Peter Mac News

Two clinical researchers awarded 2024 Discovery Partner Fellowships

09 July 2024

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Two of Peter Mac’s most promising clinical researchers, Dr Adrian Minson and Dr Lavinia Spain, have received 2024 Discovery Partner Fellowships.

Now in its seventh year, the Discovery Partner Fellowships program, generously supported by the Peter Mac Foundation, is open to early or mid-career Peter Mac clinicians who also perform research. The Fellowship provides financial support and a mechanism to carve out time from clinical roles (between 0.2 and 0.3 FTE) to progress well-planned research projects.

Associate Director Clinical Research, Professor Jayesh Desai, said this fellowship program is crucial to providing opportunity to advance cancer research.

“We are very proud of this program and the outcomes our Discovery Partner Fellowship recipients have achieved in the past,” he said.

“The Fellowship provides time away from front-line clinical roles to progress defined research projects focussed on advancing cancer treatments and improving patient outcomes and experience.

“Dr Minson and Dr Spain were two outstanding applicants among a strong field this year and we look forward to observing the outcomes of their research as they strive to improve outcomes for cancer patients.”

Kate Torney, Executive Director Foundation, said they are proud to support this important program.

“We are incredibly grateful towards more than 50,000 Australians who give so generously to our Discovery Partner program each month. They are empowering researchers to make remarkable and life-changing progress in cancer research here at Peter Mac,” she said.

Read more about each research project below.

Dr Adrian Minson
A comprehensive program of investigator-initiated trials and real-world data to explore the optimisation of T-cell re-directing immunotherapies in the treatment of aggressive B-cell lymphoma.

T-cell redirecting immunotherapies such as chimeric antigen receptor T-cells and bispecific antibodies are revolutionising B-cell lymphoma treatment. However, despite these recent advances, key questions persist regarding optimal patient selection, sequencing of therapies, and effective combination strategies. Furthermore, understanding resistance mechanisms and identifying biomarkers of response are crucial for optimising care.

This project focuses on enhancing outcomes in aggressive B-cell lymphoma through a multifaceted approach. It encompasses a suite of ongoing investigator-initiated trials (IITs) employing innovative combinations of immunotherapy in high-risk patient groups, with plans for additional trials exploring key unanswered questions. Alongside this, real-world data will be integrated through the development and implementation of a comprehensive lymphoma database, facilitating deeper insights into patient demographics, treatment patterns, and outcomes.

This resource is pivotal for identifying future research opportunities and optimising trial design.

Dr Lavinia Spain
Optimising Outcomes of Patients with Melanoma receiving Immunotherapy

Treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) has significantly improved survival for advanced melanoma, but up to half of patients develop resistance, underscoring the need for better therapies. ICIs are now used in earlier stages of melanoma, causing immune-related adverse events (irAEs) in a large proportion of patients and often requiring complex management with immunosuppressants.

Critical issues facing the melanoma field include how to enhance ICI efficacy to benefit more patients and how to mitigate the morbidity of irAEs. This project is focused on both these issues, including neoadjuvant interventions and establishing new cutting-edge therapeutic approaches in melanoma as well as optimising our understanding and management of irAEs through collaborative inter-disciplinary projects.