can be turned into reality— ACRF continues to rely on the generosity of others.

It’s important to mention that when you donate to ACRF, your money works a couple of ways. Not only does it go towards grants to help fund vital work, it act as leverage for places like The John Curtin School of Medical Research to attract additional grants from other entities. So in effect, your donation keeps on giving.

Workplace Giving Program — the way you can continue to support ACRF

If you haven’t donated so far—or would like to send some more money our way — why not donate regularly, or as a one-off, via the Workplace Giving Program? All donations received are processed as pre-tax deductions and donations over $2 are tax deductible. Every dollar counts, so it’s worth doing.

Learn more about workplace giving Share your story

Why some moles become melanoma still a mystery

Some moles become skin cancer

Testing for two gene mutations commonly associated with melanoma would be insufficient to determine whether a mole could turn cancerous, University of Queensland research has found.

UQ Diamantina Institute’s Dr Mitchell Stark is among researchers investigating why melanomas develop from some naevi (moles).

“In Australia, about half of all melanomas develop from a naevus, but most moles will never progress to become a melanoma,” Dr Stark said.

“We are trying to determine what causes some naevi to change so that we can better predict or more accurately detect those which could become dangerous.

“This would help avoid unnecessary excisions of those lesions unlikely to pose a risk.”

Scientists from UQ’s Dermatology Research Centre analysed samples from participants in the Brisbane Naevus Morphology Study, and discovered all had one of two key mutations associated with melanoma.

“We found that 85 per cent of samples had a mutation on the gene known as BRAF, and the remaining samples had a mutation on the NRAS gene,” Dr Stark said.

“When either of these genes are mutated it activates the signalling pathway known as MAPK, which is commonly active in melanomas.

“Clearly our samples were not melanomas, so additional genomic events need to occur before a mole becomes malignant.”

Dr Stark said further research was underway to determine other genetic changes that could trigger the development of melanoma from naevi.

Studies have consistently shown the number of naevi a person has is the strongest predictor of risk for melanoma.

Dr StarkDr Stark said people with a high number of moles, and other risk characteristics such as fair skin or light coloured hair or eyes, should continue to see their treating dermatologist or skin cancer physician for routine skin examination.

Dr Stark is a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Early Career Fellow. The UQ Dermatology Research Centre is a participant in the Centre of Research Excellence for the Study of Naevi, and is based at the Translational Research Institute.

The research was published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

This news post was first published on the University of Queensland’s website.

ACRF has supported cancer research at Diamantina Institute by providing three grants, totalling AUD$ 6.2M, for the purchase of cutting edge research equipment and technology.

Whole-body MRI scan picks up early-stage hereditary cancers

A major study confirms, for the first time, that whole-body MRI detects primary cancers in people with an inherited cancer risk condition called Li-Fraumeni syndrome at an early and curable stage.

Li-Fraumeni syndrome is a rare and devastating condition caused by mutations in the TP53 gene and characterised by high cancer risk at multiple body sites.

Half of those with Li-Fraumeni syndrome will develop their first cancer by the age of 30, and almost all will have cancer in their lifetime. Despite this near-inevitability, there is no universally accepted approach to managing cancer risk in Li-Fraumeni syndrome –largely because it is difficult to justify invasive organ-by-organ screening approaches for multi-organ cancer syndromes.

To address this issue, an international consortium of researchers sought to determine whether whole-body MRI could play a role in surveillance of those with Li-Fraumeni syndrome.

The findings were clear. A previously unidentified primary cancer was detected in one in 14 adults undergoing their first whole-body MRI. In children, the detection rate was higher still: a primary cancer was identified in one in seven children. Primary cancers were detected in the bone, soft tissue, breast, brain, lung, kidney, thyroid, prostate and bowel. In all, 35 new primary cancers were detected and all were treated with curative intent.

Professor David Thomas, at Garvan Institute of Medical Research, said that the screen picks up cancers before symptoms appear and at a high rate. This makes it possible to treat those cancers before they have had a chance to spread.

Results applicable to other cancers with increased hereditary risk

Research findings also confirm that the findings using whole-body MRI compare favourably with breast MRI, which is currently approved for screening of women at increased risk of breast cancer.

“In our analysis, the detection rate of primary cancers was several-fold higher than has been reported for breast MRI in women at high risk of breast cancer (BRCA1/2 carriers) – which is typically about one cancer in every 50 women screened. And the false positive rate – the detection of lesions that turn out not to be new primary cancers – is also comparable to that observed for breast MRI in at-risk populations,” said Professor Thomas.

Dr Mandy Ballinger at Garvan said that the study is likely to herald a change in thinking around the clinical management of hereditary cancer risk.

“Typically, individuals with Li-Fraumeni syndrome have been monitored for new cancers in only those few organs where robust screening approaches exist – in breast, for instance. But in Li-Fraumeni syndrome and in other cases of high cancer risk, cancers can appear at any time, in any organ. This means that this organ-specific approach inevitably fails to pick up most cancers.”

These findings, which are set to change clinical practice in monitoring those at high genetic risk of cancer, have been recently published in the leading cancer journal JAMA Oncology.

The news article was first published on the Garvan website.

ACRF has supported cancer research at Garvan by providing three grants, totalling AUD $6.13million, towards cutting edge cancer research equipment and technology.

Image: Dr Ballinger and Prof Thomas. Image courtesy of Garvan.

Cancer immunotherapy drugs like Keytruda and Opdivo hold hope for some, but there’s still a way to go

File 20170725 7881 3ml7zo
Some people taking these drugs can see their cancer completely disappear – there’s nothing left to see on their x-rays. From www.shutterstock.com.au

 

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
By Craig Gedye, Oncologist and Senior Lecturer, University of Newcastle

Imagine being able to offer hope to people with cancers that were once thought untreatable. Checkpoint immune drugs like pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and nivolumab (Opdivo) are heralding this new era in cancer treatment. Some people taking these drugs can see their cancer completely disappear; there’s nothing left to see on their x-rays.

We rightly celebrate these successes, but must face the sobering truth that only a minority of people experience these dramatic benefits. Decades of research have helped us reach this point. Now scientists and doctors from Australia and around the world are working furiously to learn more about how these immune treatments work or fail.

Who it works for now

Nivolumab and pembrolizumab are checkpoint immunotherapy antibodies. They work by blocking barriers (or “checkpoints”) created by cancer cells to protect against attack from the immune system. Remove the barrier and the immune system can destroy the cancer.

The Conversation, CC BY-ND

The most success so far for these drugs is with melanoma, which has long been known to respond to immunotherapy. In Australia, single or combination checkpoint immunotherapy substantially helps about half of people with melanoma, and will soon be available for people with kidney and lung cancers.

Trials continue in most types of cancer. Checkpoint immunotherapy has proven beneficial in patients with bladder cancer, head and neck cancer and Hodgkin lymphoma. A smaller proportion of people, typically around 20-30%, are helped in most of these cancers. These successes and failures start to show us how checkpoint immunotherapy works, and how it might work better.

Who it might help soon

Patients whose cancers are already under attack from immune cells are the people who seem most likely to be helped by checkpoint immunotherapy. But many patients’ cancers are devoid of immune cells – so removing checkpoints doesn’t help.

This is why the first strategy to improve checkpoint immunotherapy is to diversify and muster the immune system into tumours. Some checkpoint immunotherapy drugs (such as ipilimumab, brand name “Yervoy”) work this way. In effect they “vaccinate” the patient against their cancer, educating the immune system on how to fight the cancer, and recruiting immune cells to attack tumours.

A similar method uses modified viruses that infect and explode immune cells. These can be directly injected into cancers, drawing in immune cells to attack the cancer. This is the basis of the very first immune therapy for cancer, first used in 1896.

Finally, identifying the minority of people who naturally have immune-infiltrated cancers may identify those likely to benefit from checkpoint immunotherapy (such as aggressive breast cancer needing chemotherapy before surgery).


Read more: Explainer: how does Keytruda treat melanoma and why is it so costly?


We may be able to identify a few people within various types of cancer most likely to benefit from checkpoint immunotherapy. For example, while checkpoint immunotherapy doesn’t help most bowel and prostate cancer patients, a small group of people whose cancers’ DNA isn’t able to repair properly have dramatic outcomes from checkpoint immunotherapy.

This lack of efficient DNA repair is called “mismatch repair deficiency”. Mismatch repair is one of the tools cells use to repair their DNA. Loss of mismatch repair leads to aggressive cancers that don’t respond to chemotherapy, but which throw up lots of targets for the immune system.

Up to a third of uterine cancers, 15% of bowel cancers, 15% of stomach cancers and perhaps 5% each of prostate, oesophageal, cervical and ovarian cancers have mismatch repair deficiency, potentially making them treatable with checkpoint immunotherapy.

How we might improve immune therapy further

Even when fully implemented, these strategies will leave many people who won’t benefit from checkpoint immunotherapy – but a huge number of new treatments, combinations and ideas are being tested in clinical trials.

Drugs that protect immune cells from toxic chemicals released by nearby cancer cells appear very promising. A myriad of new antibodies that block other immune checkpoints are in development. And we haven’t abandoned standard cancer treatments like blood-supply blocking drugs, radiotherapy or chemotherapy; these may help immunotherapy by killing enough cancer cells to recruit immune cells into tumours.

Should everyone with cancer take checkpoint immunotherapy? These drugs are safe overall, though people with autoimmune diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis) need to be very cautious. This is because the underlying cause of checkpoint immunotherapy side effects, an overactive immune system, is very similar to the causes of autoimmune diseases.

And there is a social challenge: cost. We are privileged to have many publicly funded PBS-reimbursed cancer treatments in Australia, but drug costs are rising sharply. One solution will be to find more ways to identify the patients most likely to benefit from these drugs, so we’re not using expensive drugs to treat people for whom they won’t have an effect.

Another, perhaps complementary, strategy would be pay-for-performance – treat everyone, but only reimburse the manufacturer if the patient is helped. This might particularly assist people with rare cancers, where clinical trials are extremely hard to perform.

The ConversationCheckpoint immunotherapy is a triumph – when it works. It’s important to temper our hopes with the knowledge that these promising drugs can’t yet help every person, with every cancer. But we’re working on it.

Targeting Cancer’s Achilles’ heel to improve breast cancer treatment

Researchers at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) and their collaborators have found a promising new class of anti-cancer agents that targets cancer cells’ Achilles’ heel. The new compound, MCL-1 inhibitor S63845, is one of a promising new class of drugs that triggers tumour cell death.

Combining the new anti-cancer compound S63845 with currently used cancer drugs has been now demonstrated to be more effective in killing triple negative breast cancers and HER2-positive breast cancers, suggesting it should be investigated in clinical trials.

Dr James Whittle at WEHI, who is also a medical oncologist at Peter Mac, said that S63845 targeted MCL-1, a protein that WEHI scientists have previously shown to be important for cancer cell survival.

“MCL-1 gives cancer cells a survival advantage, allowing them to resist chemotherapy or other anti-cancer therapies that would otherwise trigger cancer cell death.”

“Importantly, the combination of the MCL-1 inhibitor S63845 with standard therapies was far more effective than either treatment alone. These can be incredibly aggressive tumours, so to see a response to the combined therapy in this tumour type is very exciting.”

Professor Geoff Lindeman, also a medical oncologist at the Peter Mac and Royal Melbourne Hospital, said MCL-1 inhibitor S63845 was one of a promising new class of drugs.

“Our hope is that it will be possible to combine MCL-1 inhibitors with conventional therapies to more effectively treat certain types of breast cancer and deliver better outcomes for our patients,” Professor Lindeman said.

MCL-1 is a critical anti-cancer therapeutic target. It is found at excessive levels in triple negative and HER2-positive breast cancers, and is often associated with poor outcomes for patients.

Around one in three Australian women with breast cancer have a triple negative or HER2-positive breast cancer. Professor Lindeman said triple negative breast cancers, in particular, were in urgent need of new treatment options.

“Triple negative breast cancers have not seen the same improvement in targeted therapies, or survival, as some other types of breast cancer,” he said.

The study was published today in Science Translational Medicine.

The research was supported by the Australian Cancer Research Foundation amongst others.

The original news post was published on the WEHI website.

Focus on a single cell sees development of new cancer treatment

For over 30 years, Professors Jenny Gamble and Mathew Vadas AO at the Centenary Institute in Sydney have been working on understanding the function of a single cell, the “guardian” endothelial cell that lines our blood vessels.

Their thorough understanding of how the endothelium is critical in the control of inflammation, the body’s response against harmful stimuli, has led to the development of the new cancer treatment.

Collaboration with Danish and Australian researchers has shown that the new drug, called CD5-2, has potential to be effective and to work alongside the current immunotherapy for cancers.

CD5-2 is the first drug of its kind and works by altering the endothelial cells of the blood vessels within the tumour. This allows T cells to penetrate into the tumour and also impacts on the behaviour of these T cells by allowing them to more effectively provide their protective function of fighting and killing the cancer cells.

The new drug could be effective in some of the hardest to treat cancers with the highest mortality rates, such as pancreatic and liver cancer, although it would also be effective in other, more common cancers such as melanoma.

Essential toxicology and safety studies are currently underway and it is hoped that this new drug could be in clinical trials in the next 2-3 years.

Professor Gamble is the Head of the Vascular Biology Program and Professor Vadas is the Executive Director of the Institute. Professor Vadas has previously chaired ACRF’s Medical Research Advisory Committee and is currently a committee member.

The study has recently been published in the journal Cancer Research.

This news was first published on the Centenary Website.

ACRF has supported cancer research at the Centenary Institute by providing two cancer research grants totalling $7.5 million.

Image: Professors Vadas (left) and Gamble. Image courtesy of Centenary Institute.

Early ACRF support of anti-cancer treatment results in landmark Australian deal

WEHI researchers, image courtesy of WEHI.

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) has made a landmark deal worth up to US$325 million from the partial sale of royalty rights in the anti-cancer treatment venetoclax. The rights have been acquired by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and WEHI will retain partial royalties in the treatment.

Venetoclax is based on three decades of ground-breaking research into cancer cell survival, which lead to the creation of the treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia in collaboration with commercial partners.

WEHI director Professor Doug Hilton AO said that many important discoveries at the Institute laid the foundation for venetoclax’s development and the philanthropic support over the past 30 years, including grants from ACRF, have been a vital part of this journey of discovery.

Professor Doug Hilton AO said the Institute’s commitment to scientific excellence, innovation and its collaborative culture underpinned the successful translation of venetoclax.

“With venetoclax, we have shown the Institute has both the scientific determination and entrepreneurial acumen to take basic research all the way to being a clinical and commercial success, alongside our partners. This need not be a one-time event. Venetoclax is proof that Australian institutions can be key players in globally significant translation.”

 “Venetoclax demonstrates what success can look like for a collaborative, entrepreneurial and innovative medical research institute and why investment in basic research is so important.”

Professor Hilton also thanked WEHI’s long term partners and supporters.

“Discoveries are always the result of collaborations and teamwork. We recognise that our supporters are vital contributors to our research teams. Thank you for standing with us. I am proud that the Institute continues to uphold its promise to make discoveries for humanity. Together we can continue this important work,” said Professor Hilton.

The income generated by the partial sale of rights will be invested back into research at WEHI to fuel more discoveries. One of the priority areas will be to accelerate drug discovery, ensuring that potential new treatments will be taken from laboratories and translated into new treatments and diagnostics.

The news was first published on the WEHI website. 

You can find out more about the development of venetoclax on the discovery timeline.

ACRF has supported WEHI by providing three grants, totalling AUD 5.5million towards cutting edge cancer research equipment and technology.

 

Hayley runs City2Surf for cancer research

funding research Australia

“From a young age I enjoyed all sports with touch football and athletics being my favourites, and someday I would like to work in the health and fitness industry. Now at age 22, and after two knee reconstructions, I feel ready to participate in a big event like City2Surf. To be honest, I am not too sure what urged me to register this year other than telling myself to do it now or probably I never would. I absolutely love my family and friends and have learned in the past few years that life is definitely too short, and we don’t know what is around the corner.

Although I am running for every person, family member or friend affected by cancer, there are three people in particular that I’ll be thinking of all along the way. There is my father, Michael Collins, who was diagnosed with Stage 1 prostate cancer in 2016, and he continues to have scans and tests; my brother-in-law, Jacob McCormick who had a benign brain tumour removed in 2016 at age 17; and Sharon McCormick, my partner’s beautiful mother, who died of cancer in 2014.

With no warning signs other than a horrible pain in her lower back, Sharon was diagnosed with cancer and then passed away four months later, just one day away from achieving her 46th birthday. The emptiness of not having Sharon in our lives is undeniably still there, and not a day goes by without thinking of her.  She was a beautiful soul and everything about her was infectious: the smile, the laugh (or snort!), the down-to-earth loving nature. Sharon was a true friend and an amazing person that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

I don’t think any of us can truly understand the pain of loss that comes with cancer until it affects you or your loved ones. Participating in City2Surf and fundraising for cancer research is my way of honouring all of my family, past and present, who have been affected by cancer.

After registering for this year’s race, I needed to decide on one cancer foundation to support. The choices seemed overwhelming but I ended up selecting the ACRF because it is the foundation that funds research on all types of cancers.

My advice to anyone else who is thinking of fundraising would be: honestly, just go for it! Whether you are sponsoring a friend or an organisation or running in the event itself, you are helping get one step closer to ending cancer, which in turn will save lives.

Every cent raised for cancer research counts. Without fundraising, we have no research and without research, there will be no breakthroughs. Together we can fund the technology and equipment that researchers need to continue progress towards ending all cancers.”

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Clinical trial to test new treatment for pancreatic cancer

A study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, forms the basis for a trial which will screen 150 to 200 pancreatic cancer patients for responsiveness to specific drugs at Monash Health in Victoria.

The multi-disciplinary team from Hudson Institute of Medical Research, Monash Health and Monash University aims to improve treatment for pancreatic cancer, one of the least survivable forms of cancer.

In this initial trial, tumour samples will be screened for genetic compatibility with drug currently used to treat colon cancer in the hope it may be effective in treating up to 10 per cent of pancreatic cancer patients.

“Pancreatic cancer has an overall five year survival rate of around five per cent, which is one of the lowest survival rates of any malignancy. While there have been marginal improvements in treatments, long-term survival rates have remained poor and stagnant over the last 30 years,” said Professor Brendan Jenkins, Research Group Head, Cancer and Immune Signalling at Hudson Institute.

Professor Jenkins and Dr Daniel Croagh, a Monash Health hepatobiliary surgeon who is leading the trial, say it may inform a fast-tracked pipeline for treatment, where biopsies are taken from patients, genetically sequenced and screened for suitability with new drugs, meaning patients could be on a clinical trial within just two weeks.

The treatment will be used to target an important receptor called the epidermal growth factor receptor in those patients whose tumours have a non-mutated version of the KRAS gene. These types of tumours make up about 10 per cent of all pancreatic cancers.

Dr Croagh and Professor Jenkins are hopeful the clinical trial will lead to more targeted treatment approaches to improve responsiveness to drugs and give patients a better chance at surviving longer.

“Pancreatic cancer is a particularly aggressive disease, and a challenging one to treat. The one-size-fits-all treatment approach in place for the last three decades needs to be altered if survival rates are to improve. While there is no silver bullet, we hope this is the beginning of a shift towards better patient outcomes,” they said.

This news post was first published on the Hudson Institute of Medical Research website.

ACRF has supported cancer research at Hudson Institute of Medical Research and Monash University by funding cutting edge research equipment and technology.

For more information on all clinical trials in Australia, please contact Australian Clinical Trials.

Gene discovery to help breast cancer patients

Breast cancer cells
Breast cancer cells: Image QIMR Berghofer

 

Cancer researchers at QIMR Berghofer have discovered a set of genes that could be used to predict the survival of breast cancer patients. The findings could in the future help to determine which patients would benefit from additional treatments. The scientists have also discovered one of the factors that can cause breast cancer to grow more aggressively.

Dr Jason Lee said G9a was a molecule that promoted tumour growth.

“When conditions are normal inside the body, a change occurs to this molecule and it breaks down, making it harmless,” Dr Lee said.

