This year, Cancer Council Queensland has committed a total of approximately $6.21 million towards its external funding program. This funding goes towards supporting cancer research throughout the state in the form of project grants, fellowships, travel/study grants and scholarships.
You can read about our recently awarded cancer research project grants below.
Current Cancer Research Project Grants
2013 - 2014
A/Prof Maher Gandhi, Queensland Institute of Medical Research
Monocytic myeloid derived suppressor cells and antiCD20-antibody dependent cellular cytotoxicity in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma
Our proposal builds upon a large body of preliminary data that characterizes in detail a new form of immunosuppression that is present in aggressive lymphoma. This was achieved by using patient samples from an Australasian Leukaemia & Lymphoma Group clinical trial. We will now focus on novel strategies to overcome this immunosuppression so as to enhance response to therapy, and also examine the fundamental relationship between host immunity and the malignant lymphoma cell.
A/Prof Stephen Rose, University of Queensland
Understanding radiation insensitivity and temozolomide resistance in Glioblastoma Multiforme
Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) is extremely invasive and has the worst prognosis of all primary brain tumours. We propose to investigate the significant clinical problem associated with the insensitivity of current radiation therapy and chemoresistance to temozolomide by using advanced metabolic PET imaging with analytically determined tissue cancer markers. The outcome of this project will provide individualised image-guided therapy for GBM patients, leading to improved outcomes.
Professor Gregory Monteith, University of Queensland
Identification and characterisation of calcium signalling modifying proteins as drug targets for basal breast cancer
Not all breast cancers are the same. One subtype of breast cancer, termed basal breast cancer, is associated with a particularly poor prognosis and a lack of effective therapies. This project will use a high throughput methods to identify potential new drug targets for basal breast cancer treatment that act by changing the level of calcium inside breast cancer cells.
Dr Mathias Francois, University of Queensland
Inhibitors of SOX18 transcription factor: from developmental biology to pre-clinical trial of novel anti-metastatic compounds
Lymphatic vessels are a vital component of the cardiovascular system and serve several functions critical for fetal development and adult health. However the molecular program that governs its development in the embryo or under pathological conditions remains poorly understood. This project is designed to identify and characterize a novel class of molecules that will enable the manipulation of lymphatic vessel growth with the view to developing new therapeutic avenues for cancer or lymphedema.
A/Prof Helen Blanchard, Griffith University
Design of specific chemical probes to target and inhibit galectin-3
In Australia, 114,000 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2010, with 43,000 deaths due to cancer. It is the leading cause of death and has an associated estimated $3.8 billion direct health system costs. There is clear urgent need for treatment. Our research is to design chemical compounds as both investigative probes for understanding biological function of galectin-3, which is a protein with proven roles in cancer, and that have potential to be developed as therapeutics targeting cancer.
Professor Kum Kum Khanna, Queensland Institute of Medical Research
Role of FBXO31-mediated protein degradation in mitotic progression
Cell division is fundamental to the growth and development of mammals. A tight control on cell division ensures that genetic information is faithfully distributed to daughter cells. Disruption in this process can lead to disease including cancer. In this proposal we aim to investigate the role of a newly identified protein in regulating cell division. We hypothesise that it performs critical functions during the cell cycle by regulating the turnover of proteins.
Dr Susan Jordan, Queensland Institute of Medical Research
Patterns of care in renal cell carcinoma
Kidney cancer is becoming more common. There may be lots of variation in the treatments kidney cancer patients receive and, although this may have health consequences, we don’t know why the variation occurs. We will collect detailed information about this and examine whether patient, cancer or health system factors explain the differences. We will also survey patients and doctors to understand what influences their treatment choices. This information will benefit future health services planning.
Professor Thomas Gonda, University of Queensland
Targeting Myb transcriptional elongation in cancer
The MYB gene is required for the growth of several human cancers, including leukaemia and breast cancer. We have found that MYB is controlled by an unusual mechanism whereby production of its RNA copy is started but is often blocked to generate short, incomplete RNA. Here we aim to re-impose this “elongation block” to switch MYB off in cancers. We will explore the use of known drugs, and discover new molecules involved in overcoming the elongation block against which drugs can be developed.
