fbpx

Graeme Phillips Memorial Ride

Every year, Jess Phillips, her family and the community hold a very special horse ride to remember Jess’s much-loved father, Graeme and to raise vital funds for cancer research. Graeme passed away on the 27th May, 2011 at just 49, from kidney cancer. 

The Graeme Phillips Memorial Ride is held on the family-run horse, sheep and cattle property called Yarrabin, in the picturesque O’Connell Valley NSW. The ride brings together not only the local community but people from all over NSW that knew and loved Graeme. The ride is held to honour him and the many loved ones who have been lost to this devastating disease and to support those going through treatment. 

“When Dad passed away, it was left to Mum to raise the four of us kids. I’m the eldest and then the boys are Harry, Jack and Will,” Jess explained. “Not a day goes past that he isn’t in our hearts.” 

This year, the community chose to wear colours to represent a cancer that particularly touched their hearts, either through a friend, family member or their own experience. 

The colours that can be seen in the team photo represent: 

  • Dark Blue for prostate cancer 
  • Light Blue for blood cancer 
  • Purple for brain cancer 
  • Teal for ovarian cancer 
  • Pink for breast cancer 
  • Red for kidney cancer

Cancer does not discriminate and touches so many of us and ongoing research is needed. 

The Graeme Phillips Memorial Ride in 2021 raised over $7,000 and will fund innovative research that will bring us closer to a world without cancer.  

A heartfelt thank you to all involved for your ongoing support of vital cancer research.

To learn the many ways you can support ACRF, go to acrf.com.au/get-involved.

New Drug Combination Found to be Effective Against High-Risk Leukaemia

Australian scientists have found what could prove to be a new and effective way to treat a particularly aggressive blood cancer in children.

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, or ALL, is the most common cancer diagnosed in children. Despite dramatic improvements in the survival of children with ALL over past several decades, children who develop ‘high risk’ ALL – subtypes that grow aggressively and are often resistant to standard treatments – often relapse, and many of these children die from their disease.

One common type of high-risk ALL for which new therapies are urgently needed is ‘Philadelphia chromosome-like ALL’ (Ph–like ALL), named for its similarity to another type, Ph–positive ALL. Shared genetic characteristics of these two types of high-risk ALL have led scientists to hypothesise that they may respond to similar treatments; specifically, a newer class of drugs known as kinase inhibitors.

However, experiments have shown that cases of Ph–like ALL that contain a genetic mutation known as CRLF2r – about half of all cases of this subtype – respond poorly to kinase inhibitors when used as a single agent. Scientists have since been investigating whether kinase inhibitors are more effective when used in combination with other agents.

In new research published this week in the international journal Leukemia, scientists at Children’s Cancer Institute tested more than 5000 drugs in combination with the kinase inhibitor, ruxolitinib, finding that ruxolitinib worked synergistically with several types of commonly used anticancer drugs, the most effective being glucocorticoids, topoisomerase I and II inhibitors, microtubule targeting agents, and antimetabolites.

“New therapies are urgently needed for high-risk ALL,” said lead researcher Professor Richard Lock, Head of the Blood Cancers Theme at Children’s Cancer Institute. “We are very encouraged by our results, which suggest we could be on the way to developing a more effective way to treat this cancer in some children.”

Based on their in vitro findings, the researchers then carried out in vivo testing in living models of disease known as ‘patient-derived xenograft models’ (PDXs) or ‘avatars’: mice specially bred to grow leukaemia cells taken from individual patients with CRLF2r Ph-like ALL. Results showed that the addition of ruxolitinib to a common treatment regimen called VXL (consisting of vincristine, dexamethasone, and L-asparaginase) enhanced treatment efficacy in two out of three avatars, achieving long-term suppression of leukaemia growth in one of these.

“The enhanced effect of treatment when ruxolitinib was added, and the variety of drug classes found to synergize with ruxolitinib in our laboratory, suggest promising potential for kinase inhibitors in the treatment of Ph-like ALL,” said Professor Lock. “We hope this leads to improved treatment options for children with this leukaemia in the near future.”

About Children’s Cancer Institute

Originally founded by two fathers of children with cancer in 1976, Children’s Cancer Institute is the only independent medical research institute in Australia wholly dedicated to research into the causes, prevention and cure of childhood cancer. More than 40 years on, our vision remains unchanged – to save the lives of all children with cancer and to eliminate their suffering. The Institute has grown to now employ nearly 300 researchers, operational staff and students, and has established a national and international reputation for scientific excellence. Our focus is on translational research, and we have an integrated team of laboratory researchers and clinician scientists who work together in partnership to discover new treatments which can be progressed from the lab bench to the beds of children on wards in our hospitals as quickly as possible. These new treatments are specifically targeting childhood cancers, so we can develop safer and more effective drugs and drug combinations that will minimize side-effects and ultimately give children with cancer the best chance of a cure with the highest possible quality of life.

This story originally appeared on the Children’s Cancer Institute website.

ACRF have awarded four grants to the Children’s Cancer Institute for a total of $8.6M. If you would like to financially support cancer research, please go to acrf.com.au/donate.

How to Help Cancer Research

With over 200 known types of cancer, reaching a world without cancer is not a small task but at Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF), we believe it is possible.

That is why we continuously fund the technology, equipment and infrastructure needed to develop better prevention, earlier detection and more effective treatment across all cancer types.

The good news is, you don’t have to be a scientist to advance cancer research, there are many ways you can help. Read on to learn how you can help cancer research.

What is cancer research?

There are four types and four areas of cancer research.

Types of cancer research include:

  • Basic research  – research into the biological mechanisms related to cancer, as well as the variations impacted by both ethnical or racial diversity and environmental exposures.
  • Clinical research – determines the safety and efficacy of medications, devices and diagnostics for use in humans.
  • Population and prevention research – explores the key causes of cancer, cancer trends and factors that impact the numbers and outcomes of cancer diagnosis and care.
  • Translational research  – takes results from both basic and clinical research and moves them into everyday clinician care for patients.

Areas of cancer research include:

  • Prevention – actions taken to reduce and lower the risks associated with getting cancer. Includes research into environmental, lifestyle, medicines and substances, and vaccines that can have both a positive and negative impact on your likelihood of developing cancer.
  • Detection – improving the modes and methods for discovery of different cancer types. This is focused on the detection of cancer cells at the earliest possible point, which is when the disease is easiest to treat.
  • Treatment  – developing new and improving existing cancer treatment methods (across all types of therapies), with a focus on higher efficacy and reduction of side-effects or negative impacts.
  • Survivorship  – cancer survivorship looks at the overall health and wellbeing of people living with and beyond cancer. Survivorship research covers factors from the moment of diagnosis through treatment and life beyond treatment. This could include management of chronic illness, end-of-life care, and follow-up care.

Research with the aim of developing new and improved cancer therapies would start with researchers exploring why a body’s natural system is not able to prevent the growth of cancerous cells. Our bodies all have an inbuilt defence mechanism that repairs damage to our cell DNA or forces the cell to die, if the damage is too great. Researchers work to discover what function within an individual cell’s DNA is under or overachieving to allow cancer cells to form, grow and multiply.

Once the why is understood, researchers look for ways to rectify these failures of the body’s defence system. This is not an easy task as there are many variables. While healthy cells replicate themselves exactly, each division of a cancer cell brings about new changes. This means that a treatment may not work on all cells within the same cancer.

However, cancer researchers are committed, they are creative, they are patient and they are resilient, and breakthroughs are made. These breakthroughs often lead to potential treatments.

Once a potential treatment has been developed a clinical trial is performed with the help of people with cancer, who volunteer to trial the new treatment.

If the clinical trial results prove that the new treatment is safe and effective, it may become part of the standard treatment regime for people with cancer.

