Five Peter Mac scientists have been awarded funding from Cancer Council Victoria to undertake research into new causes and treatments for cancer.

Four CCV Research Grants-in-Aid and one Postdoctoral Fellowship will cover a range of priority research areas, including the discovery of new genetic causes of familial breast cancer, enhancing immunotherapies and new approaches to shut down cancer metabolism.

Prof Ricky Johnstone, Peter Mac’s Executive Director of Research, says the projects funded by CCV will lead to important discoveries that could change the face of cancer treatment and management. 

“We are grateful to CCV for their continued support and investment in fundamental, discovery-based cancer research that advances our understanding of how cancers develop, grow and respond to treatment,” says Prof Johnstone.

Dr Paul Beavis and Dr Florian Wiede will research new ways to improve the effectiveness of immune T cell therapy (CAR T) for the treatment of solid cancers.

Targeting solid cancers with conventional immunotherapy remains a challenge, with many cancers failing to respond to this type of treatment. Dr Beavis will test whether specialised CAR T cells, engineered to switch on other components of the immune system, can help to boost anti-tumour immunity. Dr Wiede will determine whether suppressing the activity of a protein within the CAR T cells can enhance their ability to identify and kill target cancer cells.

CCV funding will also support projects targeting cancer metabolism as a new approach to cancer therapy.

Prof Rick Pearson will investigate new ways to improve the anti-cancer activity of a brand new targeted chemotherapy, CX-5461, including testing new drug combinations to shut down metabolic pathways that can cause therapy resistance in cancer cells.

The research of Dr Lorey Smith will focus on understanding how melanoma skin cancers alter metabolism to resist treatment, potentially leading to the discovery of a completely new way to treat cancers.

Dr Na Li was awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship to continue her research into the discovery of new genetic defects in families at high-risk of breast cancer with an unknown genetic basis.

“Our researchers are committed to translating their discoveries into improved care of people affected by cancer,” says Prof Johnstone.

“These grants help put them one step closer to achieving this goal.”