“However, we have discovered that inside a tumour, where there is very little oxygen, that change doesn’t occur to the molecule, meaning it doesn’t break down and instead starts to accumulate.

“This accumulation of the molecule G9a then makes the tumour grow more aggressively.”

Dr Lee said the team had also found that G9a silences certain genes.

“We don’t yet know what these genes control, but we found that when these genes are switched on, patients tend to have better survival rates, and when they’re switched off, patient survival tends to be worse.”

“In other words, these genes are predictors of whether patients are likely to experience a recurrence of their cancer.”

Professor Frank Gannon said when the group tested an available drug that targets G9a, they found tumour growth more than halved.

“The available drug we tested appeared to be effective in all types of breast cancer, but particularly in estrogen-receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer, which is the most common form. While most of these patients respond well to treatment, about a quarter develop resistance to the treatment they receive.”

“We hope that in future, we will be able to test patients for the genes controlled by G9a to determine which patients are likely to experience a relapse and need further treatment.

“Only those patients could then receive the treatment, which would be more cost effective and save patients from unnecessary drugs.”

The findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

This post was originally published on the QIMR Berghofer website.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation has supported cancer research at QIMR Berghofer by providing three grants, totalling AUD$ 6.65 M, for the purchase of cutting edge research equipment and technology.

Interleukin-2 immunotherapy improved

Researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research have been exploring ways to make interleukin-2 (IL-2) immunotherapy less toxic and more effective against cancer. In doing so, the team has uncovered surprising new information about how to boost the antitumour activity of interleukin-2 molecules.

IL-2 has been in clinical use for decades, and has been called ‘the first effective cancer immunotherapy’. But, it is so toxic that it is currently only prescribed in a very limited number of late-stage cancers.

Associate Professor Daniel Christ, who led the research, said that IL-2’s potential to be a better anticancer therapy is promising.

“We are currently witnessing an explosion in new immunotherapies for cancer, such as the immune checkpoint inhibitors – and this has really reinvigorated huge interest in early immunotherapies, such as IL-2, that can support the immune system to attack cancer.”

“Importantly, we’re seeing that immunotherapies tend to work better in combination – so one reason we wanted to investigate IL-2 again was because it could be a good candidate for use in combination therapy with newer treatments.”

Modification of IL-2 cells leads to improvement

In the current study the research team set out to make a range of different versions of IL-2.

“We wanted to make two key changes to IL-2,” said Dr Rodrigo Vazquez-Lombardi, who co-led the research with A/Prof Christ and Professor Jonathan Sprent.

“We wanted to make it more powerful as an antitumour agent, and we also wanted to extend its half-life in the body – because IL-2 is removed from the blood so rapidly that this limits its use as a therapy. We reasoned that, by doing both things, we had a good chance of developing a more effective and less toxic version.”

IL-2 acts against cancer by instructing immune cells on how to behave towards a tumour. In particular, IL-2 activates ‘killer cells’, such as killer T cells and natural killer cells, stimulating them to attack tumours.

When the researchers looked more closely, they found that modifying the IL-2 molecules changed their behaviour and helped to reduce the numbers of a different class of immune cell – the regulatory T cells. These cells are a part of the immune system that suppress immune responses of other cells.

The researchers say their findings will change thinking about IL-2, and provide important guidance for the development of future IL-2-based therapies.

Prof Sprent points out, “Clinicians have become wary of IL-2 therapy for cancer because it’s a double-edged sword: the benefits of boosting killer cell function are countered by the parallel stimulation of T regulatory cells.

“Our simple trick of selectively stimulating just the killer cells and not the T regulatory cells is a real breakthrough and should restore faith in IL-2 therapy.”

Their findings were recently published in Nature Communications.

The original post was published on Garvan’s website. Image of Dr Rodrigo Vazquez-Lombardi courtesy of Garvan.

ACRF has supported cancer research at Garvan by providing three grants, totalling AUD $6.13million, towards cutting edge cancer research infrastructure, equipment and technology.

Image: Dr Rodrigo Vazquez-Lombardi

New ACRF research centre targets early detection of lung cancer

The ACRF Centre for Lung Cancer Early Detection has been officially launched today at The University of Queensland’s Thoracic Research Centre at The Prince Charles Hospital (TPCH). The centre will deliver a major new research effort focusing on detecting lung cancer sooner.

In 2015, ACRF provided $1 million grant to equip the centre with the latest technology needed to advance lung cancer diagnostics. Director, UQ Thoracic Research Centre at TPCH, Professor Kwun Fong said the centre’s focus will be on identifying better ways to screen for lung cancer and improving methods for diagnosing suspected cases.

“We will use the latest technology to identify markers for lung cancer that might be present in the breath, blood or lung fluids at a very early stage of the disease,” Professor Fong said.

“These markers could form the basis for new lung cancer tests to allow earlier diagnosis and treatment.”

Professor Fong said the centre will bring together the skills from several highly skilled researchers and scientists, including collaborators at CSIRO, who will assist by analysing breath samples.

“They will be looking for very small traces of lung cancer cells to identify the disease long before our current tests can,” Professor Fong said.

“Most importantly we will also be looking at how to take research to the clinic as quickly as possible to ensure that our patients see the benefits of earlier diagnosis.

“Due to the clinical focus of the research, the team will be able to translate findings directly into daily clinical practice.”

ACRF Chief Executive Dr Ian Brown said lung cancer remains the leading cause of death from cancer in Australia, for both men and women, with less than 15 per cent of patients surviving for five years.

“The low survival rate is mainly due to the diagnosis usually occurring at an advanced stage of the cancer, when there are few effective treatment options available.” Dr Brown said.

“Lung cancer can be more effectively treated if diagnosed in its earliest stage, and that is why ACRF felt it was vitally important to support this research.”

A robotic system for handling multiple specimens and equipment to look for genetic markers has been installed at the centre’s laboratories at The Prince Charles Hospital.

Research will be conducted over the next five years.

Health authorities estimate that more than 9000 Australians will die from lung cancer in 2017, and more than 12,400 new cases will be diagnosed this year.

William Bond running City2Surf to support cancer research

William is supporting Australian cancer research

“I am 28 years old, passionate about new challenges, and will soon take on the City2Surf running in a Lion Dance Costume! My participation in this year’s race is to honour the memory of my late Kung Fu Sifu (Grandmaster), Randy Sullivan Bennett, who passed away earlier this year from mantle cell lymphoma.

Randy was an enthusiastic martial arts teacher, a mentor, and my friend. Although I only knew him for four years, he made a huge impact on my life, my outlook, and of course my Kung Fu training. Towards the end of 2016, I successfully completed black belt testing with Randy pushing me hard, overseeing all the grading and most of my sparring sessions. He did my black belt presentation, and I made a promise to keep on training and make Grandmaster proud!

The greatest appeal of doing a fundraising activity is to be able to help people and improve things. The City2Surf is a big event, and it is a good opportunity for me to raise as much money as possible for cancer research and ACRF. It’s also where I can show respect to Randy in a meaningful way.

Sadly, cancer affects so many people with seemingly no regard to health, happiness or diet. Even Randy was not immune: he was a vegetarian, incredibly fit, good-humoured and with a positive view on life. Cancer makes me feel like there is so much we don’t know about the world and so much we can’t control, even with our own bodies. I believe that continued research is the only way forward in achieving an end to cancer, which is why I chose to raise funds for ACRF.

We can all help out with encouraging more funding for cancer research and increase awareness of how that research is resulting in more successful treatments. Ultimately, we all want to see cancer completely eliminated!” – ACRF supporter, William Bond

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Study raises hopes for new sarcoma treatment

Researchers at Monash University in Melbourne have played a critical role in an international collaboration that has identified promising therapeutic targets for a rare form of sarcoma afflicting mostly young people.

Synovial sarcoma is a subtype of soft-tissue sarcoma, a group of malignant tumours originating from connective tissue in the body. Treatment options are limited and survival is poor.

The Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute researchers, led by Professor Roger Daly, collaborated with Dr Emmy Fleuren and other scientists from the Institute of Cancer Research in London, scientists from Radboud University Medical Centre in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and other institutes, to investigate what drives sarcoma progression and to identify targeted therapies.

Professor Daly’s laboratory took a novel approach using a technique called mass spectrometry, which enabled the scientists to look at large numbers of proteins across cell lines derived from different types of sarcomas and identify those driving aberrant growth.

They identified two suspect proteins, called ALK and MET, in subsets of synovial sarcoma, validating their observations in preclinical models and in patient specimens.

“It’s exciting to apply a new technique which looks at proteins rather than DNA, and be able to identify novel therapeutic targets,” Professor Daly said.

“This provides a proof of principle for our approach, and means that we can now go ahead and apply this to other cancers,” he said.

Importantly, drugs are already available against the two proteins that are currently being used to treat other cancers, he said. However, clinical trials would be needed to test for their appropriateness in treating all forms of synovial sarcoma, the researchers said.

Dr Fleuren said that despite intensive treatment options including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, the prospects for synovial sarcoma patients were poor.

“This disease can have a devastating impact, particularly among young patients and in the metastatic setting,” Dr Fleuren said.

“At the moment, sarcoma patients are generally speaking treated in a one-size fits all strategy – there’s a critical need for new approaches and for developing personalised treatments with more efficacy and less side effects,” she said.

The findings were recently published in the journal Cancer Research.

Scientists involved in the international collaboration, which also included the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney and Peking University Cancer Hospital & Institute in Beijing, are expected to pursue further research and clinical trials.

Professor Daly’s laboratory is applying the novel approach to other cancers including Triple Negative Breast Cancer.

This news article was first posted on the Monash website.

In 2016, ACRF awarded Monash University a $1.2 million grant to support cancer research at the University. ACRF has also supported research at Garvan by providing three grants, in total $6.1 million, towards cutting edge cancer research technology.

Childhood cancers defy current understanding

Cancer is still surprising researchers, making the pathway to urgently-needed new treatments more difficult to predict. Researchers in Sydney have made an unexpected discovery that transforms our thinking about one of the ‘universal features’ of cancer.

A combined team of scientists from Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN) and Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI) studied an aggressive category of neuroblastoma, which is the most common solid cancer of childhood.

For many years, the presence of a telomere lengthening mechanism has been considered essential for the growth of essentially all cancers. Dr Loretta Lau (SCHN) and Professor Roger Reddel (CMRI), who jointly led the research team and collaborated with Professor Michelle Haber’s team at Children’s Cancer Institute (CCI), have now shown this isn’t always the case. They found that 11% of high-risk neuroblastomas can keep growing without any method to lengthen their telomeres.

Telomeres can be found at both ends of all chromosomes, the bundles of DNA found in most cells. In normal cells, telomeres gradually become shorter, and this limits the number of times normal cells can multiply. In cancer, cancerous cells need to find a way to lengthen telomere DNA—to allow it to keep multiplying, and therefore for the cancer to keep growing.

Previously, researchers have believed that because something has gone wrong, probably during a child’s very early development, some cells have had abnormally long telomeres, so long that the cancer can keep on growing aggressively even though the cancer cells’ telomeres keep on shortening.

The new finding means that cancer biologists need to re-evaluate their understanding that the presence of a telomere lengthening process is a universal feature of cancer. Already, there is evidence from researchers in Belgium that a similar principle applies to melanomas, a common skin cancer which can also be very aggressive.

The study was recently published in Cell Reports.

In 2013, ACRF awarded CMRI $2 million in funding to develop the ACRF Telomere Analysis Centre. This funding was given to support an internationally unique consortium of telomere research groups to better understand the differences in telomere biology between normal and cancerous cells.

ACRF has supported cancer research at CMRI by awarding three research grants, in total $15.2 million, towards cutting edge research technology. ACRF has also awarded CCI three grants, in total $5.2 million.

This news post was originally published on the CMRI website.

ACRF Image-X Institute facility opened

ACRF supporting Australian cancer research projectsAn Australian first and one of four worldwide, the Ingham Institute’s MRI-Linac facility was officially opened on Monday. The facility combines an MRI scanner with a Linear Accelerator for research into cancer therapy and treatment.

Housed in the Ingham Institute’s high-tech research bunker located at Liverpool Hospital in Sydney, the new technology is set to improve the precision and accuracy of radiotherapy.

In 2014, ACRF provided a $2.5 million grant to establish the ACRF Image-X Institute. The MRI-Linac facility is a key part of the new Institute, which aims to revolutionise cancer imaging by creating new and better cancer imaging methods. The new facility pioneers the development of targeted radiotherapy where the x-ray beams are focused on the most aggressive and resistant cancers, increasing survival and reducing the chance of metastases.

Prof Ian Brown FTSE, Chief Executive, Australian Cancer Research Foundation said, “ACRF is dedicated to funding research in Australia that has the power to make significant breakthroughs in cancer diagnosis and treatment. The projects selected by ACRF for research funding are cutting edge and globally competitive.”

“Ingham’s MRI-Linac exemplifies the type of state-of-the-art technology that attracts ACRF’s support and ongoing investment in the pursuit of ways to prevent or more effectively treat cancer.”

Since its inception in 1985, ACRF has awarded more than $25 million in grants to research institutes located in Western Sydney.

Prof Michael Barton OAM, Research Director at the Ingham Institute said, “South Western Sydney is rapidly becoming the world centre of development of this pioneering cancer treatment technology; it is the next generation in cancer treatment as it will improve the effectiveness of cancer treatment for patients in our community, Australia and around the world.”

The facility was officially opened by the Hon. Craig Laundy MP, Assistant Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science and Federal Member for Reid NSW, on behalf of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt MP. The new facility has received support and funding from ACRF as well as the Federal Government.

Ann’s story: This is why cancer research is so close to my heart

Ann supports Australian cancer researchLoyal supporter, Mrs Ann Smith, is proud to be connected with ACRF and hopes that together we can put an end to the devastating effects of cancer.

I met my John in 1974 at our workplace in London. Relationships between staff were discouraged in those days so we kept it a secret until I left the company. We were both madly in love and we knew that we were meant to be together. We got married in 1975 because we couldn’t wait to start our life together.

We had an incredible holiday in Australia and we loved it so much we decided to migrate here in 1980. We found a beautiful family home where we lived happily for 36 years. We quickly made wonderful friends which I am happy to say I still have today.

John liked to stay busy and was a book-lover, so when he retired, he wrote three. He also volunteered in the book room at Lifeline, helping to cull, sort and price the books. He even organised the famous Northern Beaches Book Fairs. We travelled extensively – and celebrated our Ruby wedding anniversary by candlelit dinner at Uluru.

In 1993 I lost my dear twin sister, Rosemary, to breast cancer and it was heart-breaking, especially as she lived back in the UK. We got to share some special time together just before she died. Sadly, she left behind a husband and four small children.

When John was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, I was devastated. I couldn’t bear the thought that he would experience what Rosemary had to. John was very courageous and was determined to go through treatment. Thanks to cancer research, there were various therapies that gave us more time, but unfortunately, they couldn’t cure him. He never complained and was always positive.

In December 2016, John passed away and it is still very hard to grasp he is gone.

John left me a great legacy. He was a fabulous organiser and was famous for his Excel spreadsheets. Before he got too sick, he bought us a beautiful new home that is much smaller and suits me perfectly. When we moved in, we would sit together on the patio drinking our morning coffee, sharing the crossword. It gives me great happiness to carry on this tradition each day, although I no longer get John’s helpful clues and have to tackle the crossword alone.

John was my soulmate and my best friend. He was a true gentleman, an awesome father, grandfather, brother and a loyal friend to all. A friend of ours once called him the Rolls Royce of husbands and I couldn’t agree more.

I am very happy to help end cancer through ACRF. At John’s funeral, we arranged donations in lieu of flowers. I also donate each month via direct debit, and with my daughters’ full support I have left a gift to ACRF in my Will.” – ACRF Supporter, Ann

A world without cancer could be the legacy you leave behind to your loved ones. When you leave a gift in your will to Australian Cancer Research Foundation, you provide some of the greatest minds in the world with the vital tools they need to uncover new ways to treat and prevent over 200 types of cancer. 

Learn more about leaving a gift  Share your story

New leukaemia treatment outperforms standard chemotherapies

Researchers at ANU are working on a new treatment for an aggressive type of leukaemia that outperforms standard chemotherapies.

Lead researcher Dr Nadine Hein from The John Curtin School of Medical Research at ANU said researchers have successfully treated highly aggressive acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) in mice using the new treatment.

“Not only have we been able to reduce the number of cancer cells, we have been able to reduce the number of cancer stem cells that tend to develop or be resistant to chemotherapy and are thought to be responsible for disease relapse in patients,” Dr Hein said.

Dr Hein said researchers used a compound known as CX-5461 to target the protein-making process within the cancer cells.

“We are working towards a treatment that will improve on the current chemotherapy options and improve the patient’s prognosis,” Dr Hein said

Around 1,000 people are diagnosed with AML in Australia each year and, depending on the patient’s age, there is a high rate of mortality with only about 30 percent surviving long term.

Canberra haematologist and ANU Senior Lecturer Dr James D’Rozario said the standard approach to treating AML hasn’t changed in over 30 years.

“Novel agents such as CX-5461 with more sophisticated mechanisms of action are desperately required to improve outcomes in patients with this group of illnesses,” Dr D’Rozario said.

Professor Ross Hannan, Head of the ACRF Department of Cancer Biology and Therapeutics at JCSMR, said that based on the promising preclinical results, a Phase 1 clinical trial for the treatment of patients with blood cancer has just been completed in Australia. Results are expected to be published later this year.

“Another Phase 1/ Phase 2 clinical trial is underway in Canada for the treatment of patients with solid tumours,” Professor Hannan said.

The research has been published in the journal Blood.

ACRF has supported cancer research at The John Curtin School of Medical Research by providing two grants, totalling $3.1 million, towards cutting edge cancer research equipment and technology.

The ACRF Department of Cancer Biology and Therapeutics was officially opened in February 2017.

Donating to charities at tax time

This tax time ACRF would like to remind Australians to check the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) register and review financial documents to ensure that you are giving to transparent charities.

ACRF has received the registered charity tick. A stamp that is reflective of the standards to which ACRF proudly holds itself to. The charity tick initiative has been developed to give reassurance to donors that a charity is transparent and accountable by highlighting its presence on the ACNC Charity Register.

ACRF has awarded $129.2 million in 65 cancer research grants to 36 research institutes, universities and hospitals across Australia. Thanks to our supporters, these grants make a real impact by providing researchers across Australia access to state of the art technology which in turn speeds up research outcomes.

Throughout the year ACRF organises lab tours, openings of new facilities and the opportunity to meet the researches to allow supporters to see firsthand the impact that ACRF grants are having on research to prevent, detect and better treat cancer.

Each year we provided comprehensive details on our grant recipients and their projects. You can also read about the latest cancer research updates and outcomes of ACRF projects when they make breakthroughs.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation is committed to funding the technology that Australian scientists need to end all types of cancer, and we want you to know where your donations go.

We are proud to make our financial reports available to you annually and reports from the last ten years are easily accessible on our website. We invite you to review them when making your decision to donate.

If you would like to read more about ACRF and the impact it has had on cancer research over the past three decades click here.

New treatment hope for women with triple-negative breast cancers

Researchers at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne have shown, for the first time, that combining two immunotherapy drugs could be effective in treating triple negative breast cancers arising in women with BRCA1 mutations.

The findings suggest that clinical trials of combined immunotherapy should be considered in women with these breast cancers.
Immunotherapy, a relatively new form of cancer treatment, works by boosting the body’s immune cells to attack tumours and has previously showed promising results for treating melanoma and lung cancers.

The study, led by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute’s Dr Emma Nolan, Professor Geoff Lindeman, Dr Daniel Gray and Professor Jane Visvader, and Peter Mac’s Associate Professor Sherene Loi and Associate Professor Phillip Darcy, has been published recently in Science Translational Medicine.

Professor Lindeman, also a medical oncologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter Mac, said triple negative breast cancers were more aggressive and more likely to recur than other breast cancers.

“Triple negative breast cancers have not seen the same improvement in targeted therapies, or survival, as some other types of breast cancer,” Professor Lindeman said.

“Our study showed that combining anti-PD1 and anti-CTLA4 immunotherapies with chemotherapy halted the growth of BRCA1-related tumours and significantly improved survival in laboratory models.”