6 ways to help cancer research

  1. Donate to cancer research: If a tax deductible, simple giving option is the best option for you to help cancer research, you can donate here.
  2. Participate in a sports event: Local marathons and community fun runs are not only a great way to get fit, but they provide supporters with a challenge through which they can raise funds for breakthrough cancer research. This year, with many running events cancelled due to COVID-19, we are asking that as cancer researchers continue working to improve the lives of Australians impacted by cancer, that you continue to run in support. If your favourite event has been cancelled, we would love for you to RUN REGARDLESS any time from 1 July to 31 October 2021.
  3. Shave or colour for cancer research: Do something brave. Stand in solidarity with those diagnosed with this devastating disease and shave, cut or colour for research into all types of cancer.
  4. Host a Cuppa for Cancer event: If you’re looking for a great way to combine a gathering of friends or colleagues with cancer awareness and fundraising, then hosting a Cuppa for Cancer could be just what you’re after.
  5. Create your own event: Bring your creative event ideas to life and help ACRF Outsmart Cancer – all cancers – for all Australians. The choice is yours whether you’re organising a backyard BBQ or a special event, hosting a DIY fundraiser is the perfect way to raise vital funds for improved prevention, earlier detection and more effective treatments for all types of cancer.
  6. Check out our A-Z list of fundraising ideas: If you are ready to get involved in a fundraising event, but you’re not exactly sure how you’d like to go about doing so, check out our A-Z list of charity fundraising ideas that will inspire you to put the ‘fun’ in ‘charity fundraising’.

How can I donate to cancer research?

There are many ways that you can donate to charity to help put an end to cancer. Many of our supporters choose to host events, or take on challenging feats – but for others, a simple giving option works best.

To learn more about the ways you can get involved with ACRF go to acrf.com.au/get-involved.

ACRF’s contributions to cancer research

Since 1984, thanks to our generous supporters, we’ve awarded 78 grants totalling over $165 million to 42 research institutions who have developed some of the most incredible and ground-breaking advancements in cancer research and treatment including:

  • Cervical Cancer Vaccine: ACRF supporters enabled the seed funding for Professor Ian Frazer’s development of a cervical cancer vaccine. Thanks to a national immunisation program, Australia is set to be the first country to effectively eliminate the disease.
  • The Pill That Melts Cancer: ACRF supporters enabled landmark research resulting in the discovery of the potent anti-cancer drug, Venetoclax.
  • Personalised Cancer Treatment: ACRF supporters enabled an ambitious project that aims to provide each cancer patient a personalized treatment plan within 36 hours of diagnosis.
  • Zero Childhood Cancer: Thanks to ACRF supporters, we became one of the founding partners of an initiative to tackle the most difficult cases of infant, childhood and adolescent cancer in Australia. Clinical trials are currently underway nationally and results are looking positive.

Donate to ACRF and help fund ground-breaking cancer research

At ACRF, our mission is to reach a world without cancer. All donations go towards helping cancer researchers improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all types of cancer. 

If you would like to make a donation, the giving options are listed below:

  • Become a regular giver: Regular giving is one of the most powerful ways you can support cancer research. Monthly donations help ACRF plan for the future and make more significant long-term impacts for people diagnosed with cancer.
  • Make a general donation: Together we unite with a shared vision of a future where the next generation will no longer experience the pain and heartache of cancer.
  • Donate in memory: Donating in memory of a loved one is a valuable way to celebrate their life while contributing to cancer research. We can support you to arrange charity donations at the funeral, or to make private memorial donations.
  • Donate in celebration: Donate to charity in celebration of a birthday, wedding or other occasion. By giving a gift to cancer research in lieu of traditional presents, you will be adding something special to an already momentous occasion.

Because of the generosity of people like you, we’ve helped the discovery and creation of large machines and small vaccines. Discoveries that help doctors diagnose cancer quickly and personalise treatments making them more effective.

At ACRF, we believe that together we can reach a world without cancer.

Charitable donations and tax deductions: How does giving money to charity reduce tax?

Every donation to Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) contributes to life-saving cancer research and donations of $2 and over are tax-deductible.

With the end of the financial year approaching, we thought we’d take the opportunity to explain how your gift to charities such as ACRF will reduce the amount of tax you need to pay. 

What is a tax deductible donation? 

A tax deductible gift or donation will reduce your taxable income and therefore the amount of tax you need to pay. 

A donation you make to charity is only tax deductible if the organisation is an ATO endorsed deductible gift recipient (DGR). ACRF is a DGR and also has the registered charity tick from the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC). This means that ACRF complies with the transparency and accountability standards of the ACNC Charity Register.

To claim a tax deduction for a gift or donation, it must also meet the below conditions:

  • It must be made to a DGR organisation.
  • It must truly be a gift or donation – that is, you are voluntarily transferring money or property without receiving, or expecting to receive, any material benefit or advantage in return. A material benefit is an item that has a monetary value such as a raffle ticket, fundraising chocolates or fundraising dinner ticket.
  • The gift or donation must be of money or property. This can include financial assets such as shares.
  • The gift or donation must comply with any relevant gift conditions. For some DGRs, the income tax law adds extra conditions affecting types of deductible gifts they can receive.

For full information on charity donation tax deductions, please visit the ATO website – Gifts and Donations or speak with your financial adviser or accountant.

How a charitable donation can reduce your tax 

When you file your tax return, it includes the total of how much you earned in a given year from everything that earned you money — everything you earned from work, selling investments and more.

This is your gross income. From this amount, you are able to deduct some things, including charitable donations, to organisations such as ours.

A reduced taxable income means that the tax you need to pay will also be reduced. This will result in a higher refund on tax paid throughout the year or a reduced ATO debt.

NB: To claim a tax deduction, you must have a record of your donation, such as a receipt.

Why should you give to charity in order to reduce your tax? 

In addition to reducing your taxable income, your donation will help a charity fulfil its purpose. At ACRF, our purpose is to equip cancer researchers with the tools they need to improve the prevention, detection and treatment of all cancer types. 

Giving to charity makes you feel good, every little bit counts, so you know your donation will make a difference. 

Giving to charity can inspire those around you to also give, meaning more donations and an even bigger impact. It could even bring about a family-wide effort to back a cause that has special significance to you as a group.

How tax deductible donations help fund ground-breaking cancer research

Every tax-deductible donation helps ACRF fund the technology, equipment and infrastructure Australian researchers need to continuously explore new and improved ways to prevent, detect and treat all types of cancer.

Since 1984, donations to ACRF have enabled us to award over $165 million to cancer research initiatives. Some of the most ground-breaking advancements in cancer research and treatment have been made as a result of this funding – helping each individual diagnosed with this complex and disruptive disease. 

If you make a tax deductible donation to ACRF today you will:

  • Help researchers learn how to interrupt the nutrition of cancer cells, leaving healthy cells unharmed. 
  • Help develop treatments for tumours containing more than one cancer mutation.
  • Help fund equipment for a national program to improve outcomes for blood cancer patients.
  • Help determine the molecular structure of proteins in seconds for new cancer drug development.

Boost your tax return this year and make a tax-deductible donation to ACRF 

All donations of $2 or more to ACRF, at any time of the year, are tax deductible but there has never been a better time to give than now.

Our tax time appeal runs to 30 June, with 100% of your donation going towards vital cancer research.

Help us reach a world without cancer, donate here

Are Charity Donations Tax Deductible?

Donating to charity is a great way to contribute to a cause you feel passionate about whilst boosting your tax return.

Charity donations are tax deductible, however you should be aware of what constitutes a tax deductible donation so you can claim it correctly on your tax return. 

What is a tax-deductible donation?

A tax deductible gift or donation will reduce your taxable income, resulting in a higher refund on tax paid throughout the year or a reduced ATO debt when you complete your tax return.

Every donation you make to charity is only tax deductible if the organisation is an ATO endorsed deductible gift recipient (DGR). Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) is a DGR organisation and also has the registered charity tick from the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). This means that ACRF complies with the transparency and accountability standards of the ACNC Charity Register.

To claim a tax deduction for a gift or donation, it must also meet the below conditions:

  • It must be made to a DGR organisation.
  • It must truly be a gift or donation – that is, you are voluntarily transferring money or property without receiving, or expecting to receive, any material benefit or advantage in return. A material benefit is an item that has a monetary value such as a raffle ticket, fundraising chocolate or fundraising dinner ticket.
  • The gift or donation must be of money or property. This can include financial assets such as shares.
  • The gift or donation must comply with any relevant gift conditions. For some DGRs, the income tax law adds extra conditions affecting types of deductible gifts they can receive.

To claim a tax deduction, you must have a record of your donation, such as a receipt. ACRF provides prompt receipting for all donations.

For full information on charity donation tax deductions, please visit the ATO website – Gifts and Donations or speak with your financial adviser or accountant.

