Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre welcomes the latest round of Victorian Cancer Agency (VCA) grants which included a further $5.2million for our research and clinical trials into areas of great community need such as Advanced Melanoma, Prostate Cancer, Head and Neck Cancer; and Acute Myeloid Leukaemia.

Five grants were awarded today to Peter Mac researchers across the categories of: VCA Translational Grants Research Projects; Mid-Career Research Fellowships; and Early Career Seed Grants.

Peter Mac’s Executive Director Cancer Research Professor Joe Trapani said the grants were a welcome investment in the health and wellbeing of Victorians and all people affected by cancer.

“Our mission is to accelerate research and discoveries that can be rapidly translated into better treatments and potential cures for cancer.

“We warmly welcome this new and far-sighted initiative which will fund research into the factors that drive cancer development; new strategies for hard-to-treat cancers; and understanding why some patients respond to breakthrough therapies while others do not.

“We thank the VCA and the Victorian community for continuing to support this vital work,” said Professor Trapani.

The VCA grants were formally announced by the Minister for Health, The Hon. Jill Hennessy MP at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre within the VCCC building today. Included was a further $20m for the VCCC alliance to fund cancer clinical trials in Victoria.

MORE DETAIL ON VCA FUNDED PETER MAC RESEARCH PROJECTS

Novel approaches for overcoming resistance to therapies for advanced melanoma
Led by Professor Grant McArthur

Remarkable progress has been made to significantly extend survival in patients with advanced melanoma. Yet relapse is common and limits the full extent of the potential of new therapies. Working with the Melbourne Melanoma Project Consumer Group, Professor Grant McArthur together with colleagues at the Olivia Newton John Cancer Research Institute and other lead clinicians across Victoria have identified the biggest issues in resistance to the new therapies: relapse of BRAF-inhibitors; lack of response of some patients to the new PD1 therapies; and control of brain metastases. This VCA grant will support research to address these issues by running first in clinic trials and integrating the clinical trials with detailed understanding of why some patients respond well and others do not.

New therapies for patients with metastatic, castration-resistant prostate cancer
Led by Dr Shahneen Sandhu

Cancer immunotherapies have been breakthrough treatments for many cancers but have not been successful as a single agent in prostate cancer. There is an urgent need to develop new therapies for prostate cancer, with evidence that novel combinations may improve responses. The VCA grant will support research to test the safety and effectiveness of a treatment combining radiolabelled therapy (177Lu-PSMA) with immunotherapy treatment, pembrolizuamb, and define the group of patients who will benefit most from this combination.

Novel therapeutic approaches against squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck
Led by Dr Charbel Darido

Head and neck cancer is a devastating disease with poor survival rates. We have recently discovered the genetic defects that trigger the development of head and neck cancer. The research aims to identify new personalised therapies targeting those genetic defects with the aim of improving outcomes for patients.

A new paradigm for targeting mutant p53 tumours
Dr Nick Clemons

Over half of all cancers contain mutations in a gene called TP53, also known as the “guardian of the genome”. Mutation of TP53 provides tumour cells with a growth and survival advantage, and leads to resistance to chemotherapy and poor outcomes for patients. A potential “Achilles heel” in cancers with TP53 mutations has been identified that could be targeted with new and existing drugs. This VCA grant will support the development of new approach for treating tumours with TP53 mutations, applicable to a large number of patients across all types of cancer.

Understanding the role of HDAC-3 in acute myeloid leukaemia stem cell survival
Dr Laura MacPherson

Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) is sustained by stem cells that possess the ability to self-renew indefinitely and regenerate after therapy. Peter Mac researchers have previously performed a screen of over 1000 epigenetic proteins in AML stem cells to identify new targets important for stem cell survival. From this, the lead candidate was an epigenetic enzyme named HDAC-3. This VCA grant will support research that uses sophisticated cellular, molecular and genomic approaches to understand how HDAC-3 is critical to AML stem cell survival. The findings will support use and development of new inhibitors that specially target HDAC-3 and eradicate AML stem cells.

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