Some cancer cells survive by hijacking and ‘switching off’ immune cells that would otherwise destroy the tumours. Anti-PD1 and anti-CTLA4 immunotherapies are so-called ‘immune checkpoint inhibitors’ that release the brakes on critical immune cells, enabling them to attack the tumour.

Dr Gray said previous research had shown that immunotherapy was particularly effective at treating tumours that had accumulated many mutations.

“BRCA1-related triple negative breast cancers have some of the most ‘chaotic’ genomes, and we see many immune cells accumulate in and around the tumour,” Dr Gray said.

“This suggests that the immune cells can readily detect that something is awry, but they aren’t able to respond properly, because they have been disabled by tumour cells.”

“We showed that a combination of anti-PD1 and anti-CTLA4 therapies restored their ability to attack and kill triple negative breast tumour cells, and very effectively control tumour growth.”

Associate Professor Loi, head of breast cancer clinical trials research at Peter Mac said work was already underway to translate these important findings from laboratory models of breast cancer into a clinical trial for women with the disease.

“Our lab-based findings provide compelling evidence to progress to a clinical trial of this combination of immunotherapy drugs, and chemotherapy, in women with BRCA1-related breast cancer,” Associate Professor Loi said.

“There is also a rationale to consider the same for BRCA2-related cancers and triple negative breast cancer more broadly.”

“Importantly, there are already a number of immunotherapy-based clinical trials underway in breast cancer and these two drugs – anti-PD1 and anti-CTLA4 – are in use for other cancers, so we would hope to begin a trial of this specific combination of immunotherapies in suitable breast cancer patients in the near future.”

This research was supported by the Australian Cancer Research Foundation amongst others. ACRF has awarded three grants towards cutting edge cancer research equipment and technology to WEHI, totalling $5.5 million. The Foundation has also supported cancer research at Peter Mac by providing three grants, totalling $7 million.

This news was first published on the WEHI website. Image of the research team courtesy of WEHI.

Image: Dr Daniel Gray, Professor Jane Visvader, Professor Geoff Lindeman, Associate Professor Sherene Loi and Associate Professor Phillip Darcy. Image courtesy of WEHI

Maddie and Tom support ACRF on their wedding day

Wedding donations to support Australian cancer research“I love picking out gifts for friends but there is nothing more special than the gift of giving, which is why Tom and I chose to support a charity on our wedding day.

It was a personal decision to select Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF). We chose this charity because my mum is alive today thanks to progress in cancer research and they are an organisation that has helped seed fund a number of great advances, such as the cervical cancer vaccine.

Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2012 but luckily they caught it early and were able to treat it. Even though her cancer has been removed, I know the experience impacted Mum deeply. The realisation of what could have killed her has left its own scar. I feel so lucky that Mum is still with us today.

Our families and friends all thought it was a great idea to support cancer research with donations on our wedding day. And why not? You can spend time making homemade jam or some other craft to serve as table favours. However, most of the time they are behind or they guests just never eat them. The more we can educate people about the importance of continued cancer research, the better.” – ACRF supporters Maddie and Tom

Know a couple like Tom and Maddie?

With many modern couples accumulating their household goods before they tie the knot, wedding donations are becoming increasingly popular.

The bride and groom to be can request donations in place of traditional gifts. Or replace favours or bonbonniere the same way. All funds received by ACRF in celebration will help fund new and better treatments for cancer. Click here to learn more.

Scientists find link between smoking and skin cancer

Cancer researcher Professor Whiteman

Scientists have found the strongest evidence yet of a link between smoking and a common form of skin cancer.

The team from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute studied nearly 19 thousand people and found that current smokers were significantly more likely to develop a squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the skin than non-smokers.

It is the most comprehensive and highest-quality study that’s been conducted into the link between smoking and skin cancer. The findings have been published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

The study involved 18,828 Caucasian Queenslanders aged 40 to 69 who had never been diagnosed with a skin cancer. Ten per cent of the group were current smokers, 35 per cent were former smokers, and 55 per cent had never smoked.

Professor David Whiteman and his colleagues tracked how many common skin cancers the group developed over three years.

Squamous cell carcinoma more likely in smokers

“We found that current smokers were at significantly higher risk of SCC than former smokers or people who had never smoked,” Professor Whiteman said.

“In contrast, we found no evidence that smokers had higher risks of BCC than non-smokers.

“We also found that among the smokers and former smokers, their risk of skin cancer wasn’t affected by how long they’d smoked for, how heavily they’d smoked, or the length of time since they’d quit.

“We don’t yet understand how smoking might increase the risk of SCC, but these findings strongly suggest that by quitting, smokers are lowering their risk of SCC to the same level as someone who has never smoked. This is another good reason to quit.”

SCCs and BCCs are the most common forms of cancer worldwide. SCCs are generally more serious than BCCs.

While ultraviolet (UV) exposure is the biggest risk factor for developing these common skin cancers, these findings suggest that smoking could also play a role. A number of previous studies have examined the relationship between smoking and common skin cancers, but the findings to date have been conflicting and inconclusive.

Skin cancer on a mole
Image by Dr Richard Johns.

“Unlike previous studies, we controlled for a range of established risk factors including skin colour and history of sun exposure,” Professor Whiteman said.

“A consensus is starting to emerge that smoking has very different associations with SCCs and BCCs.

“There are several possible biological explanations as to how smoking might cause skin cancers, but none of those explains why it would apply only to SCCs and to current smokers.This is an area in which more research is needed.”

 

The study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

ACRF has supported cancer research at QIMR Berghofer by providing three grants, totalling AUD$ 6.65 M, for the purchase of cutting edge research equipment and technology.

This news post was first published on the QIMR Berghofer website. Image of professor Whiteman courtesy of QIMR Berghofer.

Gold standard technique for cancer research revealed by global study

Cancer research in AustraliaA research technique that is widely used to test new anti-cancer agents could be improved by adoption of a worldwide ‘gold standard’, according to a new study led by Walter and Eliza Hall Institute scientists.

In the first research of its kind, 64 academic research programs in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia were surveyed to establish how they used a technique called ‘patient derived xenografting’ to grow and study cancer samples taken from consenting patients. The method is an important way that cancer researchers can undertake laboratory experiments such as the testing of new anti-cancer agents.

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute cancer researchers Dr Kim Pham, Dr Gwo Yaw Ho and Associate Professor Clare Scott used the information from their study to develop a ‘gold standard’ for growing human cancer samples in the laboratory, considering both how the experiments are conducted as well as the governance of the use of human tissue in this system. Their research was published in a new book, Patient Derived Tumor Xenograft Models – Promise, Potential and Practice.

Dr Pham said patient derived xenografts were an important laboratory technique for studying human cancers in conditions mimicking the human body. “They are an important pre-clinical research tool that informs the future development of clinical cancer trials,” she said. “It is crucial that we have worldwide standards for patient derived xenografts to ensure research in this field can be reproduced and directly compared between laboratories.

“Our study uncovered considerable variability in how laboratories around the world undertook patient derived xenograft experiments. From this we have developed what we consider a ‘gold standard’, what would be the best practice in the area. The good news is that almost all the laboratories we surveyed had elements of best practice. The next step is for laboratories and organisations overseeing research to develop a process that ensures all laboratories work to the same gold standard,” she said.

Associate Professor Scott, who is also medical oncologist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the Royal Women’s Hospital, said gold standard research could be achieved in some situations through research consortia bringing multiple organisations together to collaborate. “Improvements in reproducibility would enhance international collaborations, as well as accelerating preclinical research output,” she said.

“We were also able to establish guidelines for how this research can be optimally governed, particularly around questions of how permission for the use and transfer of human samples is governed. In the long term, improving this field of research will benefit people with cancer.”

Dr Ho said cancer research using patient derived xenografts was very expensive to conduct. “In Australia, despite the challenges of using this technique in a tight funding climate, we were pleased to find most research was conducted to a high standard,” he said.

“In the future, the involvement of Australian researchers in local or international research consortia could be a viable option for our researchers to continue to making important advances in preclinical cancer research.”

Dr Pham is a postdoctoral scientist at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. Dr Ho is a medical oncology fellow at The Royal Women’s Hospital and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and a PhD student enrolled at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute through the University of Melbourne’s Department of Medical Biology.

This article was first published on the WEHI website.

Rachel joined #imovebeCAUSE to support cancer research

Rachel joined #imovebeCAUSE to support cancer research in AustraliaACRF supporter, Rachel is tackling 200kms this June to fundraise for ACRF – with two small kids, this is no minor task! She is supporting cancer research in memory of her mum who passed away from cancer last year.

“I decided to take on #imovebeCAUSE and fundraise for cancer research in memory of my beautiful mum. She lived with myeloma for 10 years and passed away just before Christmas last year after being in the hospital for three long months. She is my reason! I want to fundraise through this great initiative so I can help others in her situation.

My mother was my best friend and my mentor. She was the bravest, strongest and most positive woman I have ever met. We had a very close relationship and I miss her every day.

Unfortunately, cancer has impacted me and my family a lot. Both my aunt and my mum passed away from cancer. And now my father in law currently has lymphoma. Family means everything to me, and cancer has taken away too many amazing people from us.

This is why cancer research is so close to my heart. It’s critical that we help put an end to all cancers. It’s a horrible disease that takes away way too many beautiful people and breaks people’s spirit. I hope that one day the world will be free of this awful disease, thanks to the amazing researchers who are working to make new discoveries and developments all the time.

I chose to fundraise for ACRF because I know that many new treatments and positive medical developments are made possible by wonderful ACRF supporters. ACRF is focused on trying to end all cancers. It’s important to me that all cancers are researched, not only the common and well-known cancers.

I would encourage others thinking about getting involved with the #imovebeCAUSE initiative to support cancer research because every donation counts. Big or small – it is making a difference and helping lifesaving research progress. Please support those who work so hard to try and better the lives of those who are living with cancer.

I’m so grateful for all the work ACRF does. It was heartbreaking seeing mum suffer, but one day in the future, thanks to cancer research fewer people will have to suffer.” – ACRF Supporter, Rachel

Sign up today to join Rachel and get moving in June to support research into all cancers.

Support Rachel Sign up now

One step closer to early detection of lung cancer

Australian cancer researcher, Clare Weeden, from WEHI, early lung cancer detection Cancer researchers at ACRF grant recipient, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) in Melbourne, have made a breakthrough that could help early lung cancer detection.

They’ve discovered cells which are thought to give rise to lung squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common subtype of lung cancer. This type of cancer primarily affects smokers and ex-smokers.

The study, led by Dr Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat and PhD student Ms Clare Weeden, aims to understand how cancer could form. Researchers used donated lung tissue to discover that, when they exposed isolated cells found in the airway of the lung to harmful chemicals, such as cigarette smoke, the cells would rapidly try to repair any damage and make errors in the process.

Dr Asselin-Labat said the team found that despite attempts to help the body repair from damage, the basal stem cell DNA repair process was faulty.

“Our team unearthed some of the first evidence that the basal stem cell DNA repair process is flawed. Pointing to the accumulation of DNA errors and genetic mutations that could eventually lead to cancer,” Dr Asselin-Labat said.

Further genetic analysis using a technique developed in the Institute’s bioinformatics department, confirmed a correlation between the genetic signatures of the lung-based basal stem cells and lung squamous cell carcinoma. This genetic data reinforces that lung basal stem cells could be the ‘seed’ from which a cancer is able to ‘grow’.

Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer death in the world and there is a link to squamous cell carcinoma for thirty percent of these cases, says Ms Weeden.

“Lung squamous cell carcinoma is a devastating disease with a poor prognosis. This is because these types of tumours are often discovered too late, at a point where the cancer is inoperable. Therefore, having the ability to detect this cancer early could be a real game-changer,” Ms Weeden said.

“The hope going forward, is that our work will be a gateway to new, tailored prevention and treatment measures for patients with lung diseases,” Ms Weeden concluded.

Despite being the leading cause of cancer death, lung cancer research currently only receives about 5% of cancer research funding in Australia.

This article was first published by WEHI and the image of Dr Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat and PhD student Ms Clare Weeden was provided courtesy of WEHI.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) has supported WEHI by providing three grants, totalling AUD 5.5 million towards cutting edge cancer research equipment and technology. ACRF has also provided three research grants, totalling AUD $ 9 million, to the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre for research into all cancers.

Kempsey Cancerian Committee’s gala dinner was a pearl of a night

Kempsey Cancerians supporting cancer research in Australia

The Kempsey Cancerians are the longest running Cancerian fundraising committee in the country and over the past 30 years, they have raised nearly $1 million to support Australian cancer research projects.

On May 20, the group hosted their 30th ‘Pearl Anniversary’ gala fundraising dinner. More than 280 people attended the dinner which was held at the Kempsey Macleay RSL and included raffles (including the very popular pearl box balloon raffle), a very entertaining auction, fantastic live music and wonderful meals by Chef Lloyd Newell.

The night was a great success and saw the committee raise over $24,000 for the Australian Cancer Research Foundation.

We would like to extend our thanks to all the committee members who helped organise this incredible event. Thank you also to the Kempsey Community for their support over the past 30 years – you are amazing.

We would also like to recognise some of the original sponsors who were there on the night – Peter and Lorraine Hadlow of Blyth and Hadlow; Paul and Lesley Cooney of Winsome Real Estate; Paul and Jan Stubbs of Sheridan & Stubbs; Patrick Sheridan; Jim and Chris Shaw of Hot n Tasty; John Scott of John Scott Promotions; Jenny Preston of GIO; David and Helen Parker; Sandra Walsh of Larry’s Pharmacy.

Our profound thanks to original Kempsey Cancerians Committee members who were also there on the evening – Helen Campbell, Brian Irvine, Darrell Crilley and original members who are still on the committee – Alison Mavin, Kay Irvine, Helen and Max Packwood for their decades of hard work and dedicated support of cancer research.

We look forward to seeing what amazing research breakthroughs will be made possible, thanks to the generosity of the people of Kempsey.

To view photos from the night visit the Kempsey Cancerian’s Facebook page here.

New cancer treatment targets from inside the cell

Laser microscopeResearchers at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) have found a promising small molecule cancer treatment in a pre-clinical study of breast cancer.

Associate Professor Mat Francois said the team developed a new approach to drug design. The new approach targets a molecular switch that was previously considered inaccessible.

“Current cancer treatments target elements on the outside of cancer cells. This limits our ability to control specific activity happening inside the cell,” Dr Francois said.

“Our new approach to drug design allows us to cross this barrier and get inside the cell. We do this by targeting the activity of transcription factors. These operate as a molecular switchboard inside cells and bind to DNA, turning gene expression on and off as needed.”

Dr Francois said the team demonstrated it could successfully use this approach to fine tune the cellular activity responsible for cancer-induced vessel growth, a key contributor to cancer metastasis.

“The small molecule we have discovered, Sm4, has shown it can target and switch off the activity of transcription factor SOX18. This controls the development of our blood and lymphatic vessels induced by cancer growth.”

“These vessels act as an on-ramp system to carry cancer cells throughout the body. Being able to block access to these vascular highways with the flick of a molecular switch is a critical step to limit cancer metastasis.”

A collaborative effort

In a pre-clinical study of breast cancer, performed in collaboration with QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Dr Francois said the team found that mice treated with Sm4 had significantly improved survival rates.

“Our results show that targeting the transcription factor SOX18 with a small molecule compound is a promising new molecular strategy to treat cancer metastasis.”

“High levels of SOX18 have also been associated with poor prognosis for cancer in human patients so it’s exciting to know that we have identified a small molecule inhibitor that could help improve cancer treatment.”

The study appears in eLife and involved research teams from Australia, the UK, the US and China.

The original news article on the discovery can be viewed on the IMB website.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation has supported IMB by providing four grants, totalling AUD 7.1 million, towards cutting edge cancer research equipment and technology. The Foundation has also supported cancer research at QIMR Berghofer by providing three grants that amount to AUD 6.7 million.

Dave & Tess take on Nepal Himalayas for cancer research

Hiking for Australian cancer researchers

“In October 2017, Dave and I will be spending 23 days in the Nepal Himalayas as an adventure fundraiser for ACRF. We’re doing this extended trek in memory of Dave’s dad, Len. Len sadly passed away unexpectedly last year following investigations for a pancreatic tumour.

Len was such a welcoming and caring man. He felt like a second father figure to me from early on in my relationship with Dave. For Dave, Len wasn’t just his father, he was his supporter, friend, confidant, teacher and handyman! Len’s dedication to his family was paramount. He worked hard to show this until the end.

Dave has a large family so at times it can be chaotic but Len was always the sea of calm. He was laid back, warm-hearted and known for his goofy smile. Len also had a passion for the water – lakes, seas and oceans. He was a keen sailor and loved going to the beach to watch the ripples and waves.

Since Len’s passing, we’ve been wanting to do something to help improve the detection, diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer. Supporting research into this disease seemed to be the best way. Dave and I looked for an event that would challenge us physically. We both love travelling, hiking, camping, snowboarding – just about anything that gets us outdoors really so we chose to do an adventure fundraiser. During our trek through the Nepal Himalayas in October, we’ll be visiting the Mt Everest base camp, crossing three passes and ascending three peaks along the way.

Why we’re doing this for ACRF

David and I are no strangers to cancer as we are both doctors, currently working at Townsville hospital. Dave is training to be an emergency medicine specialist and I’m a general surgeon. ACRF is one of the leading organisations when it comes to contributing to cancer research, and has a reputation to match. Research is what provides medicine with the ability to understand, detect, diagnose and treat these diseases, and without that ongoing research, we can’t improve on what we already have.

Cancer highlights how unexpected life can be, how quickly things can change, and forces you realise that even those people in our lives that seem so permanent, strong and stable – like our parents – are mortal too. We miss you Len, your time with us was all too brief” – ACRF supporter Tess.

 

Tumour-trained T cells on the lookout for cancers

‘Tumour-trained’ immune cells – which have the potential to kill cancer cells – have been seen moving from one tumour to another for the first time. The new findings were uncovered by scientists at ACRF grant recipient, Garvan Institute of Medical Research.

The study has revealed that activated T cells are the main immune cell to leave tumours and that these T cells move to other tumours and lymph nodes. It, therefore, reveals how immune therapies for cancer might work and suggests new approaches to the development of anti-cancer immune therapies.

Metastatic cancer, in which cancer has spread to other sites beyond the primary tumour, is responsible for almost all cancer deaths, and treatment options remain very limited. New immune therapies that help the body’s own immune T cells to attack cancer cells within tumours are showing promise in metastatic cancer – yet little is understood about how these therapies function.

“We know that T cells and other immune cells accumulate inside tumours – but until now we’ve known very little about what happens next. How does the environment within the tumour change the cells? Do they leave the tumour? Which types of immune cells leave? Where do they go, and why?” said research leader Dr Tatyana Chtanova, head of the Innate and Tumour Immunology lab in Garvan’s Immunology Division.

Fluorescent immune cells provide clues

To watch ‘tumour-trained’ immune cells travelling through the body, Dr Chtanova and her team used an innovative ‘photoconversion’ strategy – in which all the cells in a mouse are labelled with a green fluorescent compound, and only those within a tumour (including immune cells) are turned to red by shining a bright light on the tumour.

“Before, we could only guess at which immune cells were leaving tumours,” said Dr Chtanova, “so to see these red cells moving in a sea of green, as they exited a tumour and travelled through the body, was remarkable.”

ex tumour immune cells
Ex-tumour immune cells (red) 

“We saw immune cells leaving the tumour and moving into lymph nodes – and, importantly, we could see immune cells moving out of one tumour and into another, distant tumour.”

The researchers were surprised to see that the mix of immune cells leaving tumours was sharply different to the mix of immune cells going in.

“We found, unexpectedly, that T cells were the main immune cells to exit tumours and move to lymph nodes and other tumours – even though they represent only a fraction of the immune cells that enter tumours,” Dr Chtanova said, “and some classes of T cell, such as CD8+ effector T cells which promote tumour destruction, were more likely to exit the tumour.”

“This tells us that there’s strong control over the tumour-exiting process.”

Tumour trained T cells stronger

Those T cells that had been exposed to the tumour’s ‘microenvironment’ and then exited the tumour were more activated and had a stronger cytotoxic (cell-killing) activity than those that did not enter the tumour.