Dr Graham Leggatt, University of Queensland
Immunotherapy of non-melanoma skin cancer and their precancerous lesions during lymphopenia
Non melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) which includes both squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia with approximately 2% of the population treated for this cancer in 2002. Development of these skin cancers is frequently associated with exposure to sunlight and treatment often involves costly surgical procedures. Our project will examine the transfer of anti-cancer immune cells as an alternative therapeutic option for this group of cancers.
Dr Melissa Brown, University of Queensland
The role of BRCA non-coding mutations in breast cancer susceptibility
Defects in certain genes increase the risk of breast cancer. Most known genetic defects, and those that form part of current diagnostic testing regimes, are in the parts of these genes that encode proteins. Recent data suggests that mutations outside these coding regions are also clinically important. This project will investigate the significance of such defects in known breast cancer susceptibility genes.
Dr Pamela Pollock, Queensland University of Technology
Mechanisms of resistance to FGFR inhibition in endometrial cancer
Preclinical data suggests that inhibition of a receptor called FGFR2 in endometrial cancer may be a viable treatment option. Data from other kinase inhibitors has shown remarkable remission in some cancer types, however, the cancer cells eventually adapt and the drug is longer effective, i.e. the tumour acquires resistance. This project aims to identify and characterize the ways that cells adapt to FGFR inhibition in order to design combination therapies that may delay and/or prevent the emergence of resistance.
Professor Judith Clements, Queensland University of Technology
Kallikrein proteases have key roles in tumour cell aggregation in ascites and chemoresistance in epithelial ovarian cancer
Most ovarian cancer patients are diagnosed when the tumour has spread to the abdominal cavity where ascites fluid forms. We found that kallikrein enzymes are related to the poor outcome of women with this cancer as they help cancer cells survive in ascites fluid. We will identify kallikrein induced targets in cancer cells and ascites of patients and test the response to our kallikrein inhibitors. This may lead to new strategies that can prolong the survival time of patients with this cancer.
Dr Jermaine Coward, Mater Medical Research Institute
Targeting inflammatory pathways in epithelial ovarian cancer
Despite emerging data highlighting the overall survival benefits of drugs that can inhibit angiogenesis in a variety of malignancies, this has yet to be replicated in ovarian cancers. Our future research aims to investigate whether targeting inflammatory pathways can enhance the anti-angiogenic effects induced by cytotoxic agents and drugs such as bevacizumab, and also circumvent resistance to these agents. Laboratory experiments will be conducted in order to develop nimble clinical trials based on sound scientific rationale.
Dr Stephen Wood, Griffith University
Dissecting Usp9x's tumour suppression function in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma
Pancreatic cancer is almost always fatal. Median survival following diagnosis is less than 1 yr. This is due to (i) lack of precise symptoms resulting in diagnosis of late stage disease and (ii) early stages are already metastatic. Understanding the causes of pancreatic cancer is therefore crucial. Using a mouse model we have identified a critical suppressor of pancreatic cancer. This project investigates the role of this tumor suppressor, Usp9x, in pancreatic progression in vivo.
Dr Graeme Walker, Queensland Institute of Medical Research
In vivo functional dissection of the respective roles of the CDKN2A and MTAP loci in naevus susceptibility
The presence of naevi is the largest risk factor for melanoma, and many melanomas emanate from neavi. The strongest genetic linkage for naevus susceptibility is to chromosome 9p21. However genetic studies cannot determine which gene within this chromosomal region is critical. We have developed an in vivo functional technique to identify the naevus gene. This study will enhance our understanding of how naevi develop, and will provide a definitive target for melanoma therapy.
Dr Nigel McMillan, Griffith University
Nanoparticle mucosal delivery systems for siRNA-based cancer therapies
New gene-based treatments for cancers and infectious diseases show great promise in the laboratory but cannot reach their full potential due to lack of effective delivery systems. We have developed a novel delivery system for gene silencing therapy for cancers. We will improve treatments by testing new immune enhancers that boost the body’s ability to fight cancer. Testing will be undertaken on cervical cancer in the first instance.
Dr Benjamin Hogan, University of Queensland
A novel mechanism regulating lymphatic vascular precursor cell migration
The transformation of normal breast tissue to tumor requires the accumulation of mutations, which is readily achieved by deregulation of DNA repair pathways. We found that the metastatic breast cancer has high levels of the DNA repair protein RAD51. We will determine how RAD51 affects metastatic promoting genes and characterise potential binding partners of RAD51 as a regulator of these metastatic genes. Our results will provide a new molecular mechanism that can be translated into novel chemotherapy combinations for breast cancer metastases.