Are charity donations tax deductible?

A tax deductible donation is an amount of $2 or more that you donate to an organisation endorsed as a Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR). It must be a genuine gift – meaning you cannot receive any benefit from the donation. Funds that are donated in exchange for benefits such as raffle tickets, fundraising chocolates, or fundraising dinner tickets, however genuine, are not tax deductible. However, pins, tokens, wristbands and stickers are deemed by the ATO as having no material value and are used by the DGR as marketing and promotional material.

All donations of $2 or more to ACRF are tax deductible.

Are donations to charity auctions tax deductible?

Donations to charity auctions are tax deductible if:

  • There is a transfer of money or property and the organisation is a DGR.
  • The transfer is made voluntarily.
  • The donor does not expect anything in return for the gift.
  • The donor does not materially benefit from the gift.

Are overseas charity donations tax deductible?

All Australian charities that operate overseas must be registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission (ACNC) who have set standards that govern how a registered charity must manage its activities and resources outside Australia. This in addition to the ATO’s, Overseas Aid Gift Deduction Scheme (OAGDS) enables Australian organisations to issue tax deductible receipts for donations to their overseas aid activities. These activities must be to support aid activities in countries that are declared as ‘developing’ by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Donations to overseas charities not registered in Australia, are not tax deductible.

Are corporate donations to charity tax deductible?

Corporate donations to DGRs are tax deductible. Businesses can claim the same benefits from donating that individuals do. Just like an individual donation, a corporate donation must be $2 or more in value to be tax deductible.

Make a tax-deductible donation to ACRF today

All donations of $2 or more to ACRF, at any time of the year, are tax deductible but there has never been a better time to give than now.

Our tax appeal is currently underway and until 30 June 2021, 100% of every donation is going directly to vital cancer research. That means your tax-deductible donation can have an even bigger impact. Donate to our tax appeal today

New Cellular Atlas Maps Out Healthy and Cancerous Breast Tissue

WEHI researchers have documented the diversity of cells in the human breast, explaining the relationship between healthy breast cells and breast cancer cells.
The diversity of cells in the human breast has been documented in a new ‘RNA atlas’.

The research, which relied on expertise spanning from breast cancer biology through to bioinformatics, measured gene expression in single cells taken from healthy women and cancerous breast tissue, including tissue carrying a faulty BRCA1 gene. This enabled the researchers to create an ‘RNA atlas’ that details the different cells found in these tissues.

The atlas, which was described in EMBO Journal, will enable researchers to better understand the different cell types that constitute breast tissue and how these change during the development of cancer.

The research was undertaken by a team including Dr Bhupinder Pal, Dr Yunshun Chen and Dr François Vaillant, and led by Professor Jane Visvader, Professor Gordon Smyth and Professor Geoff Lindeman.

At a glance

  • A multidisciplinary team used single-cell transcriptomics to generate an RNA atlas that documents gene expression in different cells in healthy, pre-cancerous and cancerous human breast tissue.
  • The atlas reveals the changes that occur within the breast during key events, including cancer development and menopause.
  • The atlas is freely available to researchers around the world and is anticipated to be an important resource for breast cancer research.

Understanding single cells

Lead researchers (from left) Dr François Vaillant, Dr Yunshun Chen, Professor Gordon Smyth, Professor Jane Visvader and Dr Bhupinder Pal.

The human breast is a complex tissue, comprising a wide range of cells including cells specialised for milk production and release, as well as fat cells and immune cells, Professor Visvader said.

“Different types of breast cancer arise from distinct precursor cells. However, breast cancer development can be impacted by other cells within the breast,” she said. “This atlas provides a high-resolution view into the various cell types that make up breast tissue in different states and a blueprint for studying changes that lead to breast cancer.”

Dr Pal, who is now a laboratory head at the Olivia Newton John Cancer Research Institute, said ‘single-cell’ technologies enabled the research team to isolate more than 340,000 individual cells from breast tissues donated by women and men and to measure the expression of different genes in these cells.

“Our studies included healthy, pre-cancerous and cancerous tissue, enabling us to study the differences between these tissues,” he said.

A diverse and changing landscape

The research revealed a wide variety of cell types are present in the human breast, Dr Chen said.

“Complex bioinformatic analysis was crucial for documenting the complex cellular landscape. For example, we found that the composition of a particular subset of cells in the breast was altered by menopause – a period of significant hormonal change within the body,” he said.

The research also revealed many changes that occur within breast cancers, said Dr Vaillant.

“All the breast cancer types we studied displayed considerable diversity in their tumour cells, as well as in other cells found within the tumour. In particular, hormone-responsive cancers contained fewer dividing cells of a specific immune type, which could explain why many of these tumours are less responsive to anti-cancer immunotherapies.”

A multidisciplinary effort

Single-cell RNA sequencing is a new technology that has revolutionised how researchers can study complex tissues such as the breast said Professor Smyth, joint head of WEHI’s Bioinformatics division.

“Bioinformatics was critical for obtaining a global view of the diverse populations of cells within the different breast tissues we studied,” he said. “Computational methods enabled the team to detect patterns and differences in gene expression in the different cells within the breast at unprecedented resolution.”

Professor Visvader said the RNA atlas was the most comprehensive to-date for the human breast, and provided a framework for understanding the different cell types it can contain.

“This will be an invaluable resource for breast cancer researchers around the world. Our research also has important implications for not only understanding how breast cancers arise but also how cells in the surrounding environment contribute to their development, spread and response to treatment.”

The research team would like to acknowledge the important role that tissue donors, the Victorian Cancer Biobank and kConFab played in this study.

The research was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Victorian Government, the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the Australian Cancer Research Foundation, Ian Potter Foundation, the Michael Heine Family Foundation, and the Qualtrough Cancer Research Fund.

The original news article was posted on the WEHI website.

ACRF has awarded $10m in grants to WEHI for cancer research. Our esteemed Medical Research Advisory Committee ensures that only the most promising cancer research initiatives in Australia receive our funding. If you would like to financially contribute, please go to acrf.com.au/donate

Honouring the Three Most Important Men in My Life

ACRF donor Linda Boettcher has left a bequest in her Will to honour the three most important men in her life.

Her brother, her husband and her father.

“My brother Ian passed from Leukaemia in 1979, aged just 20 years old. He was a fun loving, cheeky, healthy young man who rode motorbikes and lived life at full tilt.  

“After my brother died, Dad’s employer, Philips, made a generous donation to ACRF. Dad was so impressed with ACRF he joined the ACRF board of trustees.

“Dad quickly immersed himself in ACRF. He loved that ACRF specifically funded research equipment and technology. No charity in Australia, then or now, provides this sort of funding for cancer,” Linda said.

In 1984 Linda met and fell in love with a 6’5” Scotsman (also named Ian) who later became her husband. 

“My husband Ian, and my brother Ian would have got on like a house on fire. They both had a wicked sense of humour. Ian and I had 25 wonderful years together, spanning Scotland, the US, and finally Australia. Ian loved Australia so much, he quickly became a proud citizen.”

But just when life was at its best, cancer returned to upend Linda’s life again.

“In August 2007, Ian was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma Multiform (GBM), a brain cancer.

“Three months after Ian’s diagnosis, my beloved Dad, John was also diagnosed with cancer.

“Illness can have a strange effect on people. Ian and I were always very close, but his diagnosis brought us even closer. As Dad and Ian were both going through cancer treatments simultaneously, they had shared experiences and were a great support to each another.

“Tragically Ian left us in July 2010.

“Dad was always a very active, healthy and fit person. He exercised daily and his diagnosis of liver and bowel cancer didn’t slow him down. He kept up his strict regime of diet, exercise and daily stretching. He was an inspiration to us all.

“He received his OAM in 2003 for his service to community groups and industry associations and was an ACRF Trustee for 28 years – a wonderful heritage. We are so proud of him.

“Dad was then, and is now, an inspiration. When he passed in September 2012, he left a big hole in the lives of my mother and my two sisters.

“Today I consider myself part of the greater ACRF family. My Mum and my sisters and I attend ACRF events and keep up to date with the ground-breaking research ACRF supporters help make possible.

“When it came time to update my Will, there was not a question in my mind about leaving a bequest to ACRF. Cancer has touched my life so deeply and I know the impact ACRF funding has on advancing research outcomes.