“What we suspect is happening is that, within the tumour, these T cells are acquiring knowledge about the cancer that helps them to seek and destroy tumour cells.”

“It’s possible that these T cells ‘on patrol’ – which leave one tumour and move to another – are using their new-found knowledge to attack cancerous cells in the second tumour.”

The research team is now working on ways to prompt activated T cells to exit tumours in greater numbers.

“Ultimately, we’re working to understand more deeply the relationships between immune and cancer cells, so that we can design approaches to empower the immune system to destroy cancer,” Dr Chtanova concluded.

The study has recently been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

This news article was first published on Garvan’s website. Images courtesy of Garvan.

ACRF has supported cancer research at Garvan by providing three grants, totalling AUD $6.13million, towards cutting edge cancer research equipment and technology.

New therapies in development to starve cancer cells

New cancer therapies for patients with some of the most difficult-to-treat cancers are now being developed following a major discovery by scientists in the ACRF Centenary Cancer Research Centre based at the Centenary Institute in Sydney.

These drugs block metabolic processes critical to cancer cells and are currently in the early stages of development.

Clinical trials are likely to commence within three years thanks to a recent new investment in this research, including a $2.5 M grant from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF).

Centenary’s scientists are focused on new treatments for patients suffering with cancers associated with very low survival rates and for which limited treatment options are available. Having revealed links between cancer and its metabolism of nutrients, they have developed a novel method of starving cancer cells – but not normal cells – essentially cutting the energy supply to the diseased cell.

The study led by Associate Professor Jeff Holst, Head of Origins of Cancer Program at Centenary Institute and Sydney University, revealed an important role for a protein involved in the metabolism of certain cancer cells that is vital for helping them survive and grow.

“If we are able to specifically block the supply of nutrients to cancer cells by inhibiting the function of this protein, we can essentially ‘starve’ the cells and stop them from growing”, Associate Professor Jeff Holst said.

In collaboration with University of Sydney researchers, the team has also been able to identify molecules that block the action of the protein and these are now being developed as possible new drugs. The new therapy will focus on translating the results of Associate Professor Holst’s research into drugs for testing in clinical trials.

The discoveries leading to the development of the new treatment have been published in Oncogene, International Journal of Cancer and Journal of Pathology.

ACRF has supported cancer research at the Centenary Institute by providing two grants, totalling AUD$ 7.5 M, for the establishment of the ACRF Centenary Cancer Research Centre and purchase of cutting-edge research equipment and technology.

Image: Assistant Professor Holst, Image courtesy of the Centenary Institute.

Jane, Maxine, and Shea are skydiving for cancer research

Skydiving for cancer research“It was utterly and totally devastating when my older sister died of cervical cancer. We were born three years apart and were always exceptionally close. More often than not, people assumed we were twins, and we had no problem with that! I think she would love that I went skydiving for cancer research.

I became her full-time carer when she was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, the recently developed cervical cancer vaccination was too late to help prevent my sister’s cancer. This is why I wanted to help researchers speed up discoveries and save lives.

Soon after my sister’s death, I decided I would fundraise for Australian Cancer Research Foundation by going skydiving. Two of my work colleagues, Shea and Jane, put their hands up to jump alongside me. Like me, they do something out of the ordinary every now and again to remind themselves that life is only lived once.

We call ourselves ‘The Gravity Girls,’ but it’s a bit of an in-joke because when we did the jump we were equally excited and petrified at the thought of leaving the plane. After we jumped, strangely enough, we actually wanted to do it again!

I will never stop missing my sister. When I did the big jump, I was thinking of her. I’m proud that I could do something for cancer research and help bring an end to all cancers. I’m confident in the progress researchers are making. I like to think that ending the threat of cancer could happen within my lifetime – what a bonus that would be!” – ACRF support, Maxine

We’d like to thank Jane, Maxine, and Shea for being brave and raising over $6K for ACRF. To show your support for ‘The Gravity Girls’ you can visit their Everyday Hero Page here.

New childhood leukaemia subtype found

Researchers at the Children’s Cancer Institute (CCI) in Sydney, together with collaborators in Prague, have found a new technique for tracking leukaemia cells containing a genetic change called BCR-ABL1.

The new DNA test has proven to be more accurate than standard Minimal Residual Disease (MRD) testing currently used for patients with BCR-ABL-positive leukaemia.

The new test has revealed a biological diversity amongst this high-risk subgroup – in about 20% of children with this gene change, their leukaemia cells resembled chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), the most common leukaemia in adults.

This discovery is surprising but important because treatment choices for CML can differ to those for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), the most common type of childhood cancer.

Knowing which children are part of this subgroup will allow clinicians to make better decisions about treatments to maximise effectiveness and minimise side effects. Current treatment options for BCR-ABL-positive leukaemia include drugs targeted directly at BCR-ABL1, chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation.

A/Prof Rosemary Sutton is head of the MRD group and one of the authors. She says that while the number of children with this newly-identified type of leukaemia is low, she is enthusiastic about the implications of this study for their treatment.

“I’m most excited about our capacity to do our MRD testing in a new and different way to benefit children with BCR-ABL-positive leukaemia, particularly this CML-like subtype of ALL.

“Now that we can test for the BCR-ABL1 gene directly, it will help identify the best treatment options for children in this high-risk group,” she said.

The findings were announced in a research paper recently published online in the journal Blood.

The research was funded by grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and Cancer Council NSW.

This news was first published on the CCI website. Image: Jodie Giles (left) and Nicola Venn (right), research paper co-authors, look at DNA test results in the MRD lab, courtesy of CCI.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation has supported cancer research at the Children’s Cancer Institute by providing three grants, totalling AUD$ 5.2 M, for the purchase of cutting-edge research equipment and technology.

Leanne’s Story


 

“I met Scott in early December 2001, when I was a 19-year-old university student. I was out with a good friend when he and I noticed each other and started talking. By the end of the night, he asked for my number and a few days later we went on our first date. I was smitten.

Just after Christmas the same year, Scott left for a two week holiday with a few of his friends. While he was away we constantly sent text messages to each other. On New Year’s Eve, I was at a party when I messaged him to say that I wished he was with me so I could kiss him at midnight. The next day, he flew home early from his holiday so we could spend time together. He later told me this was when he knew he was in love.

Every spare moment we had, we spent together.

When I had my wisdom teeth removed I stayed at my parents’ place while I was recovering, which was over two hours away. Every day, Scott would drive up in the morning to spend time with me and then drive back in the afternoon to work as a chef. It was during one of these trips that I told him I loved him for the first time. I had never told anyone I had loved them before, and I was on top of the world. Scott was welcomed as a part of my family, and I had told my friends he was the man I was going to be with for the rest of my life.

In April 2002, Scott and I moved into our first place together. He spent hours teaching me the rules of AFL and cricket, which were his favourite sports. And while I was studying for my university exams, he would make me cups of tea.

We loved going to the beach together as we enjoyed the sunshine we would imagine what our lives together would look like, talking about when we would get married, how many kids we would have and what their names would be.

Two years later, I graduated from university – an accomplishment I would have struggled to achieve without Scott’s support. As a graduation present, he took me to Melbourne for the first time. While we were there we saw his beloved Hawthorn AFL team play. We also took a trip to Wooli together, where we sat on the rocks at the river mouth for hours, just watching the water, fishing and talking. I remember him telling me how he would love to retire somewhere like that.

Around July 2004, Scott’s knee became very sore and he was struggling to stand on his feet all night at work. He had also lost 10kg which he attributed to stress.

When a lump started growing in his leg above his knee he got scared and went to his GP looking for answers.

After numerous tests, he was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare primary bone cancer that affects children and young people. They found a tumour in his leg that had already spread to his lungs. Later, the doctors told us they were unsure of how many tumours he actually had. At the age of 22, he had the fight of his life on his hands.

In late August 2004, Scott needed to have 12-18 weeks of chemotherapy. He suffered extreme pain in his leg and back throughout the treatment and often required morphine injections and oxygen to help him breathe.

There were so many things that we had to watch out for and monitor. I had to regularly check Scott’s temperature and take him to hospital immediately if it was above 38 degrees. He had to make sure to be very careful not to cut himself when he was shaving, as the chemo could stop his blood from clotting. He needed to take a number of medications at various intervals during the day so to help I wrote up a schedule of what medication had to be taken when. He would also bruise easily, have dizzy spells and get migraines. It seemed the list was never ending.

At times, it would all just get too much and he would cry for hours.

 

 

A few months later, in October 2004, things started to look up as the primary tumour in Scott’s leg was shrinking and he started feeling a little better. He even went to work for a couple of days. Our spirits were lifting and we talked more about what we would do when he went into remission.

But our hopes were quickly dashed a few weeks later when we were told the chemo wasn’t working.

The pain in his back and leg was getting worse and he found it increasingly difficult to breathe. The tumours we knew about were getting bigger and spreading.

We were told his cancer could not be cured but, hopefully, ongoing radiation treatments would shrink the tumours to give him more time – maybe a few years if we were lucky. The doctor said we would know if the treatment had worked within the next two weeks. If it didn’t, he wouldn’t have much time left.

Scott and I were devastated by this news and we wanted to get a second opinion. We couldn’t understand why nothing could be done to cure his cancer, but we vowed to not give up. We talked about things like getting married and travelling to see the world before it was too late.

On the day we had an appointment to get a second opinion, Scott was rushed to hospital with extreme back pain and a tingling sensation in his legs. MRI scans showed that tumours on his spine were pressing on his spinal cord and had cracked one of his vertebrae. He was given three high doses of radiation on his back over three consecutive days.

By the end of November, Scott was confined to his bed because he had lost all the feeling in his legs and could no longer support himself. The doctors told us the radiation had not been successful and that he would be lucky to live another week.

During Scott’s final days, I lived in the hospital with him. He spent lots of time with his friends and family during that time as well. I will never forget the memory of his young, fit and healthy friends, crying and supporting each other in the hallways of the hospital.

We celebrated our three year anniversary in the hospital.

I was in a chair beside Scott when he lowered his bed as if he was getting down on one knee, and he presented me with an engraved eternity ring, asking if he could be mine for eternity.

Scott’s tumours had continued to spread and were now visible even on his face. As the days went on, he was on so many pain medications that he rarely woke up, and on the occasions he was awake, he was hallucinating, on one occasion he believed it was our 50th wedding anniversary.

During one of our last conversations, Scott was feeling sad about his imminent passing and worried that people would forget him. I promised him I would never let that happen.

Scott continues to be my guide through life.

On the night of Christmas Eve 2004, I laid in the bed beside Scott so I could hold him all night. I guess I knew it would be for the last time.

We spent Christmas morning with family crowded around Scott’s hospital bed. I sat beside him all day, holding his hand. At around 3pm, I left the room to talk to some family members. Before leaving, I kissed him on the forehead and told him I loved him and I’d be back soon. I felt his heart beat and it was very weak.

Half an hour later, Scott passed away as an afternoon storm rolled in. We believe he chose his moment to move on, as he had hoped he would get the chance to see a storm one last time.

His family and I comforted each other as we had a drink in his honour on the balcony of the hospital and watched the storm fade away. It’s been 12 years now and every Christmas at 3.30pm I still share a drink with my family in his memory.

Saying goodbye to Scott and leaving the hospital for the last time without him was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. He was farewelled on New Year’s Eve 2004, and is buried with a photo of us on his heart.

Leanne and her family 2017

 

I consider myself lucky to have known Scott. He was such an important part of my life and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without him.

Scott taught me what life and love are about and showed me real happiness. He encouraged me to never give up, achieve my goals and follow my dreams. Rarely does a day pass where he does not cross my mind. His memory reminds me to never take things for granted, to make the most of every day and appreciate every moment.

I have made it my life goal to continue fundraising for cancer research in his memory and ensure his legacy lives on.” – ACRF supporter, Leanne

Leanne wouldn’t be who she is without Scott, and cancer research wouldn’t be where it is without you. 

Two melanomas that aren’t linked to UV radiation

The genetic study, led by Australian researchers at Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA), QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and The University of Sydney as part of the Australian Melanoma Genome Project, has found that melanomas on the hands and feet (known as acral) and internal surfaces (known as mucosal) are not linked to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This is in contrast to melanoma of the skin, which is strongly related to UV radiation.

The research shows that acral and mucosal have different causes to skin melanoma. This has implications for preventing and treating these forms, which occur worldwide.

“This is by far the largest study to have looked at the whole genome, and it has proven these less common cases are strikingly different in terms of their causes,” said Professor Richard Scolyer, Conjoint Medical Director of MIA and a lead author.

Every year in Australia, up to 420 people are diagnosed with acral or mucosal melanomas. They affect people of all ethnic backgrounds and are the most common forms of the disease in people with very dark skin. These forms often behave more aggressively, are harder to diagnose and have a poorer outcome compared to skin melanoma.

Melanoma type helps find the right treatment

Treatment for skin melanoma has advanced rapidly in recent years, with therapies tripling the life expectancy of some advanced patients. For the first time, this research sheds light on why revolutionary treatments—many of which have been pioneered at MIA — don’t work as well for acral or mucosal melanomas.

“Acral and mucosal melanomas occur all over the world, but they have been even more challenging to treat than skin melanoma,” said Professor Nicholas Hayward, a lead author from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

“Knowing these are really different diseases to skin melanoma is important for the development of future therapies.”

The study also found acral and mucosal melanomas have much less gene damage compared with skin melanoma and the damage ‘footprints’ did not match those of any known causes of cancer, like sun exposure. This means we must target new research to discover what is causing these cancers, and what can prevent them.

While they had fewer gene drivers that could be targeted for therapy, new ones were found. Some mucosal melanomas unexpectedly had mutations in the SF3B1 and GNAQ genes, which had previously only been connected to melanoma of the eye.

Understanding which gene mutations are driving an individual tumour is the basis of personalised cancer medicine. This is the first study to survey the entire DNA sequence of melanomas, not just the genes themselves, giving 50 times more information than in previous work. Many genes were found to have damage in their control regions, the so-called ‘dark matter’ of our genome, and these may be previously unsuspected drivers.

“This is a world-leading genetic analysis of melanoma,” said Professor Graham Mann, a lead author at MIA.

“We are working hard now to turn these discoveries about the uniqueness of acral and mucosal melanoma, and about the new control mutations, into better results for our patients.”

The research has been published in the journal Nature.

New pathway for blood cancer therapies

ACRF supports Australian cancer research at Peter MacCullum Cancer CentreCancer researchers at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Monash University in Melbourne have identified how a new class of epigenetic drug engages with the immune system to kill off blood cancer cells.

The research, published in journal Cell Reports, has demonstrated the potential of combining ground-breaking epigenetic and immune-based treatments for improved results.

The experiments showed that immune-competent mice with lymphoma had a far greater response to BET-inhibitors than their immune-deficient counterparts. BET-inhibitors are a relatively new class of cancer treatment, which work to ‘switch off’ important cancer-causing genes expressed within tumour cells.

In addition to the improved response, the research showed that BET inhibitors were able to ‘switch off’ a protein called PD-L1 which is used by tumour cells to hide from the immune system.

Through this mechanism, BET-inhibitors were making tumour cells more sensitive to attack from the immune system.

The power of an activated immune system in eliminating tumour cells has been proven through successful drugs such as Keytruda and Opdivo, which also target the PD-L1 pathway.

Building on this knowledge, Melbourne researchers confirmed that the combinations of BET-inhibitors with other immune therapies work better in lymphoma than either therapy alone.

Based on laboratory research performed at Peter Mac, the Monash team is currently trialling a combination of different epigenetic drugs. They are combining Dinaciclib with the anti-PD1 therapy, Keytruda, in relapsed lymphoma, myeloma and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. Further clinical trials for the combination therapy are likely to emerge as a result of this research.

This article was first published on the Peter Mac website, image courtesy of Peter Mac.

To date, ACRF has awarded in total $AUD 8.2 million to support cancer research at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Monash University.

Shanuki says goodbye to her long hair for a great cause

Shave, cut our colour your hair to support Australian cancer research“Each year I try to give some of my time to a great cause. Last year, I volunteered as a buddy at a camp that helps kids affected by cancer. It aims to take children’s minds off of the hospitals and treatments. While I was spending time with these families, I thought a lot about what it would be like to put an end to the suffering that cancer causes. It motivated me to continue my yearly ritual so no more families would have to go through this ever again.

That same year I witnessed a wave of cancer diagnoses. Sadly, a work colleague of mine and several family friends passed away. While I consider myself lucky to have had none of my immediate family diagnosed with cancer, it seems to be happening all around me. My husband’s already lost an aunt to breast cancer and another one of his aunts was recently diagnosed.

I’m shocked by the sheer number of people affected by cancer. I feel we should all do what we can to help eradicate or at least control the effects of this disease. I believe better prevention and treatments will only come about through research which is what led me to Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF).

When I went searching for more information about fundraise funds for Australian Cancer Research Foundationing cancer research discoveries I came across ACRF. I discovered that they’re a charity that supports research into all cancers and they help fund projects across Australia. After speaking with a staff member, I decided to support their efforts with my own fundraising event. I decided to donate my waist-long hair and help raise funds for Australian Cancer Research Foundation. My hair hasn’t been short since I was five years old so I was quite nervous about it.

Throughout the fundraising process, the love and support from family, friends and colleagues was amazing.

I also found that fundraising provided an opportunity for people to start a dialogue about personal experiences relating to cancer. A family friend is now looking into how she can help her daughter cut and donate her hair just like I did.

Learning how to style my new short hair is challenging but with the help of YouTube tutorials, I’m getting there. I’m actually really enjoying the change. I’ve discovered that a shower cap stays on so much better without a kilo of hair under it!” – ACRF supporter, Shanuki

Alycia’s birthday is helping Australian cancer researchers

Alycia supports Australian cancer research“For my 20th birthday, I just wanted an easy-going, simple celebration where I could spend time catching up with friends. I also wanted to use the occasion to help bring an end to cancer.

I think it’s important that we each take the time to think about how lucky we really are, and how we can each do our part to help others. I thought long and hard about how I could do something special and make a difference. I decided I would ask for donations to ACRF in lieu of gifts.

Once I chose to support cancer research as part of my birthday celebration, I spread the word weeks before the party about donations in lieu of gifts and reminded everyone quite often (which may have been annoying, but it was effective).

At my party, I had a donation station set up where people could look at ACRF pamphlets, grab a ribbon and put their contribution into a box. The support I received from everyone exceeded expectation. My friends all loved the idea and were keen to make a donation.

My family has experienced losing a loved one to cancer. My grandfather passed away from cancer when I was about 11 years old. At that age, everything seems like a blur and I didn’t fully understand what was happening when he was sick. Naively, I believed everything was going to be fine and things would soon go back to being normal. It was when he was admitted to the intensive care unit that the seriousness of his illness really hit me, and it was frightening.

I remember telling my mum that I didn’t want to see Granddad because I didn’t want to remember him like that. The hopelessness that I felt at the time was overwhelming.

Cancer is a devastating disease and until we end it together, we will continue to worry for our family, friends and ourselves. I want to help reduce this anxiety and fear by helping researchers find better methods of prevention, detection and treatment of all cancers.

I wanted to raise money for ACRF to help fund the equipment researchers to speed up discoveries. To all of those who support cancer research, you are doing a fantastic thing, together we’ll bring an to end cancer, and I think you will be so proud that you helped make it happen.” – ACRF supporter, Alycia

Immune cell discovery opens up possibility of new treatment for blood cancer

Researchers have unlocked the secrets of a little-understood immune cell, potentially paving the way for an easier way to treat and prevent graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).

GVHD occurs in up to 70 per cent of patients who receive a stem cell transplant to treat blood cancer. It is caused by donated immune cells (called T cells) attacking tissue in the recipient’s skin, gastrointestinal tract, liver or lungs. Unfortunately, a significant proportion of patients who develop acute GVHD of the gastrointestinal tract do not survive.

Regulatory T cells play vital role

QIMR Berghofer senior scientist Professor Geoff Hill, lead author Dr Ping Zhang, and their team have discovered that a type of T cell known as a type 1 regulatory T cell, or TR1 cell, plays a crucial role in fighting GVHD.

