Peter Mac researchers, Assoc Prof Sarah-Jane Dawson, Prof Monica Slavin, Assoc Prof Phil Darcy, Dr Benjamin Teh and Dr Jason Trubiano, have each received highly prestigious awards from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), CSL and Biomedical Research Victoria (BioMedVic).

Associate Prof Sarah-Jane Dawson was awarded one of only two $1.25M CSL Centenary Fellowships to support 5 years of research into the development of blood tests for monitoring patient responses to treatment.

These tests, known as "liquid biopsies", may provide a more sensitive and easier alternative to painful, invasive tissue biopsies for cancer patients.

"Tissue biopsies are inconvenient and distressing for patients, and expensive for the healthcare system," says Sarah-Jane, a Peter Mac oncologist and research Group Leader.

Sarah-Jane's research focuses on developing new tests that take advantage of tiny fragments of DNA released by cancer cells into a patient's bloodstream. Sarah-Jane hopes to improve cancer care by taking these tests into the clinic to tailor treatments to the individual, monitor their progress, and - once the patient has completed treatment - checking for signs of relapse.

Translational research also formed the basis for a number of successful NHMRC fellowship applications for Peter Mac researchers, totalling more than $2.5M. Associate Prof Phil Darcy, Group Leader in the Cancer Immunology Program at Peter Mac, was awarded an NHMRC Research Fellowship for his work investigating chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy as a treatment strategy for blood and solid cancers. CAR T cells are modified immune cells that are reintroduced back into patients to boost their anti-cancer immune responses. Phil's research aims to enhance the function of these CAR T cells to make them more effective.

In addition, two clinician researchers, Dr Benjamin The and Dr Jason Trubiano, both from the National Centre for Infections in Cancer (NCIC) (an NHRMC Centre of Research Excellence awarded to the Department of Infectious Disease at Peter Mac), were awarded competitive NHMRC Early Career Fellowships.

Ben's research will use cutting edge technologies to help predict if a patient will be at risk of potentially life-threatening infections during treatment with immune-modulating therapies. Blood tests will be used to create a roadmap of the patient's immune system, which will help pin-point their future infection risk. Steps can then be taken to prevent infections in at risk patients.

Jason's research, done in conjunction with the Austin Hospital, aims to develop tests to predict antibiotic allergy, which currently affects one in four cancer patients hospitalised with an infection. His study will combine laboratory tools, skin tests and genetic profiling to identify predictors of severe antibiotic allergies and avoid serious side-effects and delays in potentially life-saving anti-cancer treatments.

The success of the NCIC is rounded out with Prof Monica Slavin, Centre and Innovations Lead for the NCIC and Head of the Infectious Diseases Department at Peter Mac, being awarded the 2017 Career Recognition Award from BioMedVic.

Monica received this honour in recognition of her outstanding record in patient-based research and clinical work and for providing exemplary supervision and mentoring of other clinician researchers.

Her achievements will be celebrated at the 2017 BiomedVic Clinician Researcher Awards in November. You can register to attend the awards here.

Collectively, these successes exemplify Peter Mac's model of translational research, bridging the gap between the lab and the bedside to drive discoveries that make huge differences to the lives of cancer patients, both in Australia and around the globe.