“My bequest to ACRF honours my brother, my husband and my father. Despite having this horrible disease in common, all three of them were full of life, had a great sense of humour and kept a positive attitude throughout their illnesses. I am so very proud to have been part of their lives.

“And I know my bequest couldn’t go to better cause or organisation.”

– Linda Bottecher

If you would like more information on leaving a bequest to ACRF, please go to https://www.acrf.com.au/get-involved/leave-a-gift-in-your-will/

ACRF-Funded Equipment Crucial to Immunotherapy Trial for Children

In 2017, ACRF awarded the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute a grant totalling $1.75M. The funds were used to expand their existing cell manufacturing facility and buy new equipment needed to produce cellular immunotherapies.

In January 2021, the institute announced the trial of a new cellular immunotherapy (T-Cell therapy) aimed at preventing dangerous side effects for children who undergo stem cell transplants.

The head of QIMR Berghofer’s Centre for Immunotherapy and Vaccine Development, Professor Rajiv Khanna AO, confirmed that sterility testing equipment and a large capacity control-rate freezer, purchased thanks to ACRF funding, are crucial to the trial.

“Quality testing and long-term storage of T-Cell therapies are critical steps in our ability to offer a high-quality, safe therapy to each child enrolled in our clinical trial,” he said.

Professor Khanna explained the need for T-Cell therapies, how they are made and the role of ACRF-funded equipment in this process.

“Before a patient receives a stem cell transplant, certain immune cells – including killer T Cells – are removed from the donor’s cells. This lowers the risk of potentially fatal complications like graft-versus-host disease, where the donor’s immune cells attack the recipient’s tissues. However, this necessary step leaves transplant patients at high risk of developing viral infections because they do not have the disease-fighting cells to control infection.

“By taking white blood cells from the same donor and training them in the laboratory to recognise and destroy cells infected with the four most common viruses that affect these patients, we hope to effectively prevent complications arising,”

The T-Cell therapies (also referred to as “living drugs”) must undergo stringent quality control testing and be stored at an ultralow temperature (-190°C), before being administered. This is where ACRF funded equipment plays a crucial role.

According to Professor Khanna, “A crucial aspect in the successful manufacture of T-Cell therapies is quality control. Each product must undergo this testing to ensure it is free from microbial contamination and safe for patient use … our T-Cell therapy manufacturing process is critically dependent on our ability to store large batches of it for future infusion into patients.”

Automated sterility testing equipment, purchased with the ACRF grant awarded in 2017, has accelerated the quality control process. Professor Khanna said that sterility testing, utilising this equipment, is completed in five days instead of the traditional 14, allowing for faster release of the T-Cell therapy. This equates to patients, who may be critically ill, having access to the treatment sooner. In addition, Mycoplasma testing software, also purchased with ACRF funding, is being utilised in the quality control process.

The institute also purchased a large capacity control-rate freezer with the same grant which, as reported by Professor Khanna, enables high-quality, long-term storage and recovery of T-Cells before infusion.

Professor Khanna said, “Without ACRF funding we would not have been able to purchase this critical equipment and offer T-Cell therapies to our patients.”

Each child enrolled in the trial, receives fortnightly T-Cell therapy infusions once their stem cell transplant has engrafted (a 2-to-4-week process), with the aim to boost their immune system before they show any sign of viral complications.

ACRF are proud to have funded equipment that is crucial to the manufacture of an immunotherapy treatment, working towards improved treatment and outcomes for children who receive stem cell transplants.

Breakthroughs like this are made possible by the generous support of people like you. If you would like to financially support cancer research please go to acrf.com.au/donate

View the 2017 ACRF Centre for Advanced Cellular Immunotherapy Research grant details here.

First Sino-Australian Oncology Research Alliance Established

The clinical research cooperation platform is currently undertaking clinical trials for acupuncture aimed at cancer-related pain.

In 2017, Liverpool Hospital Cancer Services was awarded a $2M ACRF grant to go towards providing a facility for the first cancer wellness centre in South-West Sydney – The ACRF OASIS Centre.

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 people impacted by cancer.

Last year, the ACRF OASIS Research Advisory group developed a strategic plan and continue to provide oversight to existing research projects.

Patient Reported Outcomes (PROs) continue to be their main research focus as a platform to build infrastructure, which will improve the quality and efficiency of clinical care outcomes.

A notable update is the establishment of the first Sino-Australian Oncology Research Alliance, in collaboration with the Chinese Medicine Centre at Western Sydney University. The clinical research cooperation platform is currently undertaking clinical trials for acupuncture aimed at cancer-related pain, with Chinese herbal medicine trials currently in analysis stages.

Meanwhile, detailed design work continues for the ACRF OASIS Centre as part of the Liverpool Health and Academic precinct redevelopment project. Researchers have been part of the user group to develop the project and have now signed off on the facility design.

If you would like to financially support cancer research please go to acrf.com.au/donate

View the 2017 ACRF OASIS Centre Research grant details here.

ACRF: Backing the Brightest Minds with the Boldest Ideas

As an ACRF supporter you would often hear us talking about the pioneering research your donations are enabling. As we head into May 2021, we thought it would be good to share with you the process we go through each year to select and fund these breakthrough research programs.

In March our grant selection process gets underway and by May we have received a number of applications for funding. As always, these applications are from research institutes across Australia seeking funding to enable, accelerate or expand cancer research initiatives.

To ensure ACRF funding can have the largest impact, our focus is always on the technology, equipment and infrastructure these research programs need. We often hear from scientists that technology is the most important thing needed to innovate and drive science forward. So, this area of funding continues to be our focus.

To guarantee the best and most promising projects receive funding each application is rigorously reviewed and assessed by ACRF’s volunteer Medical Research Advisory Committee (MRAC). A group of talented individuals who themselves are driving forces behind some of the best institutes and research programs across the country.

We are often asked what it takes for an idea to get funding from ACRF. We are always looking out for the big ideas, the ones that aren’t going to just take a step forward but propel us towards a world without cancer. But, these ideas need more than just guts. They have to be backed by brilliant science and thinking, they need to be feasible and they need to be sustainable beyond ACRF’s contribution.

To showcase the type of bold thinking ACRF supports we’d like to share one of our 2020 grant recipients with you. This grant, awarded to the University of Queensland’s Centre for Advanced Imaging to establish the ACRF Facility for Targeted Radiometals in Cancer (AFTRiC), aims to unlock the cancer curing potential of targeted alpha therapy.

An Australian-first facility, with a focus on alpha therapies (a type of precision medicine which has the potential to be more effective in killing cancer without damaging healthy tissue), AFTRiC met ACRF requirements to be considered for a major capital grant.

Research at the facility will focus on discovering better ways of specifically targeting and delivering therapeutic payloads to cancer cells, measuring their effects on tissue and translating them into clinical use.

ACRF funding will be used for the purchase of critical equipment needed to complete the research pathway from synthesis of novel agents to the development of new cancer therapies.

Professor David Reutens, Director of The University of Queensland’s Centre for Advanced Imaging, said “ACRF funding provides critical equipment to complete the research pathway from synthesis of novel agents through to clinical studies and patient therapy, enabling researchers to unlock the cancer-curing potential of targeted alpha therapy. The new facility will complement the nation’s most comprehensive suite of preclinical and clinical imaging research instruments at the Centre for Advanced Imaging allowing us to fast-track the development of new cancer therapies.”

We are looking forward to seeing the exciting new ideas that will be seeking funding from ACRF this year and we look forward to sharing updates on grants with you later in 2021.

Bowel Cancer Awareness Month

June is Bowel Cancer Awareness month here in Australia. We would like to take the opportunity to share information with you about bowel cancer in the hope that by raising awareness we can continue to reduce the number of people impacted by this type of cancer.

What is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month

Bowel Cancer Awareness Month raises awareness for bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer. Bowel Cancer Awareness month is an opportunity to learn more about this type of cancer and to share information including stories of those impacted by bowel cancer. It is also a time to support organisations, such as ACRF, working to equip researchers with the tools they need to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all types of cancer.

When is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month held?

 The month of June is Bowel Cancer Awareness month here in Australia.

Why do we commemorate Bowel Cancer Awareness Month

In Australia, bowel cancer is estimated to be the second most diagnosed type of cancer for both men and women and the third most common cause of death from cancer. It was estimated that over 15,000 Australians would be diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2020.