Importantly, they have also discovered the protein that causes these cells to develop, allowing them to produce TR1 cells in large numbers in the laboratory.

Professor Hill said that while conventional T cells fight disease and infection, regulatory T cells are responsible for keeping a check on immune responses and preventing them from causing harm.

“Regulatory T cells are particularly important for stem cell transplant recipients because they stop the donor cells from mounting an immune response against normal tissues,” Professor Hill said.

“There are two types of regulatory T cells: FoxP3 regulatory T cells, and TR1 cells.”

“In most cases, FoxP3 regulatory T cells are more important and exist in much higher numbers than TR1 cells. But in this study, we found that TR1 cells are very important in stem cell transplantation.”

“Patients with GVHD stop being able to make FoxP3 regulatory T cells and therefore have very low numbers of these cells. However, we found that when their levels decline, TR1 cells increase in number and become critical in stopping donor cells from attacking host tissues.”

“In other words, TR1 cells compensate when FoxP3 regulatory T cells either fail or can’t be made.”

Protein helps identify cells in patients

Dr Zhang said the researchers had also identified the particular protein that controls the development of TR1 cells.

“Knowing which protein controls the development of these cells means we can now find them easily in patients, and we’ve also been able to generate them in the laboratory,” he said.

Professor Hill said that it was also very exciting that the abundance of TR1 cells could be changed by specific signals delivered by molecules known as cytokines.

“It is probable that some of the therapies we are investigating in clinical trials induce TR1 T cells, and we are now able to examine this in our patients,” he said.

“Also, now that we understand more about how TR1 cells are produced and what they do, we hope to be able to generate them and give them to stem cell transplant patients to prevent GVHD.”

“This is already being done with FoxP3 regulatory T cells, but we think it will be easier to do with TR1 cells.”

“We hope that by giving patients infusions of these cells early on, we will eventually be able to prevent GVHD altogether.”

The findings have been published in the journal Science Immunology.

The study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

This news article was first posted on the QIMR Berghofer website.

For many more happily ever afters

Wedding donations to support Australian cancer research“My name is Celine and my husband’s name is Khoi and we recently got married. We had a beautiful ceremony at Mosman’s Sacred Heart Church, followed by the perfect waterfront reception on Middle Harbour – it was a wonderful day.

I first met Khoi when I was on my university placement, training to become a sonographer. We struck up a friendship which continued on well past my placement. We had been together for about seven years when Khoi proposed. It was on April Fool’s day – if you knew him you would understand that he would choose that day of all days! It was a huge surprise to me and I didn’t believe him.

We had been together for about seven years when Khoi proposed. It was on April Fool’s day – if you knew him you would understand that he would choose that day of all days! It was a huge surprise to me and I didn’t believe him.

When it came time to plan our wedding we went to a wedding expo and came across a booth set up by ACRF. I had never thought about asking for cancer research donations at our wedding. But after talking with the ACRF staff and learning about how donations help fund cancer research equipment, we felt it was important for us to contribute and it just made sense to make it part of our special day.

Supporting cancer research in Australia at your weddingWith both of us working in the medical imaging field, we meet many people with cancer. Sadly, cancer has also affected my own family. Not only have both of my grandmothers and one grandfather died from cancer, my remaining grandfather has recently overcome prostate cancer.

Our family and friends thought it was a great idea that we were supporting cancer research with donations to ACRF.

In the midst of wedding planning, it’s so easy to spend money on trivial things and lose sight of what is really important, but a contribution to research or charity will go such a long way.” – ACRF supporter, Celine

 

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Lyss Organises Star Wars Themed Fundraising Event

Fundraising to support Australian cancer research“Cancer is not just something that happens in a galaxy far, far away. Early last year, my eight-year-old nephew was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH), a rare form of cancer that affects young children. As he bravely goes through treatment for this disease, I wanted to do something on his behalf.

I often like to joke and say that my nephew is more like me than his own mother, who is my older sister. Like me, he has a love of Star Wars, superheroes and video games and has even built a basic video game himself. My nephew has been having chemotherapy for a year now and the disease is currently in remission.

Previous to my nephew’s diagnosis, no one close to our family had been affected by cancer. It was a reality check that cancer can happen to anyone. We are lucky that my nephew’s form of cancer is treatable and with a high survival rate. ACRF does a great deal of research into LCH and other childhood cancers and is one of the reasons my nephew is doing so well today.

Star Wars themed fundraiser to help end cancerWhen I decided to fundraise for the Australian Cancer Research Foundation, it was an easy decision to combine two of my favourite things: Stars Wars and selfies.

A group of nerdy volunteers and myself, dressed up as characters from the Star Wars Universe and set up a photo-booth at Wollongong Central on March 12.

For a donation, face painting, props and knick-knacks were available for anyone to dress up and snap photos with some out-of-this-galaxy characters. Twi’lek, Jedi and Droids joined forces with us to raise awareness and money for much-needed cancer research. The public response was fantastic, and we reached our fundraising goal.

The researchers, doctors, nurses and medical staff who help patients living with cancer every day are truly special. They inspire me to continue fundraising for cancer research. Together we can defeat this dark disease so more children can see the stars. May the cure be with us!” – ACRF supporter, Lyss

To organise an awesome event of your own you can visit our A-Z fundraising ideas page

Genetic links for neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer revealed

Australian cancer research discoveries, Pancreatic cancer

An Australian-led international research effort has revealed that genetic changes normally linked to breast, colon and ovarian cancers could also drive a rare form of pancreatic cancer.

Researchers found as many as one in five patients with pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (PanNETs) had a clear genetic predisposition for their cancers, even though they had no family history of the disease.

The findings, published today in the journal Nature, offer the prospect of one day being able to identify people at risk of these cancers, as well as aggressive forms of the disease, and who might respond to current or new targeted therapies.

The breakthrough is the work of researchers at the University of Melbourne, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, The University of Queensland and the Children’s Medical Research Institute, as well as European and US teams.

They carried out whole genome sequencing of tumours from 100 Australian patients recruited through the Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative (APGI).

Study co-leader Professor Sean Grimmond, the University of Melbourne’s Bertalli Chair of Cancer Medicine, said researchers were surprised to find striking similarities between the genetic drivers of PanNETs and other cancers.

“We found that the MUTYH and BRCA2 gene mutations, normally associated with colon and breast cancers, also appear to play an important role in PanNETs,” Professor Grimmond said.

“This raises exciting possibilities for how we treat this disease in the future,”

Study co-leader Dr Nicola Waddell, from QIMR Berghofer, said people without a family history of cancer could still carry a faulty gene that increases their risk of developing this tumour.

“The genetic variants we’ve identified may help to predict how aggressive each patient’s tumour is and what sort of treatment they’re likely to benefit from,” she said.

“In the future, patients at risk of this rare pancreatic cancer could be identifiable through genetic screening.”

PanNETs account for about two per cent of the 3,000 cases of pancreatic cancer diagnosed in Australia each year.

Amber Johns of the APGI at the Garvan Institute said although patients often have a better prognosis than those with more common pancreatic cancers, this group of tumours is highly unpredictable.

“Doctors currently face the challenge of being unable to tell apart patients who would benefit from early aggressive therapy from those who might be spared harsh treatment for less invasive cancers,” Ms Johns said.

She said the study data would be freely available to cancer researchers and clinicians, to build on this work.

This project is the latest Australian contribution to International Cancer Genome Consortium, a global research effort focused on mapping out the genetic landscape, causal mutations and novel therapeutic opportunities in the 50 most common cancer types across the globe.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation supports world class Australian cancer research by funding cutting edge technology, equipment and infrastructure. To date, the Foundation has awarded in total $AUD 49.9 million to support cancer research at the University of Melbourne (VCCC), Garvan Institute of Medical Research, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, The University of Queensland and the Children’s Medical Research Institute.

This new article was first published by QIMR Berghofer, Garvan and the University of Melbourne.

Australian-first detector to accelerate cancer research

Australians with cancer will be the first to benefit from the multi-million dollar Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) Detector launched today at ANSTO’s Australian Synchrotron, fast-tracking cancer research by harnessing light a million times brighter than the sun.

Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator the Hon. Arthur Sinodinos, today unveiled the ACRF Detector, which is akin to a turbocharged camera, and will take images at a speed and accuracy currently not possible at any other Australian research facility.

The detector will enable researchers, including those working in cancer, to more than double their outputs, gaining more answers at a faster rate.

Currently, more than 60 per cent of all the research conducted on the Synchrotron’s Micro Crystallography (MX2) beamline is dedicated to cancer research, helping scientists to understand and develop new drug targets and refine treatments for a disease that is the leading cause of death around the globe.

ACRF CEO, Professor Ian Brown, said ACRF and its supporters are proud to have provided the $2 million grant that facilitated the purchase of the ACRF Detector.

“The ACRF Detector is a vital, core piece of equipment for cancer and medical research in Australia, and one that will be used by cancer researchers from all institutes, hospitals and universities,” said Professor Brown.

“It shows the three-dimensional structure of proteins, which do most of the work in cells, identifying opportunities to neutralise those involved in cancer and promoting those that may protect us from cancer.”

The Synchrotron is operated by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation. Australian Synchrotron Director, Professor Andrew Peele, said the leaps that will be enabled by the new detector will more than double the facility’s capacity to collect data, leading to more targeted and effective treatments and, ultimately, improved patient outcomes.

“This new capability will take a beamline that was previously at full capacity – booked for use at all available hours of the day – and find it an extra gear, so it can deliver more research, and arm researchers with clear representations of protein structures,” said Professor Peele.

“There are a lot of questions that still need to be answered in the world of cancer research, and by partnering with ACRF and speeding up the throughput of important research, we are bringing more solutions closer than ever before.

“We’re essentially shifting from dial-up internet to high-speed broadband, putting our foot on the accelerator of cancer research technology, providing faster protein analysis to turbocharge cancer research and facilitate significant discoveries.”

Senator Sinodinos said the new ACRF Detector is a great example of how collaboration between research facilities, not-for-profits and government can improve outcomes for the Australian community.

“This investment in Australian research and technology has the potential to increase and quicken the rate at which research turns into practical applications for patients and the community,” Senator Sinodinos said.

“High quality research, collaboration and smart investment are needed to ensure that new research and knowledge are supported, and I am thrilled to be here today to witness exactly that, and officially reveal the ACRF detector.”

Attending the launch of the ACRF Detector with Minister Sinodinos was researcher and protein crystallographer from the University of Western Australia, Professor Charlie Bond, who has utilised the MX2 beamline for extensive protein analysis, including research into the childhood cancer neuroblastoma.

They were also joined by Lucy Jones, who is focused on driving change in survival rates through increased research into neuroblastoma, having lost her daughter Sienna to the illness in 2010.

“Losing a child to neuroblastoma has driven me to do all I can to support research in finding an effective treatment for this insidious disease and other childhood cancers, made all the more challenging due to the high cost of drug development and the rarity of most childhood cancers,” Ms Jones said.

“We must do everything we can to help researchers such as Professor Bond, and innovative technologies such as this, to help make the whole research process more efficient by reducing costs and time to clearly benefit the research of childhood cancers and other diseases, shortening the time between lab discoveries and clinical testing of new drugs,” she said.

Neuroblastoma occurs most commonly in infants and children under five years of age. It is cancer made up of cells that are found in nerve tissues called neuroblasts, commonly found in adrenal glands and along tissues around the spinal cord in the neck, chest, abdomen and pelvis.

The ACRF Detector was made possible by a $2 million grant from the ACRF, and additional contributions from Monash University, CSIRO, La Trobe University, NZ Synchrotron Group, the University of Western Australia, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, the University of Melbourne, the University of Queensland, the University of Sydney, the University of Wollongong, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, the University of Adelaide, Australian National University and ANSTO.

Prue is running for cancer research

Prue is a long-time runner, training for the Australian Running Festival in Canberra and raising funds for cancer research.

“Although I have been running for about eight years now, I haven’t done a half marathon in three years – it’s been quite hard work getting my fitness back after the birth of my daughter 14 months ago. When my cross-fit coach asked me in January to set a goal, I decided it was time to take on another 21km + challenge.

I also want to use the event to fundraise for cancer research because a dear and very close friend of our family passed suddenly in 2014. It shocked us all how cruel this disease is, and how it can claim another victim in such a short time.

My friend, Sharon, was only 46, a cherished daughter, loved wife, big sister, true friend and a mother to three beautiful boys. She is truly missed every day and in so many ways.

Too many people suffer and die because of cancer. I would like to see that stop and also ensure my children do not have to lose friends and family to such an awful disease, like we have.

Pru is running for cancer research in Australia

I would like to see a future without cancer, but if cancer continues to be diagnosed, then it wouldn’t be a death sentence and treatments could be less devastating.

If anyone reading this is thinking about fundraising or donating, I would say to them, “Don’t hesitate, because every cent counts.”

If you would like to support Prue, you can learn more on her everyday hero page.

University of Queensland opens new era in cancer research

A .5 million Australian Cancer Research Foundation grant has enabled the purchase of a large-bore PET-CT scanner
The ACRF Facility’s large-bore PET-CT scanner will conduct studies in both humans and companion animals.

New cancer-fighting drugs and devices could emerge from The University of Queensland, thanks to a research program comparing cancers in pet animals and humans in a state-of-the-art imaging facility opened today.

UQ Centre for Advanced Imaging (CAI) director Professor David Reutens said the new Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) Facility for Molecular Imaging Agents in Cancer opened a new paradigm in comparative oncology.

“It will allow researchers to examine the effects of tiny doses of anti-cancer drugs in human and animal cancers,” he said.

A $2.5 million Australian Cancer Research Foundation grant has enabled the purchase of a large-bore PET-CT scanner and an upgrade of the CAI’s magnetic resonance imaging facilities.

“We are using molecular imaging to improve cancer detection, characterisation, treatment and monitoring,” he said.

Professor Reutens said the centre would run Australia’s first comparative oncology research program, studying naturally occurring cancers in companion animals such as dogs to learn more about treating cancer in humans.

“This will help develop new drugs, devices and imaging procedures for human patients,” he said.

“The new facility will enhance the success of clinical trials on human cancer therapies.”

Australian Cancer Research Foundation CEO Professor Ian Brown said the ACRF Facility for Molecular Imaging Agents in Cancer offered a new opportunity to better understand cancer in its many forms.

“It provides a chance for the development of new approaches for the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer,” he said.

“The ACRF supporters who made this grant possible know that the investment in state-of-the-art technology when placed in the hands of the best researchers will lead to the breakthroughs that we all desire.”

“Researchers in Australia are among the best in the world, and we’re delighted to be supporting the cutting-edge work of the teams working together at UQ.

“Research and innovation are our best means of finding ways to end cancer.”

Jane swims the Cole Classic for cancer research

Jane describes herself as a fairly active person with a passion for cross-country skiing and swimming. The Cole Classic is a favourite event for Jane, and this year she did the 2km swim to fundraise for cancer research in memory of her mother.

“I swim regularly – always have and love it. The regular aquatic fix keeps me healthy and sane. My two gorgeous daughters, Kate and Meg, think I am nuts to be sharing water with, and being on the menu, for sharks. Peter, my husband, is more of a runner and cyclist than a swimmer but does occasionally join me in an ocean swim.

I particularly like the vibe of the Cole Classic from Manly Beach. It is a swim that attracts lots of newbies who have never participated in an ocean swim. I grew up swimming in a pool and the Murray River and had to learn how to swim in the ocean. Anyone new to ocean swims is to be admired. They are putting themselves way out of their comfort zone, and way away from the safety of the shore! If they are also doing their bit by fundraising, that’s really commendable.

I am always reminded of cancer research whenever I think about the surgeon’s comment to my mother 38 years ago. Not long after she was diagnosed with cancer, the surgeon – a bloke with a fairly dry sense of humour – said, “Well Ann, they will have a cure for this in five years, a pity you will not be around to benefit”. That was 1978 and regrettably, neither cure, nor complete prevention, has been found.

My mother was 49 when she was diagnosed and given only three months to live. Being an incredibly determined person, Mum lived for another twelve months. Today chemotherapy is not much fun but in the 1970s the treatment was harsher. With no chance of survival, Mum chose not to subject herself (or us) to treatment. She helped my brother celebrate his 21st birthday and me, my 18th in fine fashion. I am convinced her focus was to hang around as long as possible to equip us to be capable, strong and resilient after she was no longer with us.

Not having Mum around for the last 38 years hasn’t been a picnic, but I am sure she would be proud of how we have coped and what we have achieved.

The lasting impact for me of my mother’s experience is how she behaved: her strength, her grace and calm while suffering, her focus on the positive, her ability to retain a sense of humour. These behaviours not only help you, they help others. Of course, her leaving us has been particularly tough. As too many others who have experienced loss know, every significant and happy event in your life – weddings, children being born – is tinged with a bit of grey.

An experience like this can lead you to dismal places, but focusing on the positive as my mother did has kept my life mostly bright.

I believe in what the ACRF are doing for cancer research in Australia. The ACRF fundraising team has been spectacular in their support and encouragement and certainly emboldened me to actually ask people to donate!” ACRF supporter, Jane

An enzyme with the capacity to suppress cancer growth

Abnormal cells courtesy of Centre for Cancer Biology
Abnormal mutant cells (Caspase-2 deficient) in the right panel.

 

Cancer researchers at the Centre for Cancer Biology (CCB), an alliance between the University of South Australia and SA Pathology, have discovered a new aspect of cancer biology that may help to battle the spread and growth of tumours.

The research focuses on aneuploidy cells, which are often associated with abnormal chromosome content and cell division – and how an enzyme known as caspase-2, initially discovered by the lead researcher 25 years ago, can act to prevent their growth.

The research team, led by Professor Sharad Kumar and Dr Loretta Dorstyn, have discovered that caspase-2, which is found in all mammals, has the capacity to suppress cancer growth by working to destroy aneuploid cells.

“Aneuploidy is a term that describes the abnormal chromosome content of a cell and occurs when there are failings during the normal division of a cell,” Prof Kumar said.

“Aneuploidy is a feature of the majority of human tumours and is known to lead to chromosomal instability that can promote cancer onset and progression and cause drug resistance.”

In two recent publications, the team demonstrated that cells that have a deletion in the caspase-2 gene are deficient in the cell division “checkpoints” that normally prevent damaged cells from surviving and becoming aneuploid.

Their research also shows that bone marrow cells that lack caspase-2, accumulate many of these defective, potentially cancer causing aneuploid cells with age.

“This research establishes that caspase-2 is necessary to prevent the long-term survival and uncontrolled growth of aneuploid cells that could otherwise become tumorigenic,” Prof Kumar said.

“The research has provided many clues on the molecular basis of preventing aneuploidy and tumour onset and identifies caspase-2 protein levels as a potential biomarker for cancer prognosis.”

“Understanding how cells become tumorigenic and how tumours evade normal “stop growth” and “cell death” checkpoint signals, is fundamental in cancer treatment and our search for new cancer therapies”, Dr Dorstyn said.

The research was recently published in journals Cell Death & Disease and Oncogene. The original news article was posted on the University of South Australia website. Images courtesy of CCB.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation has supported the Centre for Cancer Biology by providing two grants, totalling AUD $5.6 million, towards cutting edge cancer research equipment and technology.

Glowing, drug-resistant leukaemia cells could help unlock new therapies

A new method for finding hidden leukaemia cells by making them glow has been investigated by ACRF grant recipient, Children’s Cancer Institute (CCI). Their method offers a more sensitive and accurate preclinical test for leukaemia drugs, increasing the chances of finding those most likely to succeed in clinical trials.

Dr Luke Jones’ research is based on making leukaemia cells glow to reveal reservoirs of the disease. In general, survival rates for childhood leukaemia are approximately 90% but some subtypes and relapsed leukaemias do not respond well to treatment.

Bioluminescence imaging can more accurately measure drugs’ effects on high-risk leukaemias that are either unresponsive to standard treatments or likely to relapse,” said Dr Jones.

“Using information from bioluminescence imaging will help make sure only future drugs with the best chance of success go on to be tested on human patients in clinical trials,” he explained.

An improved way to test treatments

Before new drugs can be given to children, their safety and effectiveness are tested in avatars that model different leukaemia subtypes.

