Peter Mac is very pleased to announce six of our staff were successful NHMRC Ideas Grant applicants for 2023.

The NHMRC ideas grants are designed to support researchers at all stages of their career with innovative and creative medical research ideas.  The research can span discovery to implementation and the grants are highly competitive.

Peter Mac is very pleased to announce six of our staff were successful applicants for 2023. 

Congratulations to Dr Dineika Chandrananda, Associate Professor Nick Clemons, Dr Luc Furic, Dr Ali Motazedian, Associate Professor Karen Sheppard, and Dr Anna Trigos. 

A brief description of their innovative research ideas are listed below:

Dr Dineika Chandrananda - “Tracking transcriptional evolution using circulating tumour DNA”

Tumours shed small amounts of DNA into the patient’s bloodstream known as circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA). Because of this a simple blood test allows us to study the cancer, and can offer a non-invasive alternative to tissue biopsies. Dr Chandrananda will use ctDNA in the blood to study how cancer evolves and becomes resistant to treatment in advanced breast cancer. This method is generalisable across tumour types and has the potential to transform real-time cancer monitoring.

Associate Professor Nick Clemons - “Overcoming ferroptosis resistance to improve outcomes in oesophageal cancer”

Compared to normal tissues, oesophageal cancers increase their consumption of nutrients from the surrounding environment.  Oesophageal cancers also change the way they use these nutrients in order to survive, grow, spread to other organs and become resistant to treatments. This research project will identify which nutrients oesophageal cancers depend on to survive. Dr Clemons will develop strategies to exploit these dependencies and improve the efficacy of treatments used to combat oesophageal cancer.

Dr Luc Furic - “​Codon bias and the role of tRNA modifications in cancer”

Cancer is characterised by a high rate of cell growth and proliferation. Cancer cells need to increase their biomass to divide and this is dependent on the synthesis of proteins. Small molecules that carry the building blocks needed for protein synthesis are called transfer RNA (tRNA) ​and they are responsible for decoding the information contained in messenger RNA (mRNAs). Recently it was discovered that tRNA are chemically modified ​in a dynamic manner and that these modifications could be targeted as a way to strongly inhibit tumour growth and progression.  This research project will try to determine the impact of changes to tRNA and how best to target the tRNA to stop cancer growing. This pathway could be applicable to a wide range of cancers.

Dr Ali Motazedian - “Understanding clonal hierarchy and tissue reconstruction post injury”

Millions of blood cells are made by the body every day in specialised organ compartments. T-cells are white blood cells and make up an important part of the immune system that fights infections and cancer. In this study, we aim to find out how blood stem cells turn into T-cells as they move through different organ compartments. We are trying to understand how the blood system is regenerated after damage from cancer therapies by stem cell transplants to improve patient outcomes.

Associate Professor Karen Sheppard - “A fat chance for melanoma”

Recently a study in melanoma patients showed that overweight patients did much better on treatment than normal weight patients. This project aims to understand how body fat makes melanoma patients more responsive to therapy. By understanding the biological basis for this association, we can design new therapeutic strategies that will improve the outcomes for melanoma patients and not lead to adverse health effects associated with being overweight.

Dr Anna Trigos - “Spatial analysis to investigate cancer evolution as a complex ecosystem of interacting tumour populations ”

Cancer is a disease where cells grow rapidly, creating tumours. However, all tumour cells are not the same. There can be multiple cell types within a single tumour that most likely interact to help each other grow. This research project will analyse tissue samples from metastatic prostate cancer to understand which tumour cells are cooperating with each other to grow. With this knowledge, we will be able to develop a new type of treatment that kills tumours by disrupting how cells talk with each other, providing new treatment options for prostate cancer patients in the future.