What is Bowel Cancer?

Bowel cancer is caused by the mutation of genes that cause cells in the large intestine to reproduce abnormally and form polyps. Most bowel polyps are not cancerous, but some polyps may become cancerous if left to grow into tumours. Bowel cancer is also referred to as colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where it is found in the intestine. 

Bowel cancer most commonly develops in the lower part of the descending colon, the sigmoid colon or rectum. More than 95 per cent of colorectal cancers are adenocarcinomas, cancers that start in cells forming the mucus-making glands that lubricate the colon and rectum. Other rare types include squamous cell cancers, Gastrointestinal stromal tumours, carcinoid tumours, sarcomas and lymphomas.

Anyone can acquire it, but people over the age of 50 are at higher risk. That is why through its National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, the Australian government urges everyone aged 50 to 74 to undergo a free test which can be done at home.

What colour ribbon is for bowel cancer?

The ribbon for bowel cancer (known as colorectal cancer there) is blue. In Australia, a green ribbon with a red apple on it – an abstract representation of the human bowel, is sometimes used.

How you can help spread awareness about Bowel Cancer

Getting involved in Bowel Cancer Awareness Month gives everyone the opportunity to make a difference. You can:

  • Wear a ribbon and encourage conversations about bowel cancer.
  • Talk to family and friends about the realities of bowel cancer, clearing up myths along the way.
  • Get tested regularly and encourage others to get tested too.
  • Post and share information about bowel cancer on social media.
  • Support research into improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all types of cancer, including bowel cancer.

There are many ways to support the work of ACRF and together, with everyone’s input, we will achieve our goal to outsmart cancer. For more information on how you can support bowel cancer research, learn how you can get involved with ACRF.

ACRF’s commitment to Bowel Cancer research

ACRF has partnered with several research institutes on initiatives to develop better prevention, earlier detection and more effective treatments for bowel cancer. Some of these research initiatives include:

  • ACRF Centre for Integrated Cancer Systems Biology in South Australia. This state-of-the-art facility is utilising next generation technologies to transform patient outcomes through the delivery of targeted and personalised cancer therapy for a number of types of cancer including bowel cancer.
  •  ACRF Breakthrough Technologies Laboratory to advance new treatments for many of Australia’s most common, and most deadly cancers, including bowel cancer.
  • ACRF Centre for Therapeutic Target Discovery, potentially forming a scientific cornerstone of the first comprehensive cancer centre established in Australia. The centre created an innovative Australian-first collaborative and integrated cancer research centre, where clinicians, diagnosing and treating cancer patients, work closely with scientists researching the disease.

Natalie’s Story

“Trying to work out what our lives would look like without my Dad in it broke me to my absolute core,” said Natalie who lost her beloved dad just seven months after he was diagnosed with cancer.

Natalie shared her story with us, explaining why she chose to take on the ACRF Hair Dare in support of cancer research. 

“Hundreds of men and women are diagnosed with cancer every year and it isn’t contingent upon age, gender or health. Some of the healthiest people I know have been diagnosed and several have passed from cancer. 

“I know this first-hand because my father was diagnosed with cancer in March 2018, and only seven months later passed away. He was an incredibly strong and healthy man with an amazing work ethic. He never took a sick day and would give any ‘young’ man a run for his money. 

“As a young woman with a small child, having to explain to my son why he won’t be able to see his ‘GanGan’ again was devastating. Trying to work out what our lives would look like without Dad in it broke me to my absolute core. 

“Witnessing Dad lose weight, become sick and tired every day was completely heartbreaking for both him and us. Cancer affects everyone around the person receiving treatment, not just the patient themselves. 

“Dad had so many more wonderful years left and he should be here now with us all, living his beautiful life. He should have been here to watch his grandson play his first game of football, he should have been here to witness his firstborn get married and he should have been here to enjoy what this wonderful world has to offer. 

“We now live our lives every day in honour of him and his spirit lives through all of us. 

“That is why I took on the Hair Dare for cancer research. I raised $624 and know that every single bit counts.”

ACRF would like to thank Natalie for sharing her story and for raising an incredible $624 for cancer research.

If you’ve been inspired by Natalie’s story and would like to take on the ACRF Hair dare in support of cancer research, click here.

What Embyro Development Can Teach Us About Fighting Cancer

Human development is one of the most elegant biological phenomena where rapid but controlled cellular growth leads to a healthy human life. On the other hand, cancer is an uncontrolled growth of cells often resulting in insurmountable pain and death.

There are some uncanny resemblances between embryo development and cancer, and studying these similarities at a cellular level excites our newly appointed Women’s Cancer Senior Fellow at the Harry Perkins Institute, Dr Ankur Sharma, who is also Head of the newly established Oncofetal Ecosystem Laboratory.

Over the past five years Dr Sharma has been using technologies, particularly single cell analysis techniques, to develop a method of predicting the similarities between cancer and early development with a goal to predict which patients are likely to develop cancer and which cancers they are likely to have.

His work started by studying liver cancer and looking at why it develops. During this study he stumbled upon a very interesting finding: in cancer, some of the cells which are part of the cancer supporting system are also found in foetal tissue.

“We see very interesting similarities between foetal-liver development and liver cancer. The similarities occur as if cancer remembers the early blue-prints of life,” he says.

“If you go back and match the cell types present during foetal-liver development with the cell types of cancerous adult liver we find lots of shared cell types. Importantly, in both, the immune system is kept at bay. Now we are working on methods to revert these programs and thereby empower the immune system to fight cancer,” he says.

Currently Dr Sharma is particularly interested in analysing women’s cancers, such as endometrial tumours which also arise from highly regenerative cells, in this case in the linings of the uterus. Almost 1 in 9 women is affected by endometriosis. It is a disease that hampers reproductive life and some (~3%) may develop cancer in their lifetime. However, it remains to be investigated whether we can predict risk of cancer in these patients.

“We think this can be achieved by examining historic patient biopsies held in tissue banks or archives of patients who have endometriosis and then comparing the samples of those whose endometriosis resulted in cancer to those who did not, to see if there is a difference.

“After predicting which patients may develop cancer, the next challenge is to find ‘the right drug for the right patient’ by understanding why some patients respond to treatments and others do not.

“I am driven to overcome the emotional toll of enduring treatment, which at times is ineffective and expensive. Our aim is to find ‘the right drug for the right patient’ for ultimate benefit of patients, families and society,” he says.

This article originally appeared on the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research’s website. ACRF has awarded $5.35m in grants to the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research for cancer research. Our esteemed Medical Research Advisory Committee ensures that only the most promising cancer research initiatives in Australia receive our funding. If you would like to financially contribute, please go to acrf.com.au/donate

Gene Discovery Suggests New Treatment Approach for Liver Cancer

In a comprehensive analysis of human gene activation data, researchers from the Centenary Institute have discovered that the dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP4) gene family is strongly implicated in the development of human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of primary liver cancer.

Reported in the journal ‘Cancers’, the research suggests that the DPP4 gene family and the four enzymes that it contains should be further studied to support potential new therapeutic approaches to fighting tumours found in the liver.

“In this study we interrogated a number of publicly accessible human gene databases including The Cancer Genome Atlas to identify cancers associated with the DPP4 gene family,” said Dr Hui Emma Zhang, researcher in the Centenary Institute’s Liver Enzymes in Metabolism and Inflammation Program and co-senior author on the paper.

“We were focused on the four enzymes of the DPP4 gene family– DPP4, DPP8, DPP9 and fibroblast activation protein (FAP). The role of the DPP9 enzyme was of particular interest as it hadn’t been studied previously with regard to liver cancer in humans,” Dr Zhang said.

Results from the data mining and subsequent analysis undertaken by the research team were revealing.

An association between high levels of the DPP9 enzyme and uterine and lung cancer was found suggesting that further investigatory work in both areas was required.

Elevated levels of DPP9, DPP4, FAP and DPP8 enzymes were also discovered in liver tumours and critically, were associated with poor survival rates in HCC patients.

“Our analysis indicates that high levels of all enzymes of the DPP4 family occur in liver cancers, which encourages us to target these enzymes as a possible new therapeutic approach to tackling the disease,” said Dr Zhang.