Each drug’s effectiveness against these models is typically monitored by measuring the number of leukaemia cells in the blood. However, the blood is one of the last places leukaemia spreads to, and the first place it’s eliminated from with treatment. This means that cancer cells could be hiding away in organs like the spleen or bone marrow even if all leukaemia cells have been cleared from the blood.

Australian cancer research
Bioluminescent materials from nature can be used the lab.

Looking to find the hiding cancer cells, Dr Jones cloned the gene that makes fireflies glow into the DNA of the cancer cells. This meant that a scan could reveal any hidden reservoirs of leukaemia.

The new study is the first to compare bioluminescence imaging with traditional methods of assessing preclinical drug efficacy in an effort to increase the ability to predict clinical success.

It is also the first time bioluminescence imaging has been evaluated for its ability to track the amount of residual disease following treatment in a preclinical leukaemia model.

“Our paper shows that bioluminescence imaging gives us extra stringency,” said Dr Jones.

“It gives us more and better information to make decisions about which drugs to progress to clinical trials,” he concluded.

The results were recently published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

This news article was first published on the CCI website. Images of Dr Luke Jones and wells with bioluminescent materials courtesy of CCI.

The Drug Discovery Centre at CCI came about as a result of an AUD $3.1 million grant awarded by the Australian Cancer Research Foundation in 2007. A subsequent grant of AUD $1.5 million from the Foundation helped transform the facility went to the ACRF Child Cancer Personalised Medicine Centre, the operational headquarters and key testing platform of the Zero Childhood Cancer Program.

Wayne’s ‘Beat the Bastard’ bike ride for cancer research

Wayne is supporting Australian cancer research by fundraising for ACRFHaving lost both family members and close friends to cancer, Wayne Irwin is doing his bit to raise money for cancer research by organising a bike ride in November.

“I was inspired to take action when my brother Dale died from cancer last year because I lost one of my sisters to cancer a few years ago as well. Dale was not only my brother and best mate, he was and still is the finest bloke I have ever known.

He battled cancer for three years and his death affected me very badly. Although my wife, children, grandchildren and friends were all emotionally supportive, I found myself in a dark place and alienating myself from everyone. I desperately needed to redirect my anger toward something else.

Putting all my energy into organising this cancer research bike ride, which I’m calling ‘Beat the Bastard’, is the best thing I could have done. For years, I’ve been an avid motorcyclist so it seemed natural to invite others who share the riding passion to join in. It will be a great way to meet other people including anyone who has lost family and friends to cancer. It also gives people fighting the disease an opportunity to hop on their bikes, knowing that we are supporting them.

The 400-kilometre route includes Gunnedah, Narrabri, Wee Waa and Pilliga. I included Pilliga in the ride route because that’s where I grew up. Pilliga is pretty close to my heart, and my brother’s heart.

I’ve been using contacts in Gunnedah, including my sister Robyn, to get the word out about the ride. A couple of Gunnedah businesses have been absolutely awesome and I’m grateful for the kind-heartedness of people who are offering to help. The campaign is also generating a lot of interest in Brisbane and Sydney through social media. There are people I don’t know and they’re responding about the bike ride – my goal is to get at least 80 participants. The cost for the day is $50 with funds to go towards food and the Australian Cancer Research Foundation.

I honestly believe there’s going to be better treatments found for cancer, and it will happen here in Australia. ACRF has been alongside me in this fundraising effort. They’ve been exceptional in helping me out and giving me some great ideas for organising the ride.

The impact of cancer on my family has been devastating, but ironically the resolve to beat this horrible disease has brought us closer together.” – ACRF supporter, Wayne Irwin

‘Beat the Bastard’ participants will stop in Pilliga for lunch and finish up in Gunnedah for dinner. An auction and raffle will be conducted during the evening with some great prizes available.

For those who can’t take part in the ride, but would like to support it, click here.

New discovery helps target lung cancer

Australian cancer researchersCancer researchers at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne have identified a potential pathway for the development of precision medicine, targeting an aggressive form of non-small cell lung cancer, one of the most common types of lung cancer.

In a world-first study published in Science Signalling this month, lead researchers Professor Ygal Haupt and Dr Cristina Gamell have zeroed in on the behaviour of a set of proteins that normally act to suppress the development of tumours.

These proteins were found to be dysfunctional in particularly aggressive cases of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). NSCLC accounts for around 90% of the 10,000 cases of lung cancer diagnosed in Australia each year.

A key step during the onset of most NSCLCs is the loss of the tumour suppressor protein – p16INK4a (p16). In around a third of NSCLC cases, loss of p16 protein is caused by abnormal silencing of the p16 gene through a process called hypermethylation.

Professor Haupt and Dr Gamell’s research has uncovered the intricate chain of events that leads to a loss of function in some of the remaining two-thirds of cases.

“In human DNA, the gene responsible for p16 expression clusters with two other tumour suppressors in a region called the ‘INK4/ARF locus’. Loss of tumour suppressors from this locus is a common feature of many different types of cancer.”

“Our research discovered a distinct group of aggressive NSCLCs, in which the reduction of another protein, called E6AP, triggers an increase of a third protein called Cdc6. This process appears to reduce the expression of tumour suppressors in the INK4/ARF locus.”

“NSCLC patients whose cancers have decreased E6AP and p16, and increased Cdc6, were shown to have particularly poor survival rates.”

“With this insight, we have the opportunity to look at ways of countering the impact of Cdc6 on these cancer-fighting proteins.”

“This knowledge, coupled with the rapidly advancing field of precision medicine, defines new biomarkers and suggests a new pathway for better treatments for this devastating form of cancer in the not too distant future,” according to Professor Haupt.

The research was led by Prof. Ygal Haupt’s Tumour Suppression Laboratory in collaboration with key clinicians from St Vincent’s, the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute. The study was enabled through funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The original news article was posted on the Peter Mac website.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation has supported Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre by providing three grants, totalling AUD $7 million, towards cutting edge cancer research equipment and technology.

Ivy’s headshave for cancer research

Ivy raises funds for cancer research in Australia“Hi everyone, I’m Ivy. I’m 10 years old, and enjoy horse riding, playing with my friends, board games, basketball and being with my family. I shaved my head for cancer research in memory of my grandmother’s best friend – Granny Jenny.

Granny Jenny was like a second grandmother to me. She died last year of cancer, and it was very sad for all of us who knew and loved her. She was kind and always supportive about everything we did or wanted to do.

Deciding to do the head shave is a funny story. I was camping at a river with some friends and we’d been swimming in the river every day. My hair is really long and it was getting more and more knotted from being wet so much. When I finally took it out of the braid it was in, it was like a big tangled birds nest. At that moment, I got the idea to shave my head. Two girls in the year above me shaved their heads last year for cancer research and I’ve always thought it would be a really cool thing to do.

Ivy shaved her head to support cancer research in AustraliaLots of people asked me if I was nervous about losing my long hair but I wasn’t, I just wanted the day to hurry up! Now that it’s all shaved off, I’m also going to donate it to be made into a wig for a patient who has lost their hair from cancer treatment.

Cancer is a terrible thing. It puts people in a lot of pain. It would be really scary to have cancer and know you could die and never see your family again. I like that Australian Cancer Research Foundation is helping to find better treatments for people with cancer by giving scientists equipment and I want to support them. It’s exciting that I raised over $4500.00 for cancer research and I want to thank all the generous people who have donated.” – ACRF Supporter, Ivy Bartlett

To support Ivy, you can make a donation on her page here.

Running for cancer research in support of my mum

michael-pirone-small-for-web

“In April I will be running in the 2017 London Marathon. I am a passionate footballer, runner and now fundraiser who decided to begin this journey about a year after my Mum, Krystyna was diagnosed with lung cancer. I’m participating in this marathon, not just for Mum, but also for everyone who has ever been diagnosed with cancer.

In March 2015, my mother was diagnosed with inoperable stage IV lung cancer. A non-smoker, Mum was told it was a genetic mutation that had led to cancer. Our entire family could not have been more shocked as Mum has always been really healthy. She is 63 years old, retired and enjoying a well-earned break from working life.

Mum is one of my best friends, she has always been there for me through the tough times. She is a devoted grandmother to my two little girls. A wonderful wife to her husband, Joe, and an amazing mum to my brother Steven and I.

Shortly after her diagnosis, Mum started chemotherapy in tablet form on a daily basis. This helped, but only for the first 10-11 months, at which point, cancer fought back. In February 2016, the oncologist told Mum that she had qualified to take part in a clinical trial for a drug which has been FDA approved in the UK and US. This particular drug has stopped cancer in its tracks. Mum’s condition has improved and she continues to live an otherwise normal life. For the longer term, we are not sure what the future holds for Mum, but there is hope.

Fundraising for cancer research in Australia

130,470 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Australia this year, with that number set to rise to 150,000 by 2020. I feel like these numbers should speak for themselves but it seems to me that research is undervalued in our society even though it holds the key to beating this horrible disease. If it wasn’t for cancer research advancements both overseas and locally, Mum might not be here right now.

I chose to fundraise for Australian Cancer Research Foundation because I truly believe in everything they are doing to support cancer research in Australia. I am very grateful that I’ve been granted one of their charity gold spots in the London Marathon, London is somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit. My partner spent 10 years living and working there so I’ve heard so much about the city from her. I’m nervous and excited about the race but also filled with energy. I can’t wait to run for my mum, my girls, and the many people whom my family and I have loved and lost to cancer.

 

Allyson and Rob are running for cancer research

“Our dads both have cancer so my wife Allyson and I are taking on the Canberra Times Australian Running Festival in April this year to raise funds for cancer research.

My dad was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer a few years ago. He has been undertaking hormone treatment and while it has assisted somewhat, unfortunately, the cancer is also in his bones and has now spread to his lungs. Dad will soon be on his fourth round of chemotherapy.

Ally’s dad was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer less than 12 months ago. He underwent a major operation that removed part of his stomach, but shortly afterwards, cancer spread to his liver. He now finds it very difficult to eat and has lost a lot of weight.

We found out late last year that Ally’s dad’s liver cancer was terminal, he was only given 12 months to live. Ally’s dad was a passionate runner and completed a few marathons over his lifetime, including the Gold Coast Marathon while in his mid-60s. So Ally and I decided that we wanted to show our support of cancer research and push ourselves by giving the Canberra Running Festival a go. Ally will be running the marathon and I will be running the ultramarathon (50kms). We aren’t athletes, and won’t be there to win the race, there’s a chance we won’t finish the race, but we are going to give it a go.

Ally and I aren’t completely new to running. Over the past four or so years, we’ve done a few half marathons and two years ago I finished my first full marathon. Since completing those events, Ally gave birth to our lovely daughter Eliza. So while Ally had a very good excuse for not running, I didn’t, and the out-of-shape dad bod quickly appeared! I’m currently running most days a week now though and Ally isn’t far behind. We barely managed to complete a 10km run on the weekend so we need to quickly improve our fitness levels.

Although my dad loves sport, he is probably wondering why the hell anyone would choose to run 50kms but I know he’ll be very proud of us for our efforts.

We originally entered the Running Festival to show our support for our dads, but as their cancer treatments go on, we are quickly realising that more funds need to go toward ending cancer.

Finishing our respective runs on April 9 will be a great personal achievement for Ally and me, and our emotions will more than likely be all over the shop. If Ally’s dad has stabilised health-wise, he’ll be there at the finish line, and I will be on the phone with my dad.

Neither of us has lost anyone close to us at this point in our lives. I think we are both in agreement that we can’t imagine our lives without either of dads and Eliza loves her amazing granddads! Right now we are just focusing on creating some wonderful memories.

Whether we raise $5 or $500 for cancer research, it all adds up. The longer our fathers live with cancer, the more we dream that better methods of prevention, detection and treatment will be discovered. ACRF is one of the leading organisations when it comes to contributing to cancer research and we all need to support research to one day end this deadly disease.” – ACRF supporters, Rob & Allyson

To support Rob and Allyson, visit their everyday hero page.

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Cancer immunity enhanced by natural killer cells

A team of researchers from Australia and France have uncovered new insights into how to prolong the lifespan of the body’s disease-fighting natural killer (NK) cells.

The finding offers fresh clues about how best to harness NK cells to improve their disease-fighting function. This may have particular importance for cancer immunotherapy, ‘buying more time’ for NK cells to detect and destroy cancer cells.

The Melbourne team led by Dr Nick Huntington from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute along with collaborators from Centre of Immunology in France, Professor Eric Vivier and Professor Sophie Ugolini, made the discovery by investigating factors that control NK cell function.

Dr Huntington said the research revealed that a protein called BCL-2 was particularly important for controlling the reservoir of NK cells in our body. BCL-2 is a so-called ‘pro-survival’ protein that makes normal immune cells survive for extended periods.

“We have been very interested in understanding which factors control the lifespan of NK cells,” Dr Huntington said.

“We had previously identified a protein related to BCL-2, called MCL-1, which was critically required for all NK cell survival. This new study now shows that BCL-2 “teams up” with MCL-1 and both these proteins crucially determine NK cell survival in our body, and the majority of NK cells died following a reduction in the levels of BCL-2.”

“Importantly, we were able to prevent NK cell death when BCL-2 levels were low by using a hormone-like protein or cytokine called IL-15. Boosting NK cell numbers by treating them with IL-15 may be a valuable new approach to boosting our immunity to viral infections or cancer. On the flip side, targeting this growth factor or BCL-2 could reduce NK cell numbers and offer potential therapies for immune disorders such as some types of autoimmune diseases, sepsis or graft versus host disease, a side effect of bone marrow transplants.”

The team’s research also identified that NK cells may be vulnerable to new medicines that inhibit BCL-2, which are also becoming widely tested as anti-cancer treatments.

“Our research has identified that adding cytokines could be a novel way to protect NK cells from the effect of BCL-2 inhibitors, maintaining healthy NK cell numbers in people undergoing cancer therapy,” Dr Huntington said.”

The research was published this month in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.

The original article was posted on the WEHI website. Image of Dr Huntington’s BCL2 NK cells team courtesy of WEHI.

The research at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Harry J. Lloyd Charitable Trust, the Cancer Research Institute, Cancer Council Victoria, the Australian Research Council, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (US), the Menzies Foundation and the Victorian Government.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation has supported WEHI by providing three grants, totalling AUD 5.5million towards cutting edge cancer research equipment and technology.

New ACT drug discovery platform

img_1574Today, Australian National University (ANU), the ACT Minister for Health and Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) will launch a new robotic system to fast-track the development of new drugs to fight cancer and other diseases.

Projects using this platform will also help to screen existing drugs and novel compounds to identify if they are effective alone or in combinational therapies on cancer cells.

This initiative was made possible in part by an ACRF grant of $2 million, awarded in 2015, to provide the equipment required to screen native Australian plants for anti-cancer properties.

Professor Ian Brown, CEO of Australian Cancer Research Foundation says “ACRF is a private foundation supported by community members who are interested in advancing cancer research. It’s inspiring to see researchers at ANU push cancer research forward with this funding and turn it into tangible treatments that future patients will benefit from.”

The High-Throughput Robotic Target and Drug Discovery Screening Platform at the ACRF Department of Cancer Biology and Therapeutics is the first technology of its kind in the ACT.

The specialised robotics and precision instruments will enable researchers to test thousands of possible drug compounds against hundreds of disease cells, to find the best possible treatment for patients.

ACT Centenary Chair of Cancer Research Professor Ross Hannan said the new technology would increase research collaboration and lead to more rapid drug discoveries in the fight against cancer and many other diseases.

“This is an exciting time for research collaboration across the ACT. The multi-million dollar equipment will cut screening times from years to months,” Professor Hannan, Head of the Department of Cancer Biology and Therapeutics at ANU said.

Until now, researchers in the ACT needed to travel to Sydney or Melbourne to use similar machines. They would also need to stay for months while the testing was done.

Professor Hannan said the technology could give new hope to patients with diseases that have failed all standard therapies and who have no other options.

“We now have the potential to repurpose drugs, testing against more than 4,000 drugs in the FDA drug library have been approved for use in humans to treat disease,” he said.

Professor Hannan said that in the case of cancer, researchers will be able to take bone marrow and tumour cells, grow them in culture, and screen every known compound currently approved for use in humans against the cell lines to see if one could be used to treat the patient.

“In one to two weeks we could identify existing drugs, repurpose them for new treatments, and rapidly set up trials,” he said.
The Target and Drug Discovery Platform has been set up at JCSMR with the generous support of the Australian Cancer Research Foundation and ACT Health.

Walking El Camino de Santiago in Mike’s memory

Fundraising to support Australian cancer research

“My name is Kate Narracott. I’m 55 years old and work full time as a Travel Agent. In April 2017, I’m walking 500,000 steps across Spain, travelling along the ‘Camino de Santiago’ also known as the ‘Way of St James’.

This journey began as a means to honour a youthful promise my older brother, Mike, and I made to each other to one day share an amazing adventure together.

Our destination was unimportant, our expectations were never defined but our determination to one day have our moment in time never wavered. Sadly my brother passed away 27 years ago from cancer and I lost a man who was not only my best friend and confidante – he was my hero and my champion.

Michael was 36 years old when he died. He loved life and lived each and every day with humour, style and vitality. We were very different people, both strong in completely opposite ways but those differences cemented our respect and love for each other. When we were together, laughter filled our world. I would give anything to hear his laugh just once more.

Watching somebody you love slowly slip away from you piece by piece every day is devastating. He and I made a decision to try not to cry on the days we shared. Instead, we laughed and told stories and jokes. We ventured out when his days were good and curled up on the days that were dark. When you share this with somebody you love – the moments that matter become very clear and you realise that the little things that may have bothered you once are no longer important.

In the last few days of his life, our world became very small and each moment we had was very intense. On the day of his death, I sat on his hospital bed with him cuddled into my lap. His young body had become a skeleton and his breathing was shallow and rattly – but I held him and talked to him until he passed away quietly in my arms.

We have all been touched by the sadness of cancer, it is around us each and every day. I have lost too many family members to this disease and am watching now as more struggle to overcome and survive cancer. I am in awe of their bravery, their daily fight and their enduring hopefulness for the future.

I wanted to support cancer research by walking El Camino de Santiago because the funds we raise today might help to save the lives of my own children if cancer was to affect them in the future. For that alone, I would walk across every country. Cancer research is vital to one day making life easier for those who struggle with cancer.

So to my brother Mike, our big adventure has finally begun. My hiking boots, bamboo socks, backpack and walking poles are ready and waiting. All that remains now is for me to get whipped back into shape, and believe me I am trying. I have been training for several months, walking around 80-90 kilometres per week. I have wonderful walking buddies who are keeping me motivated. Many kilometres are walked every day, even on days when I would rather sit back with a good book and just let the world go by.

On my trip I’ll be walking 450 kilometres or approximately 500,000 steps across Spain. The walk itself will take just over 3 weeks. The journey will have many challenges, both physically and emotionally. There will be moments of great joy and peace and I am sure moments when I will be so fatigued that I will want to give up – but I won’t. I am walking with a dear friend named Karen who also lost her brother, Anthony to cancer. Both of our brothers will have birthdays while we are on the Camino de Santiago.

This walk is far more than just my own personal journey, I would like to dedicate these small steps of mine to the loved ones that I have lost to cancer and especially to my friends and family who right now bravely fight their daily battles with this disease. You are all the true heroes – your immense courage, dignity, laughter and hopefulness inspire me.

I am a person who started with a dream to raise a small amount of money for cancer research. That dream has turned into a reality and I am well on my way to reaching my goal of $10,000. I have found the support, generosity and enthusiasm of others overwhelming and emotional. To say I am appreciative of the people who are behind me is not nearly enough.

I must thank with all my heart the members of the Rotary Club of Redcliffe Sunrise. I am moved and deeply grateful for all that they do for me. They’ve walked many kilometres with me in training, they’ve helped me sell raffle tickets, they’ve contributed financially to the cause and they’ve fed and watered me when I am too tired to do it myself. Most importantly they are my friends. They have wrapped their arms around me and given unconditional support and encouragement to the crazy idea that I would walk across a country to raise money for cancer research. I am humbled by their kindness and so very proud to call them my friends.

Well, Big Brother, it has taken 27 years of waiting, but the day is nearly here. We’re finally getting our moment and our adventure.

Please join me in making each step count, together we can increase awareness about the power of cancer research and raise much-needed funds. If you would like to donate to cancer research visit my Everyday Hero page here.”

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Aggressive prostate cancer linked to faulty BRCA2 gene

New research has revealed why men with a family history of prostate cancer, and who also carry the BRCA2 gene fault, have a more aggressive form of prostate cancer.

The study, led by Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute with Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, Canada, revealed that the molecular profile of the prostate cancers in men with the faulty BRCA2 gene is similar to the profile seen in patients with advanced cancer. This also helps explain why BRCA2 patients tend to have poorer treatment outcomes.

Previously, a larger Victorian Cancer Agency funded program reported that men who carry the BRCA2 gene fault are at a higher risk of having a more aggressive form of prostate cancer if a cell pathology known as IDCP (intraductal carcinoma of the prostate) is present. The IDCP cell pathology predicted these men are much more likely to have a poor clinical outcome.

The new study, published last week in Nature Communications, showed that early stage untreated prostate cancers were genetically similar to cancers that are usually seen in men with more advanced cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

This finding was in contrast to the cancers seen in men who don’t carry a BRCA2 gene fault and who rarely have cancer spread at diagnosis. The findings were confirmed when comparing data with a companion study led by the Toronto group, which looked at prostate cancer tissue samples from more than 320 patients with prostate cancer who don’t carry a BRCA2 gene fault.

Put together, these studies identified why the presence of the BRCA2 gene fault led to markedly different clinical outcomes, with the disease progressing rapidly in those with the faulty gene.

“This study shows how different these tumours are from ‘regular’ tumours and emphasises the importance of men knowing if they have a family history of prostate, breast or ovarian cancer in their family and may carry the BRCA2 gene fault,” said Professor Gail Risbridger, Director of Monash Partners Comprehensive Cancer Consortium and Monash BDI.

Associate Professor and Director of Genitourinary Oncology at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Dr Declan Murphy, highlighted possible therapeutic implications.

“We now know that the BRCA2 fault is seen in many more men presenting with advanced prostate cancer than previously realised. Also, as prostate cancer progresses, the BRCA2 fault begins to develop in prostate cancer secondaries, and drives the aggressive behaviour of the cancer.

Therefore these new findings detailing the genomic instability of BRCA2 prostate cancer are important as we may be able to target this with new therapies,” he said.

This news post was originally published by Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation has supported cancer research at the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Monash University by providing in total AUD $17.2 million towards cutting edge cancer research technology.

ACRF qualifies for the Registered Charity Tick

ACRF supports cancer research in AustraliaIn 1984, ACRF’s founders, Sir Peter Abeles and Lady Sonia McMahon, identified a gap in scientific funding and set about trying to fill that gap. They did this by raising funds to provide large grants for cancer research equipment, technology and infrastructure in the most efficient manner possible.

Today, Australian Cancer Research Foundation are proud to receive the registered charity tick from the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). A stamp that is reflective of the standards to which ACRF proudly holds itself to.

The charity tick initiative has been developed to give reassurance to donors that a charity is transparent and accountable by highlighting its presence on the ACNC Charity Register.

The ACNC aims to improve public understanding of the work of charities and the not-for-profit sector. As part of this work, they make available the information collected annually from the 54 000 charities operating in Australia.

As well as the Charity Register being a regulatory tool, ACNC also analyses the information and conducts research to learn more about the charitable sector and how charities contribute to the community. They publish their findings in an in-depth analysis of the financial situation of Australia’s charity sector, called the Australian Charities Report. Read the Australian Charities Report and explore the data.

ACRF has awarded $129.2 million in 65 cancer research grants to 36 research institutes, universities and hospitals across Australia. Thanks to our supporters, these grants make a real impact by providing researchers across Australia access to state of the art technology to speed up research outcomes and save lives by saving time.

If you would like to read more about ACRF and the impact it has had on cancer research over the past three decades click here.

Congratulations to Australia Day Honours winner and ACRF supporter, James Service

cancer researchThe Australian Cancer Research Foundation would like to congratulate James Service AM on his appointment as a Member of the Order of Australia.

James is a loyal supporter of ACRF through his work with the Canberra Cancerians. The Canberra Cancerians Committee is renowned as being one of the most successful fundraising groups for cancer research in Australia and enjoys a reputation of staging glamorous and much sought after events on the Canberra social calendar.

Since their formation in 1987, the Canberra Cancerians have raised $4.02 million for ACRF through balls, gala dinners and other activities such as golf events. The Australian Cancer Research Foundation is very grateful for the efforts of this incredible group of volunteer fundraisers.

James Service has been an integral part of this committee’s success. During the 15 years that he served on the committee $1.77 million was contributed to cancer research and a further $1.97 million has been raised in the past 8 years that James has been Committee President.

This magnificent effort has been due to the leadership and commitment provided by James supported by his outstanding committee. ACRF would like to extend our thanks to James for his contribution and support to our Foundation and congratulate him on this very honourable achievement.

Immunotherapy before surgery could improve cancer survival rates

Cancer research in Australia

Researchers have found that reversing the order of treatment for patients with certain cancers could dramatically improve survival rates.

Scientists at QIMR Berghofer in Brisbane conducted a study of triple negative breast cancer in mice and found that about half were cured when they received immunotherapy drugs before surgery, rather than after. When the mice received the current regimen of immunotherapy drugs after surgery, very few were cured.

Triple-negative breast cancer tends to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer and is more likely to spread (metastasise) and recur. Based on the findings, several oncologists worldwide have started clinical trials to see if giving immunotherapy before surgery for certain cancers could produce the same results in humans.

The study was led by Dr Michele Teng and PhD student Jing Liu from QIMR Berghofer’s Cancer Immunoregulation and Immunotherapy Laboratory. It has been published in the journal Cancer Discovery.

Immunotherapy is a field that is revolutionising the treatment of some cancers. It works by activating a patient’s immune system to recognise and destroy cancer cells.

There are already immunotherapy drugs approved for use in some advanced cancers, such as melanoma and kidney cancer. Researchers are investigating whether different combinations of those drugs can improve survival even more than individual drugs and whether the drugs are effective at treating early-stage cancers.

“We wanted to find out when was the best time to schedule immunotherapy,” Dr Teng said.

“Traditionally, cancer patients have had surgery to remove the primary tumour before receiving supplementary treatments like chemotherapy or radiation to destroy any cancer cells that might have spread.”

“To our surprise, when we gave mice a combination of two immunotherapy drugs (anti-PD1 and anti-CD137) before surgery, between 40 and 60 percent were cured of triple negative breast cancer. It appears that this therapy destroyed any cancer cells that had spread to other parts of the body and stopped the cancer from returning.”

“In contrast, when mice received the drugs after surgery, between zero and 10 percent of them were cured. If these results are replicated in humans, it could lead to widespread changes in oncology practices and could greatly improve survival rates for some cancers.”

The researchers found the mice that received immunotherapy before surgery had higher levels of an immune cell known as tumour-specific T cells. These cells are responsible for recognising and destroying cancer cells.

“We think that giving immunotherapy while the primary tumour is still there provokes a better immune response by generating more tumour-specific T cells that are of better quality,” Dr Teng said.

“In other words, giving these drugs while the primary tumour is present not only increases the number of soldiers fighting the battle but also turns them from regular soldiers into SAS officers.”

“We think that these tumour-specific T cells can then travel to other sites and destroy any cancer cells that may have spread or metastasised. We also found that when immunotherapy was given before surgery, the increased numbers of tumour-specific T cells lasted for a long time, preventing a recurrence of the cancer.”

“Our next step is to try to understand in more detail why giving immunotherapy before surgery led to better survival rates in mice and whether this could also apply to other cancers.”

The study was primarily funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The original news article was published on the QIMR Berghofer website. Image of Dr Teng courtesy of QIMR Berghofer.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation has supported cancer research at QIMR Berghofer by providing three grants, totalling AUD$ 6.65M, for the purchase of cutting-edge cancer research equipment and technology.

Rosie’s story: Why I support cancer research

b846d8_067ec229e34b4b7c809d5e07242a14fe“It was 2007 and I was enjoying retirement after 30 years in nursing. But I had been experiencing stomach pain and weight loss for a few months. I’d ignored my friend’s continued pleas to see a doctor. Even though I knew there was a problem, I was in denial.

I finally had a gastroscopy procedure which confirmed I had stomach cancer. The first words that came out of my mouth were ‘How long have I got?’ and I remember feeling calm. My husband Jeff and I immediately broke the news to our children, both of whom were living overseas. Without delay, they flew home to be by my side and also support their father.

Over the next few weeks, I went through many different tests. A biopsy from my stomach showed it was a “rare lymphoid tissue lymphoma” and could be treated by antibiotics and chemotherapy. Unfortunately, a few weeks later another gastroscopy revealed the cancer was unaffected by antibiotics and it had spread through my stomach and developed into a high-grade lymphoma. The next move was a CAT scan to map out my stomach. I had to be given four minuscule tattoos as reference markers for my radiation treatment and I couldn’t wait to tell my son-in-law, who has a large tattoo on his arm, that now I had tattoos too!

It was humour that often helped me get through each day. It was a frightening time but I was so hell-bent on fighting for my survival. It’s amazing how the body and mind can cope through such a nightmare.

In early March, I started four weeks of daily radiation treatments. The treatments were successful and I was in remission until late June when I found a lump on the left side of my neck. A biopsy confirmed it was an aggressive type of cancer known as ‘diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.’ Surgery could only remove part of the node as it had adhered to my jugular vein so I began chemotherapy in August to help treat it. It was a particularly daunting time. I was nauseous, lost my sense of smell and taste and developed blisters in my mouth. I also became very forgetful, especially pots cooking on the stove. The loss of body hair made me feel very self-conscious. Thank goodness for wigs!

To deal with the side effects of my cancer treatment, I started composing music and lyrics. I never thought in my wildest dream, I would compose the story of my cancer experiences through music. It became the best medicine for me, taking me to another world where I could disassociate my cancer pain and any other discomforts from my various treatments.

After two months, the chemo treatment was finally over and I was back in remission in October 2008. I continued for another month on fortnightly MabThera IV treatment to kill off any stray cancer cells that might have been floating around my body. In March 2009 I had the best 60th birthday gift given to me, which was an offer to have my stem cells collected and stored for future use. but I hope I never have to use them!

The chemotherapy did affect my immune system badly and in 2010 I was placed on monthly IV Intragam Therapy to help rebuild it. Finally, the good news came in 2011. The oncologist informed me that I was cured, but there was a caveat – cancer may come back in about ten years. My reply was, “I’m not going to worry about the future as new and better treatments will be found.”

After experiencing cancer myself and losing friends who were not so lucky, I wanted to support cancer research. I know that researchers are working on new and improved treatments that will one day make our fear of cancer a thing of the past. After looking at various Australian cancer organisations I came across ACRF and was very impressed with how it functioned. Donations go towards grants that buy state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment for the best cancer researcher projects around the country.

I have raised money for ACRF in many different ways over the years. I’ve sold my handmade chocolates, jams and musical pattern placemats and serviettes. I’ve also hosted morning teas and organised garage sales with my husband and a few friends. One of my favourite fundraising activities so far has been creating my album ‘Chrysalis’, a musical storybook of cancer experiences. Proceeds from the sale of this CD go towards ACRF. I wanted to make a touching and uplifting album written from the heart to help others who are going through similar experiences. I want to support others who need to talk about their feelings and frustrations when going through cancer. Anyone interested is welcome to visit my website and interact with me. Hopefully, they will realise they are not alone.” – ACRF supporter, Rosie Lee

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Australian approval for drug that ‘melts’ leukaemia

researchers-at-wehi-courtesy-of-wehiA new anti-cancer drug with the power to ‘melt away’ certain advanced forms of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) has been granted approval by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), following equivalent approvals in the United States and European Union.

CLL is the most common type of leukaemia in Australia, with 1300 people diagnosed each year.

Venetoclax, to be marketed as VENCLEXTA™, has just been approved for Australian patients with relapsed or refractory CLL with 17p deletion, a mutation that makes the disease relatively resistant to standard treatment options, as well as for patients with relapsed or refractory CLL for whom no other treatment options are available.

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research director Professor Doug Hilton AO welcomed news of the drug’s approval, most importantly for patients with limited treatment options.

“The fact that Australians with hard-to-treat chronic lymphocytic leukaemia can now benefit from a drug like venetoclax demonstrates how critically important medical research is to the health of our community,” Professor Hilton said.

Professor Hilton applauded the team effort by Australian researchers and their international partners that preceded the approval.

“TGA approval of venetoclax is a major milestone in a journey spanning decades of powerful and innovative research by teams of leading scientists, clinicians and entrepreneurs, including more than one hundred researchers at Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research,” Professor Hilton said.

The timeline of discovery began at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in 1988, with the identification of BCL-2, a protein enabling cancer cells to survive.

Professor Hilton said scientists worldwide had subsequently been trying to find a way to ‘hit’ BCL-2, in order to stop cancer cell survival.

“Like a lethal arrow, venetoclax flies straight to the heart of BCL-2,” Professor Hilton said.

Venetoclax was discovered and developed with scientists from US pharmaceutical companies AbbVie and Genentech, as part of an international collaboration with the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

The first clinical trials for venetoclax started in Melbourne at the Institute’s Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre partners The Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and were led by Australian haematologists.

Professor Andrew Roberts, a clinical haematologist at The Royal Melbourne Hospital and cancer researcher at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and the University of Melbourne, said venetoclax was being combined now with other approved drugs and undergoing phase 2 and phase 3 clinical trials in other blood cancers.

“The hope is that venetoclax, potentially in combination with other approved drugs, could benefit more patients including those with other hard-to-treat types of blood cancer,” Professor Roberts said.

“Ongoing research suggests that this drug will be very active against other cancers, so this milestone may just be the beginning,” he said.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) has supported cancer research at WEHI by providing three research grants, in total AUD$ 5.5M, towards cutting edge cancer research technology.

Below is a recent video of Professor Doug Hilton at ACRF’s Chariman’s Dinner. Here he talks about his experiences as a cancer researcher over the years. He discusses how some of the significant breakthroughs celebrated today, such as venetoclax, have been the result of an incredible amount of support provided by the community of ACRF supporters.

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Chris celebrates her 50th birthday while supporting cancer research

“Turning 50 was a milestone in my life. My only sadness, as that milestone approached, was that I wouldn’t get to share this special day with my parents as they had both passed away with cancer.

When the question of whether I should have a party or celebrate quietly loomed closer. I thought to myself, “In every other way I am blessed and wish for nothing else but continued health and happiness for myself and those I love, so why not party and celebrate?!” In a salute to the wonderful lives we live and as an investment in our future and those of our children, I asked for donations to cancer research instead of birthday presents.

We have all been touched by cancer in some way and we all live in fear that we or someone we love will be diagnosed with cancer. I’ve watched too many friends and family undergo invasive and debilitating treatments. The trauma associated with the cancer journey is heartbreaking. We are lucky that we have intelligent and talented scientists in Australia who devote their lives to cancer research. Every day they are working to improve methods of cancer prevention, detection and treatment. I believe we all must do what we can to support their lifesaving work.

I was very close to both my parents, mostly my mum. Mum and I did a lot of things together and she was always a great support to me, especially once I started my own family. She was a soft, kind, gentle and loving soul. Family meant everything to her and she sacrificed a lot to always be there for her children.

When my mum started getting very tired and had a lack of appetite it didn’t seem too unusual to us – after all she was 87. Then her leg began swelling a couple of months later and her doctor began investigating but still no one suspected cancer.

It wasn’t until 2.5 weeks prior to her passing that we found out she had advanced ovarian cancer and it was terminal. We never expected cancer and certainly never expected her to pass away so quickly. On 30 November 2015 Mum passed away just a few months short of her 88th birthday.

While we knew my mum had a good and long life, it still came as a huge shock. It is difficult to reconcile the passing of someone who is such a big part of your life. I miss her every day but I am trying to follow her example with my own family.

I know she would have loved my party! My birthday is on Christmas Day and she named me after Christmas – Christine Joy – so I held my party one month early with a Christmas theme.

My mum was the last of my children’s grandparents to pass away. My husband and I lost all four of our parents in three years. All four were over 80 so we were very lucky in so many ways.

My dad was the first to pass. He was diagnosed with bowel cancer when he was 87. We organised a family weekend away for my parent’s anniversary and my dad really enjoyed himself. I’m so thankful for that special time together. My dad always made the most of every moment of life. Forever the optimist, he broke the news to my brother by saying, “The bad news is that I am dying but the good news is that I am going to Heaven!” Dad was 89 years when he died.

Research really does make a difference and we all will benefit in some way. Thank you to my friends and family who donated to ACRF in lieu of gifts. My party raised $1400 for ACRF which I know will contribute to something greater and far more valuable than gifts. I believe it is a great investment in all our futures especially for those of us with children, as we all want to know that they will live longer and healthier lives and hopefully not have to suffer through terrible diseases and difficult treatments.” ACRF supporter, Chris Hizart

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Supporting cancer research in memory of Max Walker

supporting canecr research in memory of Max Walker

“On the 28th September 2016, Australia lost a legend. Max ‘Tangles’ Walker died following a long and brave battle with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer.

Max was a celebrated Australian Cricketer, a former AFL player with the Melbourne Football Club and most recently, a much-loved presenter and sports commentator in the Australian media.

Max was a close friend and client of our accounting company, Findex. By all accounts, he was a great bloke. When the community loses such a person, it touches the hearts of many and makes us realise how precious life is.

Max’s dearest wish was to help anyone affected by the terrible disease that ultimately claimed his life. When it came to supporting causes that were important to him, Max always said, ‘if you can, you must.’ So we decided to organise a group-wide fundraising campaign to support cancer research in honour of him, and of every great man and woman who have lost their lives to cancer.

Our employees really wanted to give back and Findex was willing to support that culture by matching donations. Together we raised over $17,000 in just a few days.

All employees were invited to wear casual clothes on the day in exchange for a donation. Some of our offices also held a morning tea to mark the occasion and encourage donations.

Everyone was happy to get involved as cancer research is a cause close to the hearts of many of the staff. Chances are most people know someone whose life has been impacted by cancer, and even those who didn’t know Max Walker could relate to the feeling of losing someone too soon.

Every day scientists are discovering new information that could one day lead to better methods of prevention, detection and treatment. We still have a long way to go but there is hope and all of us here at Findex believe this is a crusade worthy of joining.

The employee culture of our company has traditionally been one of generosity and we are happy to harness that community spirit as a coordinated group. In 2017, we plan to continue that focus on philanthropy with the launch of the Findex Community Fund.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this fundraiser a success, and to ACRF, please keep up this very important work. You made it easy to get involved and we look forward to hearing of your newest developments!” – Claire Quince, ACRF supporter and Findex Senior Marketing Coordinator

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Derrin runs to support cancer research in memory of her dad

Derrin runs for cancer research“A year and a half ago, on the 18 June 2015, I held my beautiful Dad’s hand as mesothelioma consumed his twinkle. His love for Mum and our family, his lifetime of friendships, adventures, kindnesses and dedication had come to end. They were dark days but I knew from running City to Surf in 2014 that I could do something to help.

I had run the City2Surf as a tribute to my uncle, who died of early-onset Alzheimer’s and I just loved the challenge, comradery and community spirit of the event. I also loved the self-esteem it gave me from knowing I had run that far and raised lots of money. So when my father, Norman, died last year I knew it was the perfect, positive way for me to bring together so many people from all aspects of his life to keep him in our thoughts and reflect on what a great bloke he was.

My father was a very conscientious, hard-working, proud man with a mischievous sense of humour. He left school early but worked hard later in life to improve his qualifications and provide a role model for my brother and I. And I guess it worked because we both graduated with degrees within a year of each other.

He was very sociable and had great friends from a wide sphere of activities and experiences. Many were very close mates he’d known for years – people he’d travelled with, played squash with, or worked with since he was in his twenties.

He and my mum made a great team. They did everything together – socialising, playing golf and travelling the world – right up until about six months before he died. Although he was a retired teacher, my dad still worked up until a few weeks before he died, supervising university exams. He was a bit of a perfectionist so I thought he might have been a tricky boss but I was wrong. His colleagues came along to the funeral and couldn’t wait to share with us what a caring and fair man he was.