“With liver cancer incidence and mortality rates in Australia rapidly increasing new treatment options are urgently required both to improve and to save people’s lives.”

Over 2,000 Australians die each year from liver cancer. The five year survival rate for liver cancer is below 20%.

This article originally appeared on the Centenary Institute’s website. ACRF has awarded $7.5m in grants to the Centenary Institute for cancer research. Our esteemed Medical Research Advisory Committee ensures that only the most promising cancer research initiatives in Australia receive our funding. If you would like to financially contribute, please go to acrf.com.au/donate

Melanoma Cancer Awareness Month

This Melanoma Awareness month, we’d like to take the opportunity to highlight how you can help in the prevention and early detection of melanoma and how you can support vital research focused on the early detection and better treatment of melanoma.  

At Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) we award grants for innovative cancer research initiatives that lead to breakthroughs and discoveries that help each individual diagnosed with this complex and disruptive disease. In fact, an ACRF funded initiative is set to establish one of the largest melanoma surveillance and early detection programs in the world. Read more about the project here.

When is Melanoma Cancer Awareness Month? 

May is Melanoma Awareness Month.  This month is commemorated across Australia and the world each year. 

Why is Melanoma Awareness month so important? 

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer because if it isn’t detected early, it can spread to other organs. For that reason, early diagnosis is key to survival. While an individual with Stage 1 melanoma has a 99% chance of surviving longer than 5 years, that figure drops dramatically if the cancer spreads. Individuals with Stage 4 melanoma have just a 20% chance of surviving longer than 5 years.

Australia has one of the highest rates of melanoma in the world and is often referred to as ‘Australia’s national cancer’.

Melanoma is the third most diagnosed cancer in Australian men and women and the most common cancer affecting 15 to 39-year-old Australians.

In fact, more than 1600 Australians die each year from this devastating disease, which is mostly preventable and highly treatable if detected early.

Melanoma Cancer Awareness Month is so important to commemorate in Australia due to it’s high rates within our country. This month aims to raise awareness about melanoma to encourage more people to get regular checks as well as raising much needed funds to help improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of melanoma.

What colour represents melanoma awareness month?

Melanoma awareness is represented by the colour black.

To help raise awareness throughout the month of May, you can wear the colour black to show your support and encourage conversations to start with your family, friends or colleagues about melanoma.

What colour ribbon is for melanoma cancer? 

The melanoma awareness ribbon is black.

Instead of wearing black clothes, you can choose to wear a black ribbon to support Melanoma Cancer Awareness Month.

How can you raise awareness for Melanoma Cancer this March

There are many ways you can support those diagnosed with melanoma. Support each individual by:

  • Wearing a black ribbon and encouraging conversations about melanoma.
  • Shaving to raise funds for cancer research.
  • Participating in the many fun runs or run your own race.
  • Protecting your skin from the sun and encouraging others to do the same.
  • Getting regular skin checks and encouraging others to do the same.
  • Sharing this page to raise awareness of melanoma and the risks.
  • Donating to cancer research.

There are many ways to support the work of ACRF and together, with everyone’s input, we will achieve our goal to outsmart cancer. Learn how you can get involved with ACRF and support research into all types of cancer, including melanoma.

ACRF’s contribution to melanoma research

ACRF is committed to improving the prevention, detection and treatments of melanoma.

ACRF has provided funding to several research institutes for research programs to develop earlier detection and more effective treatments for melanoma.

In 2018, ACRF awarded almost $10m to establish the ACRF Australian Centre of Excellence in Melanoma Imaging and Diagnosis. A diagnostic centre set to revolutionise the early detection of melanoma. The rollout (later this year) of 15, three-dimensional whole body imaging systems across Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria will significantly enhance the capability and capacity of clinicians and researchers to detect and understand melanoma.

The 3D imaging system takes a total body image in milliseconds, giving dermatologists the ability to detect skin cancers in a patient even from the other side of the country, through a telemedicine network. This will greatly reduce appointment times and healthcare costs, as melanoma is often referred to as Australia’s ‘national cancer’.

In 2011, ACRF awarded $5M to establish the ACRF Melanoma Research Laboratories. This grant was used as seed-funding for the construction of two world-class melanoma research laboratories. 

Click here to read more about this grant.

‘Catch-22’ Scenario Good News for Some Cancer Patients

Image above: (from left to right) Bachelor of Science student Gavin Turrell, UQ Research Fellow Dr Meihua Yu, Dr Janin Chandra, Professor Ian Frazer, and UQ Research Fellow Dr Ahmed Mehdi.

Traits that allow cancer cells to escape the body’s natural defence system and develop into tumours are actually a good indicator to a patient’s survival prognosis, according to University of Queensland researchers.

UQ Diamantina Institute researcher Dr Janin Chandra described the discovery as a “catch-22 situation” and good news for patients with either cervical or head and neck cancer who have immune inhibitory traits present in their tumours.

“Our natural defence system is programmed to pick up abnormal cancerous cells and destroy them before they can grow into a tumour mass and spread through our bodies,” Dr Chandra said.

“However, the tumour can grow by developing cunning strategies to either escape our natural defence system, or to actively block it.

“We call these strategies immune inhibition, and until recently we thought this trait was a bad thing.

“Our recent research has shown that tumours of patients with either cervical cancer or head and neck cancer which had many immune inhibition traits, had the best five-year survival prognosis compared to patients with tumours without the traits.”

The data also showed that tumours with immune inhibition traits also had high levels of defence system activity, which fight against cancer.

Dr Chandra said researchers now had a better understanding that having immune inhibition traits in the tumour was actually not bad, and in fact was a sign of immune activation.

People who lack this immune activity inside the tumour, regardless if ‘good’ or ‘bad’ immune activity, have a worse prognosis.

She said this knowledge had important implications in designing future therapies for cancer.

“On average only 20 percent of patients respond to new immune-targeted drugs, so we are organising a clinical research study to develop predictors of response to these drugs,” Dr Chandra said.

“You need to give patients that aren’t responding to treatment an alternative, so our research is geared to identify new targets that could be used for patients who don’t have any natural defence cells in their tumours.”

Image above: (from left to right) Bachelor of Science student Gavin Turrell, UQ Research Fellow Dr Meihua Yu, Dr Janin Chandra, Professor Ian Frazer, and UQ Research Fellow Dr Ahmed Mehdi.

The research paper – Immune-inhibitory gene expression is positively correlated with overall immune activity and predicts increased survival probability of cervical cancer patients – is published in Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences Molecular Diagnostics and Therapeutics (DOI: 10.3389/fmolb.2021.622643).

This story originally appeared on the UQ Diamantina Institute website.

ACRF has awarded five grants to the UQ Diamantina Institute, including the initial seed funding for the development of a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer.

Dual drug approach to treat deadly melanoma

Research from the Centenary Institute has found that a new dual drug approach could offer up a highly effective treatment strategy for melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer responsible for more than 1,700 deaths each year in Australia.

Reported in the ‘Journal of Investigative Dermatology’ the findings have the potential to benefit melanoma patients who do not respond favourably to current therapeutic treatments.

In the study, the research team found that the combined use of inhibitors targeting two specific proteins markedly reduced the growth of melanoma both in cellular experiments as well in models with mice. The two proteins targeted were the bromodomain and extra-terminal domain (BET) family of proteins and cyclin-dependent kinase 9 (CDK9). High expression of BET and CDK9 proteins are associated with an adverse prognosis in melanoma patients and also regulate melanoma cellular activity.

According to Dr Abdullah Al Emran (pictured) , researcher in the Melanoma Oncology and Immunology Program at the Centenary Institute and lead author of the study, a key finding from the study was that the combination BET and CDK9 inhibitor treatment demonstrated significantly increased melanoma killing benefits when compared to use of the same inhibitor drugs when tested alone.

“Co-targeting BET and CDK9 proteins with inhibitors killed high numbers of melanoma cells regardless of type or status including melanomas exhibiting both BRAF and NRAS genetic mutations. The inhibitors worked by disrupting separate signalling pathways found within the melanoma cells–those responsible for cell communication and growth and this may explain the effectiveness we saw,” he said.

“We also found molecular gene signatures suggesting biomarkers of which melanoma patients were most likely to respond to this BET and CDK9 inhibitor treatment,” he added.