Dad and I were really close when I was little. He’d take me and my brother to see the Saints play and afterwards he’d take us into the Club after to see the players. He loved playing in the surf with us and he would spend hours pushing us around on a surf mat. He taught us about the rips and wave direction and how to body surf and catch waves. Some of my favourite memories are of us camping down at Wilson’s Prom and going for hikes and hearing my Dad tell jokes.

After I left university I moved to the UK to work in London, so for a long time my Dad and I had a phone and Skype relationship. I lived there for many years, during which time I met my British partner Tracy, we have now been together over 20 years.

When we had our kids – two boys, now aged 6 and 9, my Mum and Dad started visiting every year. Dad just wanted to do so much to help us out around the house. We had a lot of fun together as a family in those years.

We decided to move our family back to Australia in December 2012 and of course one of the reasons was to be closer to my Mum and Dad. It was so exciting to be just an hour’s flight away, instead of 24 hours.

But less than three months later, in the February, Dad phoned me to tell me he had mesothelioma (asbestosis) and it was terminal.

It came as such a shock and I think for a few weeks my Mum, Dad, brother and I whirled about separately in worlds of consuming bleakness. Facing up to death was terrible. We had no idea how long we had together and it was all made worse by a horrible, painful procedure Dad underwent straight after his diagnosis. We thought it was the end but gradually things got better and when he was able to take on chemotherapy, Dad coped with it with strength, dignity and humour.

The next 18 months or so were amazing. I had such respect for my Dad as he faced his illnesses positively and with so much hope. Being my organised, considerate Dad, he organised his own funeral, even down to the food and venue for the wake. And my Mum still finds little notes explaining how tools work or which appliances batteries are for.

When my Dad was in the last stage of his illness we heard on the news that there was a breakthrough with asbestosis. I can remember feeling so sad we hadn’t had the chance to fix this for Dad and give him back the life that was taken from him, all because he’d worked so hard as a carpenter when he was a young man. But I remember feeling real joy that other families would maybe not have to go through what we were going through.

Cancer research also made my dad’s chemo bearable. We had two years of good times because his doctors were able to get the drugs right and help him manage the side-effects. For my little boys, those two years are the times and memories they shared with their Pop. They are the years I re-connected with Dad after years of distance. In that time both my parents came to term with Dad’s illness in different ways but I think they managed it well and made sure they said the things that needed to be said. I don’t think I had realised how much my mum and Dad loved each other until I watched them go through that.

I know that I am stronger now and more appreciate of health and I make sure to live in the moment.

It’s been a pleasure raising money for the ACRF in my dad’s name. I chose to support cancer research through ACRF because I think this organisation does the most to eliminate cancer, pure and simple. ACRF are a small, efficient machine drilling debilitating holes into a life-shattering scourge. Their funds help passionate, dedicated researchers make discoveries that could save you or a loved one. My appreciation for every person who got behind me for my City to Surf run is deep, heartfelt and inspiring. Thank you.” ACRF supporter, Derrin Stent

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Australian breast cancer researchers win Ramaciotti Medal

Professor Geoff Lindeman and Professor Jane Visvader

Breast cancer researchers Professor Geoff Lindeman and Professor Jane Visvader, who jointly lead the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute’s Stem Cells and Cancer Division at the ACRF Breakthrough Technologies Laboratory, have been awarded the 2016 Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence in Biomedical Research.

Professor Lindeman and Professor Visvader have been selected for their contribution to cancer research and a series of landmark findings that have provided a new framework for understanding how breast cancers arise and how they could be prevented and treated.

Over the past decade, the researchers and their teams have identified the cells responsible for giving rise to normal breast tissue, making key discoveries in the regulation of normal breast growth and how errors within this process can lead to breast cancer.

Most recently, they identified the culprit cells that give rise to breast cancer in women who carry a faulty BRCA1 gene, and found that an existing medication for osteoporosis could provide a non-surgical option for breast cancer prevention in these women.

Mr Gary Jeffs, State Manager at Perpetual and Trustee of the Clive and Vera Ramaciotti Foundations, made the official award announcement during a ceremony at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

Professor Visvader said she was honoured to receive the prestigious award.

“This medal is a testament to more than 15 years of continuous work – not just by Geoff and myself, but also our very talented teams of students, postdoctoral students, research assistants and our collaborators, who have been instrumental to the discoveries,” Professor Visvader said.

Professor Lindeman said the support of the Ramaciotti Foundations would advance efforts to translate discoveries from the laboratory into a clinical setting.

“With past Ramaciotti winners having been responsible for important contributions to the health of our communities, we feel deeply humbled and a sense of responsibility. Jane and I will continue to work with our amazing teams to progress fundamental discoveries from the bench to the bedside,” Professor Lindeman said.

Past Ramaciotti Medal winners from the include Institute director Professor Doug Hilton.

Over the years, Australian Cancer Research Foundation has supported WEHI by providing three grants totalling AUD $5.5million. These grants have been put towards cutting edge cancer research equipment and technology.

The original news article was published on the WEHI website. Image of Professor Lindeman and Professor Visvader courtesy of the WEHI.

‘Cellular CCTV’ helps solve longstanding leukaemia mystery

Cancer researchers in Australia and the UK have answered the longstanding question of how leukaemia survives chemotherapy.Cancer researchers in Australia and the United Kingdom have answered the longstanding question of how leukaemia survives chemotherapy. These findings will help develop more effective therapies for leukaemia in the future.

Leukaemia is a cancer of the blood with significantly high mortality rates. In Australia, 50% of adult leukaemia patients relapse after their initial chemotherapy treatment. Leukaemia is often resistant to subsequent treatments, allowing the cancer to spread and become fatal.

The recently published study has overturned popular theory that acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) cells resist cancer treatment by hibernating in bone marrow.

Lead researchers, Dr Edwin Hawkins at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne and Dr Cristina Lo Celso at London’s Imperial College, found that while chemotherapy was able to eliminate the majority of cancerous cells, the remaining treatment-resistant cells were doing the exact opposite of ‘hiding’ in order to survive.

“We realised that instead of playing ‘hide-and-seek’ with the chemotherapy, as was initially thought, the treatment-resistant ALL cells were engaging in a ‘catch-me-if–you-can’ game of ‘tag’. Right before our eyes, these cells were sprinting off in all directions: dividing, jumping in and out of blood vessels and using such ‘highways’ in the body to migrate and recolonise,” said Dr Hawkins.

To capture this remarkable action, the researchers developed a revolutionary high-resolution technique using ‘optical windows’ which, for the first time ever, enabled the cellular equivalent of ‘CCTV-like’ observation.

Dr Hawkins said previous techniques only involved analysis of static ‘snap-shots’, rather than any kind of video-based medium.

“Our new technique allows us to watch action unfolding for days, with the ability to zoom in and out on the same patch of tissue: from 3.5 x 2.5 mm, right down to a single micron – it’s incredible,” he said.

Dr Lo Celso said this dynamic new perspective would mean a shift in focus for researchers working to advance treatments for ALL.

“We now know that it is ineffective to design treatments to target the surrounding stromal cells or ‘hiding places’, because the cancer cells are not hiding,” Dr Lo Celso said.

“To beat leukaemia, we must instead develop a treatment that targets the ability of the cells themselves to ‘run’ around the body. Researchers must find a way to stop these cells in their tracks and win the game of tag,” she said.

Study co-author Dr Delfim Duarte, from Imperial College, added there was much to learn by being able to observe cancer in this new way.

“We also discovered that pain experienced by many leukaemia patients is caused by cells stripping and destroying tissue lining the bone, rather than from pressure caused by cells over-crowding in the bone – as was initially thought. We have much to gain from this dynamic information source,” Dr Duarte concluded.

The research was funded by Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), charities Bloodwise and Cancer Research UK, the European Research Council, the Human Frontier Science Program, and the European Hematology Association.

The study was recently published in the journal Nature.

The original post and video were published on the WEHI website. The image of Dr Hawkins was provided courtesy of WEHI.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation has supported cancer research at WEHI by providing three grants, totalling AUD $5.5million, towards cutting edge equipment and technology.

Cancer treatment to benefit from nanotechnology study

Cancer research in AustraliaWhen it comes to delivering drugs, nanoparticles shaped like rods and worms are the best. For the first time, new research has identified how shape affects nanoparticles’ ability to move through intracellular barriers.

Chemists, engineers and medical researchers from University of NSW (UNSW), and the ARC Centres of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Imaging and in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology at Monash University set to find out answers to two long-standing questions: how does nanoparticle shape affect the voyage through the cell and how could this information be used to design better treatment delivery?

The research team applied a new microscopy method, which allowed them to track the movement of differently shaped nanoparticles through a single cultured cancer cell. The new method produces a very high temporal and spatial resolution, allowing researchers to pinpoint where drugs were being released, and how they spread throughout the cell.

They found that the cancer drug, doxorubicin, was most effective when it could breach the strong yet porous cellular barrier protecting the nucleus – the cell’s control centre. Importantly, they discovered that a nanoparticle’s shape influenced how well the drug breached the barrier.

“We were able to show for the first time that nanoparticles shaped like rods and worms were more effective than spherical nanoparticles at traversing intracellular barriers and this enabled them to get all the way into the nucleus of the cell,” said lead author, Dr Elizabeth Hinde at UNSW.

Rod, worm or a sphere?

Polymeric nanoparticles can carry drugs to help attack and kill cancer cells, selectively deliver drugs just to where they are needed, and will play a vital role in the future of medicine.
UNSW engineers fabricated four types of nanoparticle: one shaped like a rod, one like a worm, and two that were spherical in shape. These were labelled with fluorescent tags and incubated in cancer cells. By combining a novel fluorescence microscopy approach with some statistical analysis, the team was able to create a clear picture of how each particle passed through the cell.

While the spherical particles got blocked by the nuclear envelope, the rod and worm-shaped particles were able to pass through. This provides a pathway for the development of particles that can selectively target and kill cancer cells, without hurting healthy ones.

“Cancer cells have different internal architecture than healthy cells. If we can fine-tune the dimensions of these rod-shaped nanoparticles, so they only pass through the cellular barriers in cancer cells and not healthy ones, we can reduce some of the side effects of chemotherapies,” explained Dr Hinde, an Associate Investigator at the Imaging Centre of Excellence.

The study was recently published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

The original news post was published on the ARC Centre of Excellence in Advanced Molecular Imaging website.

Neil’s guitar: keep the music playing for cancer research

“In 2015 my good friend Neil Kilgour passed away from cancer. Neil was a brilliant and generous person who encouraged, inspired and invested in people who he felt were talented.

Although he didn’t play an instrument himself, he was the centre point of a large group of musical friends. He loved music and had a vast collection of ’78s, principally folk music, jazz, and those genres, but he liked everything.

Every Tuesday night, up to 30 or 40 people would visit Neil and Leslie’s house to share a love of guitars. In one room there were guys playing classical guitar and in another room, there would be guys playing bluegrass… it took over the whole house. There were fiddles, banjos, mandolins and even concertinas, button accordions.

People would teach each other technical skills and Neil would also repair instruments. In the final stages of Neil’s illness, we would visit him and play music for him. These gatherings continued until his death. In 2014, prior to his diagnosis, I began building a guitar to present to Neil in gratitude for everything he had done for me.

Sadly the guitar was to be completed after Neil’s passing, but Neil and I devised a plan to keep the music playing and to raise funds for cancer research.

It was his wish that its use could generate funds for the ACRF. We hatched a plot that the guitar should be used by musicians for recording purpose – and that it should not sit in a box somewhere.

We fulfilled his wish by recording an album called ‘Neil’s Guitar’ featuring eight well-known Newcastle musicians – including Bruce Mathiske, Ian Milroy, Peter Smith, Christopher Cady, Steve Cowley, Kent Daniel and Peter Allsop.

On the album, eight different people are playing ‘Neil’s Guitar’ and the interesting thing is how different it sounds in the hands of each person, you would think they were different guitars.

The CD was launched with a special concert at Adamstown Arts in November. All proceeds from the concert and CD sales went to the Australian Cancer Research Foundation.

Special thanks to Christopher Cady for organising the recordings and Peter Allsop for planning the launch and for both of their ongoing commitment to this. The effort everyone has put in has been overwhelming and it’s turned a crazy idea into a real thing which is really inspiring.” – Jeff Mallia

 

Venetoclax could target hard to treat childhood cancers

Australian cancer researcher Professor Richard LockA newly approved adult leukaemia therapy called venetoclax could successfully target high-risk leukaemia subtypes in infants or children reveals an Australian study published last month.

The study’s lead authors are Professor Richard Lock, Head of Leukaemia Biology at Children’s Cancer Institute (CCI) and Professor David Huang at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI).

Earlier this year, venetoclax, which was developed at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI), showed remarkable results in clinical trials for adults with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). Most patients with an advanced form of CLL achieved either a partial or complete response.

Venetoclax targets the cell-survival protein BCL-2. In this collaborative study, researchers at WEHI built on their many years’ of research into drugs like venetoclax and their mechanism of action. Testing on children’s cancers was done at CCI in Sydney.

While leukaemia is the most common childhood cancer and has survival rates of around 90%, some leukaemia subtypes have much lower survival rates. Although treatment with venetoclax alone was not as effective in children’s cancers as in adult CCL, venetoclax was effective against pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in combination with other treatments.

Venetoclax alone was shown to be effective in mixed lineage leukemia-rearranged ALL (MLLr-ALL), which is a sub-group with a particularly poor prognosis. With further testing, the drug could be used for targeted treatment for children and infants with these hardest-to-treat leukaemia sub-types as part of a personalised medicine approach. Data from the published study will be used to support a future clinical trial.

Professor Richard Lock, Head of Leukaemia Biology at Children’s Cancer Institute, said that although it is disappointing that venetoclax is not looking as broadly active for the most common paediatric leukaemia, ALL, the research identified paediatric ALL sub-types that could be more susceptible to the drug than others.

Professor Lock said venetoclax is likely to be most effective when used in combinations with other drugs and that further research is needed to determine which combinations work best.

This news post was originally published on the CCI website. Image of Professor Lock courtesy of CCI.

Ambre Hammond’s dedication to ending all cancers

Ambre Hammond supports cancer researchKnown as “The People’s Pianist” and one of Australia’s most passionate and hard-working musicians, Ambre Hammond has performed both solo and with orchestras throughout Switzerland, England, Italy, Spain, Poland, North and South America, New Zealand and China.

And we are so grateful that Ambre so graciously gives her time to perform at special ACRF events too. She has also donated funds to cancer research from the sale of her CD’s.

Ambre’s fifth album Akasha will be released in two weeks. She says the new album consists of 12 compositions, the style of which stems from her background in classical, but is also influenced by her great love of jazz. This album is a journey of beauty that is intended to uplift and inspire.

We spoke to Ambre about what inspired her to support cancer research.

“I’m a proud Aussie, a concert pianist, composer, full-time single mother, producer and public speaker.

My composition career began in 2011 when after the loss of a friend to cancer, which happened very suddenly. The only way I could deal with the grief was to write music. I felt some sense of peace in honouring them with a piece of beautiful music that would ensure her memory remained.

Ambre Hammond supports cancer researchIt is important to support cancer research because all of us are susceptible to being struck unexpectedly with cancer. It should be everyone’s duty and interest to help find better treatments and ultimately permanent eradication of all cancers.

I support ACRF because their work is truly extraordinary. They are an Australian charity that seeks to support researchers working to end all cancers. The $120 million+ in grants already made to research facilities has made a significant difference and will continue to do so.

I’d encourage everyone to support cancer research. You feel such a sense of joy in knowing your contribution can be so significant. Even if it means buying one less coffee a week!

I will continue to support ACRF through my music for as long as I can, and I’m excited to hear of new scientific breakthroughs and development.”

Thank you Ambre, we are so grateful for your support. If you would like to find out more information about Ambre’s new album, click here.

Revolutionary advances in microscopy provide an opportunity to break a roadblock in cancer research

Dr-Rashmi-Priya-CREDIT-UQ's-Institute-for-Molecular-Bioscience - Copy for webA $2.3M grant from Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) is being awarded to The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) today to establish the new ACRF Cancer Ultrastructure and Function Facility (CUFF).

The nation-leading facility will provide cutting-edge imaging capabilities for tracking and visualising cancer. Researchers will be able to see cancer cells grow, spread and respond to drugs in real time. This will help them learn how cancer cells behave and change, and ultimately, develop new treatments to control cancer.

“The need for this facility came from a realisation that we are at a crucial juncture in global cancer research. Despite outstanding developments in understanding the genetic changes in cancer, we still do not understand how these changes cause cancers to grow and spread,” says Professor Brandon Wainwright, Director, IMB.

The researchers at IMB are hopeful that the revolutionary new advances in microscopy will provide the opportunity to break this roadblock.

“Donations received by ACRF help to provide researchers with the most powerful tools available. The three new microscopes at IMB will allow researchers to observe the structure and function of living cancer cells in real time with unprecedented resolution, giving them the opportunity to optimally target and fine-tune cancer treatments. It is our hope that they will assist IMB in making significant contributions to the global understanding of how cancers grow and develop to improve treatments and patient outcomes,” says Professor Ian Brown, CEO of the Australian Cancer Research Foundation.

The new ACRF Cancer Ultrastructure and Function Facility represents an apex of multidisciplinary efforts. Biologists, physicians and chemists will work together to build a deeper understanding of cancer biology and pioneer new therapeutic approaches to beat the disease.

ACRF has supported cancer research at The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience since 1994. Over the past 22 years, ACRF has awarded three grants totalling $4.8M to the institute for research into all types of cancer.

“ACRF is proud to continue to support the cutting-edge research being carried out at IMB. It is our mission to do everything we can to provide Australia’s best researchers with the tools they need to end cancer,” concludes Professor Brown.

Support of cancer research in Australia turns ideas into information

The new ACRF Child Cancer Personalised Medicine Centre’s specialised robots can now rapidly test hundreds of treatments for kids with high-risk cancers to guide their care..

Each year, ACRF challenges the Australian cancer research community to propose projects that are bold and have the potential to make a significant impact on cancer prevention, detection and treatment.

Eleven projects were submitted from across the country and evaluated by ACRF’s esteemed Medical Research Advisory Committee who were impressed by the quality and vision of the applications. From these, four were chosen to receive grants.

“Thanks to the generosity of our many supporters from around Australia each year we are able to award high-impact grants, allowing Australia’s best scientists to embark on ground-breaking research projects. These initiatives in cancer research cover all types of cancer and speed up discoveries, ultimately working to save lives by saving time,” said Professor Ian Brown, CEO of Australian Cancer Research Foundation.

The recipients of the annual ACRF grants in 2016 are:

  • ACRF Tumour Heterogeneity Program – $2 million to learn more about the mutation, internal variation, location and the impact of time on growth and treatment of tumours. Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC), VIC
  • ACRF Tumour Metabolism Laboratory – $2.5 million to determine the differences in nutrient metabolism by cancerous and normal cells to improve cancer treatments. Centenary Institute, NSW
  • ACRF Cancer Ultrastructure and Function Facility – $2.3 million to provide microscopes that can see cancer cell behaviour and their response to drugs in order to stop the spread of cancer. Institute for Molecular Biosciences University of Queensland, QLD

Since its inception, 32 years ago, ACRF has awarded $129.1 million in grants to Australian cancer research institutes across the country to pay for infrastructure and equipment.

Funding from ACRF has helped get some of the most successful cancer research projects get off the ground, including the early support of the research that led to the cervical cancer vaccine.

ACRF is dedicated to funding research in Australia that has the power to make significant breakthroughs in cancer diagnosis and treatment and will continue to fund cutting-edge treatment until cancer no longer poses a threat to the health of Australians.

Technology boost to help address one of the biggest challenges facing cancer research today

Marija-Koljic-CREDIT-UQ's-Institute-for-Molecular-Bioscience - Copy small for webA $2M grant from Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) has been awarded to a Peter Mac-led application from members of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) to establish The ACRF Tumour Heterogeneity Program.

This investment will see world-leading researchers from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) and the University of Melbourne join forces to address one of the biggest c