Dr Jessamy Tiffen, Head of the Centenary Institute’s Melanoma Epigenetics Laboratory and senior author on the research paper believes that use of combination drug treatments may offer up a new strategic approach in the fight against the often fatal skin cancer.

“Over half of all melanoma patients do not respond to current therapies and new treatment approaches are urgently required. We’ve now seen that drugs working in combination are able to produce a synergistic effect when it comes to the killing of melanoma cells. This strategy could lead to higher survival rates for patients and as a result we will be further exploring this exciting avenue of research,” she said.

This article originally appeared on the Centenary Institute Website.

In 2016, ACRF awarded at $2.5M grant to Centenary Institute for the establishment of the ACRF Tumour Metabolism Laboratory.

If you would like to financially support the work of ACRF please go to acrf.com.au/donate.

The ACRF Accelerate program

This week Australian Cancer Research Foundation has launched an exciting new initiative. The ACRF Accelerate program has been designed in line with our mission to reach a world without cancer. The program provides prospective donors with a unique philanthropic opportunity to evaluate and contribute towards promising cancer research projects. 

Survival rates from cancer are increasing thanks to decades of research, but around 396 Australians are still diagnosed with cancer every day. The Accelerate program connects generous donors who want to solve the problem of cancer with projects that have the ability to do just that.  

Tom Dery AO, ACRF’s Chair said: 

A year ago, we could never have imagined the world as it is today. From the devastation of fires and floods, through to a complete transformation in the way we connect, work, access healthcare, and travel. 

While the pandemic has highlighted the critical need for medical research into vaccine development, there also remains an ongoing need for investment in cancer research. That priority remains unchanged, and ever present.  

Despite improvements in patient outcomes, cancer continues to impact far too many lives. With vast economic pressures transforming the research funding environment, the work of Australian Cancer Research Foundation and the life-changing ACRF Accelerate program remains more vital than ever. 

Over the past 12 months, we’ve been inspired by the many generous Australians dedicated to supporting globally significant cancer research through our Accelerate program. We’re proud to say that groundbreaking, world-leading discoveries are happening right here in our own backyard because of their donations. 

As leaders in philanthropic investment, ACRF is committed to the rigour, review and assessment of the projects presented in the ACRF Accelerate program, providing you with confidence that every donation will result in real, measurable impacts for those living with cancer. 

On behalf of the ACRF board, I’m proud and excited about the potential opportunity this year’s ACRF Accelerate program presents to donors and researchers committed to changing the human and social impact of cancer in Australia. 

We invite you explore these innovative projects and consider a meaningful contribution towards their success. Find out more here: acrf.com.au/philanthropy

What is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month?

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. We’d like to take the opportunity to share information with you about colorectal cancer (or bowel cancer) in the hope that by raising awareness we can continue to reduce the number of people impacted by this type of cancer.

What is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month?

National Colorectal Cancer Month raises awareness for colorectal cancer, commonly known as bowel cancer. Colorectal Cancer Awareness month is an opportunity to learn more about this type of cancer and to share information including stories of those impacted by colorectal cancer. It’s also a time to support organisations, such as ACRF, working to equip researchers with the tools they need to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all types of cancer.

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer is caused by the mutation of genes that cause cells in the large intestine to reproduce abnormally and form polyps. Most bowel polyps are not cancerous, but some polyps may become cancerous if left to grow into tumours. Colorectal cancer is also referred to as colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where it is found in the intestine. 

Colorectal cancer most commonly develops in the lower part of the descending colon, the sigmoid colon or rectum. More than 95 per cent of colorectal cancers are adenocarcinomas, cancers that start in cells forming the mucus-making glands that lubricate the colon and rectum. Other rare types include squamous cell cancers, Gastrointestinal stromal tumours, carcinoid tumours, sarcomas and lymphomas.

Colorectal Cancer facts In Australia

Colorectal Cancer is estimated to be the second most diagnosed type of cancer for both men and women and the third most common cause of death from cancer. It was estimated that over 15,000 Australians would be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2020.

When is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month?

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month in the US and in Australia, June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.

How to create colorectal cancer awareness

Getting involved in Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month gives everyone the opportunity to make a difference. You can:

  • Wear a blue ribbon and encourage conversations about colorectal cancer.
  • Talk to family and friends about the realities of colorectal cancer, clearing up myths along the way.
  • Get tested regularly and encourage others to get tested too.
  • Post and share information about colorectal cancer on social media.
  • Support research into improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all types of cancer, including colorectal cancer.

There are many ways to support the work of ACRF and together, with everyone’s input, we will achieve our goal to outsmart cancer. For more information on how you can support colorectal cancer research, learn how you can get involved with ACRF.

What is the Colorectal cancer awareness colour?

Blue is the colour for colorectal cancer awareness. Supporters are encouraged to wear blue clothes and/or blue ribbons to help spread awareness.

ACRF’s contribution to Colorectal cancer research

ACRF has partnered with several research institutes on initiatives to develop better prevention, earlier detection and more effective treatments for colorectal cancer. Some of these research initiatives include:

  • ACRF Centre for Integrated Cancer Systems Biology in South Australia. This state-of-the-art facility is utilising next generation technologies to transform patient outcomes through the delivery of targeted and personalised cancer therapy for a number of types of cancer including colorectal cancer.
  •  ACRF Breakthrough Technologies Laboratory to advance new treatments for many of Australia’s most common, and most deadly cancers, including colorectal cancer.
  • ACRF Centre for Therapeutic Target Discovery, potentially forming a scientific cornerstone of the first comprehensive cancer centre established in Australia. The centre created an innovative Australian-first collaborative and integrated cancer research centre, where clinicians, diagnosing and treating cancer patients, work closely with scientists researching the disease.

Spencer’s Story

This Colorectal Cancer awareness month we’d like to shout out to the heroes that continue to ensure ACRF can fund pioneering research to improve patient outcomes.

Loyal ACRF supporter Spencer Hird has supported bold cancer research by putting rubber to the road. He’s run Sydney’s City2Surf 47 times – even participating in the event virtually during COVID.

Sadly, Mr Hird lost his wife Heather in 1994 to bowel cancer. “I started fundraising soon after her passing and my focus has always been to give to cancer research. I am always impressed when I hear of improvements to treatments and diagnosis. It is so good to feel I might have contributed to that” says Mr Hird.

Thank you for your continued support Mr Hird.

Find out how you can support bold cancer research at acrf.com.au/get-involved

Steve’s Story

About 17 years ago, I shaved my head, moustache – and my legs! – to support a friend of mine, who sadly died from breast cancer. 

Around the same time, I had a spot removed from my back which turned out to be a stage 3 melanoma, so I had a large section removed from my back. I thought I was all good until 2017, when I found out that I had a secondary brain tumour. It was removed by the wonderful team at the Royal Brisbane Hospital. 

I was lucky enough to be one of the first people to trial immunotherapy for a year and had my thyroid removed late December 2019. I was in remission and going well until early February 2021, when I found out I had another brain tumour. This one had grown fast – from nothing in November 2020 to 20mm in February 2021. 

I will be undergoing a new treatment at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, called a Gamma Knife, which will shrink and kill the tumour. I will then undergo more immunotherapy to get rid of a couple of small tumours near my spine. 

Then I will be as good as new! Anything I can do to raise money to help is only a small thing compared to those who have done much more before me. Their support has allowed me to get the best and latest treatment to help me live a bit longer. 

I shaved my head and my moe for ACRF through the Hair Dare and raised $650. My youngest son Michael has taken on the dare too and I’m very proud of him. 

To learn more about how to shave, cut or colour for cancer research, head to shave.acrf.com.au

Terence’s Story

In late 2015 doctors found a mass growing in my brain after a routine check-up. After monitoring it for a few years, in late 2019 my neurosurgeon discovered that the mass was growing. Two thousand and twenty sucked for a lot of people but throwing in brain surgery and six months of chemo, all while a global pandemic was raging, wasn’t how I had pictured my wedding year!

I married my wife, Alyce, in February before my surgery – just before the lockdowns, so a win for us, I guess.  The year ended much better as we welcomed our son, Ryan, two weeks after chemo ended. He’s our number two, Emily, our daughter, is four. I take my hat off to Alyce for putting up with (I mean, supporting) me through treatment all the while going through pregnancy! Now THERE’S an inspiring story, but not mine…

One day during treatment, I got talking to an older lady who has been battling cancer for years and I was in awe of her positive attitude and bubbly personality. One thing she said that resonated with me was, “My dear, chemo is just the beginning… This journey living with cancer isn’t a sprint, as they say, it’s a marathon. The real challenges are up here,” as she pointed to her head.

So, that night, I decided that 12 months after I completed chemo, I was going to run a marathon. I completed chemo on 18 September 2020. The Blackmores Sydney Running Festival marathon is on the 19 September 2021. Fate perhaps? I’ve never been much of a runner, but why let fear stop me from doing something scary or different? I can’t change the fact that I have brain cancer. What I can change is the way I feel about it and to show those around me that cancer isn’t the GAME OVER moment some people fear it is. Why waste what life we have left in fear of things that could open our eyes to the world?

I’m running this marathon for me and all brain cancer warriors out there and also the people who dedicate their lives to overcoming all forms of cancer.

There are many ways to support the work of ACRF and together, with everyone’s input, we will achieve our goal to outsmart cancer. To find out more head to acrf.com.au/get-involved

Key Steps Discovered in Production of Critical Immune Cell

WEHI researchers have uncovered a process cells use to fight off infection and cancer that could pave the way for precision cancer immunotherapy treatment. 

Through gaining a better understanding of how this process works, researchers hope to be able to determine a way of tailoring immunotherapy to better fight cancer.

Led by Dr Dawn Lin and Dr Shalin Naik and published in Nature Cell Biology, the research provides new insight into the way cells adapt to fight infection.

Dr Shalin Naik and Dr Dawn Lin

This research lays the foundation for future studies into the body’s response to environmental stressors, such as injury, infection or cancer, at a single cell level.

At a glance

  • WEHI researchers have studied dendritic cells, a crucial component of the immune system, to gain a deeper understanding of how the body produces these cells to fight cancer and infection
  • The study found how the Flt3L hormone increased dendritic cells numbers
  • Researchers will now apply this knowledge to improving immunotherapy techniques to create more personalised treatments

Flt3L hormone plays vital role in fighting off infection

Dendritic cells are immune cells that activate ‘killer’ T cells, which are vital for clearing viral infections, such as COVID-19, but also for triggering a response to cancers such as melanoma and bowel cancer.

The Flt3L hormone can increase dendritic cell numbers, helping the immune system to fight off cancer and infection.

Dr Naik and his team studied developing immune cells at a single cell level to gain a deeper understanding of how the body uses these cells to trigger immune responses.

“There is one type of dendritic cell that the body uses to fight some infections and cancer. The Flt3L hormone increases numbers of this particular dendritic cell.”   

“We know quite well how the dendritic cell fights the cancer, but we don’t know how the Flt3L hormone increases the numbers of those dendritic cells,” he said  

Single-cell barcoding provides vital clues to how dendritic cells function

Researchers used a single-cell ‘barcoding’ technique to uncover what happened when dendritic cells multiplied.

“By using cellular barcoding – where we insert short synthetic DNA sequences, we call barcodes inside cells – we were able to determine which cells produced dendritic cells in pre-clinical models,” Dr Naik said.

“As a result of this research, we now better understand the actions of the Flt3L hormone that is currently used in cancer immunotherapy trials, and how it naturally helps the body fight cancer and infection. This is a first step to design better precision immunotherapy treatments for cancer.” 

Using single cell technology to improve immunotherapy treatment

This research answers a 50-year-long question as to what causes a stem cell to react in response to immense stress, such as infection or inflammation.

“We have known that the Flt3L hormone increases the number of dendritic cells for decades but now there is a focus on applying this knowledge to cancer immunotherapy and potentially to infection immunotherapy as well,” Dr Naik said.   

“The next stage in our research is to create ‘dendritic cell factories’ using our new knowledge, to produce millions to billions of these infection fighting cells and then use those in immunotherapy treatments.”

“These findings are a vital first step to improving immunotherapy treatments for patients, to help them better fight cancer and infection.”

WEHI authors

Dawn Lin, Luyi Tian, Sara Tomei, Daniela Amann-Zalcenstein, Tracey Baldwin, Tom Weber, Jaring Schreuder, Olivia Stonehouse, Samir Taoudi, Matthew Richie, Philip Hodgkin, Ashley Ng, Stephen Nutt, Shalin Naik.

This article originally appeared on the WEHI website. ACRF has awarded $10m in grants to WEHI for cancer research.

Our esteemed Medical Research Advisory Committee ensures that only the most promising cancer research initiatives in Australia receive our funding. If you would like to financially contribute, please go to acrf.com.au/donate

Microscopic behaviour of developing breast cells uncovered

An improved high-tech fluorescence microscopy technique is allowing researchers to film cells inside the breast as never seen before.

This new protocol provides detailed instructions on how to capture hi-res movies of cell movement, division and cooperation, in hard-to-reach regions of breast tissue.

The technology – called multiphoton microscopy – uses infrared lasers to illuminate fluorescently labelled breast cells without harming them, so that elusive cell behaviours can be observed within living tissue.

With the new method, WEHI researchers have revealed how breast cells rearrange, interact and sense their environment as the breast grows during development and recedes after lactation.

Cell imaging within living tissue has been achieved in many organs but the breast has remained especially challenging. So far, this new method has revealed exciting and unexpected details of breast biology and will help teams worldwide to advance research on breast development and cancer.

At a glance

An improved imaging protocol is allowing researchers to film cells as never seen before.

This new application of high-tech microscopy has enabled the imaging of stem cells as they guide breast development, and immune cells as they monitor the breast ducts to keep them healthy.

By imaging living, moving cells in their natural setting, researchers can better understand how our bodies function in real-time at the microscopic scale.


Understanding cell function

The protocol was developed by researcher Dr Caleb Dawson, in a team led by Professor Jane Visvader and Dr Anne Rios, in collaboration with Dr Scott Mueller from the Doherty Institute, and published in Nature Protocols today.

Dr Dawson said the filming technique unlocked a variety of applications to better understand how cells function, interact and develop.

“One of the most valuable things we have been able to film with the technique are the terminal end buds (TEBs) in breast tissue,” he said.

“These are club-like structures at the tips of the mammary ducts that grow during puberty to produce the branched tree structure of breast tissue. The unique cells inside the TEBs have never been filmed like this before so it was fascinating to watch this process for the first time.”

“We have watched a cell behaviour inside the TEB that was hypothesised in the 1980s but was never proven, and which has implications for breast stem cell function.”


Previously, TEBs had been studied by dissociating the individual cells and filming them outside the breast or by taking still images. With these approaches it is difficult to know how the cells actually behave and interact in living tissue.

“By filming the moving cells inside intact breast tissue in laboratory models, we are able to grasp a better understanding of how the cells behave and cooperate to help the breast to form and function properly.”

Dr Dawson said that he was grateful for the brilliant team and the cutting-edge technology provided by the Center for Dynamic Imaging at WEHI that made this work possible.

“When we embarked on our mission to film these processes, I had little knowledge of the effort it would require. With the vision of leading breast researchers Professor Visvader, Dr Rios and Professor Geoff Lindeman, alongside the live imaging expertise of Dr Mueller, and the microscopes available, we were able to achieve something that very few labs in the world have accomplished,” he said.

Opening the doors to new research opportunities

Dr Dawson said the filming technique could be applied to a host of research endeavours.

“Our approach enables us to image up to six fluorescent colours at the same time, which allows us to see how more cell types interact,” he said.

“We can image different stages of breast development, immune cells, lymph nodes and hair follicles and watch how individually-labelled cells function.”

“This means we can create beautiful images with extremely fine details about the cell shapes to get a better understanding of how cells interact and change over time. This opens up many new research opportunities and we are only just starting to see the potential of what this could be used for.”

Dr Dawson said he hoped the imaging protocol would make this type of imaging more widely accessible to researchers.

“There are very few research institutions doing this really high-end imaging, so it is great that we have this capacity in Melbourne and can share it with research teams worldwide.”

The original news article was posted on the WEHI website. Video courtesy of WEHI.

ACRF has awarded $10m in grants to WEHI for cancer research. Our esteemed Medical Research Advisory Committee ensures that only the most promising cancer research initiatives in Australia receive our funding. If you would like to financially contribute, please go to acrf.com.au/donate