Dr Andreas Moeller, Queensland Institute of Medical Research
Regulation of the pre-metastatic niche by hypoxia
Spread of breast cancer to distant organs (metastasis) is the main cause of patient mortality. Tumour cells have a unique ability to grow in low levels of oxygen (hypoxia). Hypoxia not only promotes metastasis directly, but also primes distant organs such that they are more receptive to incoming cancer cells. We aim to understand how hypoxia in the primary tumour changes distant organs before metastasis occurs. This will determine if hypoxia inhibition is a potential new anti-metastasis therapy.
Professor Jiri Neuzil, Griffith University
How to efficiently treat resistant breast cancer
Her2-positive breast cancer is a considerable burden that is hard to treat and whose treatment is very costly and involves substantial secondary toxicity. We synthetised a novel analogue of the frequently applied drug in breast cancer therapy, tamoxifen, which was modified to target mitochondria. This new agent appears very good in killing HER2-high breast cancer cells. This project is likely leading to new and efficient treatment of hard-to-manage cancer.
Dr Fiona Simpson, University of Queensland
The role of epidermal growth factor receptor trafficking in tumor progression and patient therapy resistance
The most promising treatments for epithelial cancers are monoclonal antibodies which inhibit the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR). Many patients receiving therapy do not respond. Our research shows that EGFR internalisation into cells is dysregulated in ~60% of patient tumors. We can predict patient responses to therapy so that non-responsive patients do not have treatment which won't work but will give side-effects. We aim to find a way to change the resistance mechanism so that more patients can respond to treatment.
Dr John Hooper, Mater Medical Research Institute
A novel Src regulated protease activated signalling pathway in hematogenous metastasis
This project will characterise a novel molecular pathway that helps kidney cancer cells to spread via the blood system. It is important to understand this pathway as it may provide new ways to treat aggressive cancer.
Professor Martin Lavin, Queensland Institute of Medical Research
Role of ATM-dependent Mre11 Phosphorylation in the DNA damage response
Ataxia-telangiectasia is a rare human genetic disorder that affects approximately 50 Australian children. Although rare it has characteristics that overlap with diseases in the community at large incuding cancer predisposition and neurodegeneration. This project is designed to understand how the protein deficient in this syndrome protects the genome against stress.
2012 - 2013
A/Prof Helen Blanchard, Griffith University
Design of inhibitors targeting the tumour promoting protein Galectin-1
In Australia 115,000 new cases of cancer were projected for 2010 and 43,000 deaths due to cancer resulted during that year. With over 40,000 people dying annually, it is the leading cause of death in Australia, and has an associated estimated $3.8 billion direct health system costs. There is clear urgent need for treatment of this devastating disease. Our research is to design therapeutics targeting cancer, with a focus on inhibiting galectins that are proteins with proven roles in this disease.
Dr Glen Boyle, Queensland Institute of Medical Research
Does "phenotype-switching" control melanoma proliferation, invasion and metastasis?
There are currently no treatments that have any impact on decreasing mortality from metastatic melanoma. We have found that melanoma may switch between growing and invading around the body. This study will examine the proteins responsible for these changes with the aims of finding how they function differently, to identify their roles in the formation of melanoma, as well as to identify new targets for prevention and treatment of metastatic disease.
Prof Melissa Brown, The University of Queensland
Transcriptional regulation of non-code RNA genes implicated in breast cancer
The reason why breast cancers spread is poorly understood. A new class of RNA molecules that promote or repress this process have recently been described. This project will define the critical regions of DNA controlling the levels of these ncRNAs and will identify defects in these regions that are associated with breast cancer outcome. This information will form the basis of novel nucleic acid based prognostic biomarkers and therapeutic targets.
Prof Russ Chess-Williams, Bond University
Cytotoxic drugs, urothelial function and the ageing bladder
Cytotoxic drugs are repeatedly instilled into the bladder when treating cancers and they often cause bladder instability. This study will investigate the urothelial, muscle and sensory nerve mechanisms involved in these adverse effects, the effects of repeated treatment, how the bladder recovers after treatment and how old age affects the bladders response to treatment. The results may aid the optimisation of treatment regimes.
Prof Judith Clements, Queensland University of Technology
Kallikrein proteases are key players in the ovarian tumour-stroma microenvironment
Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among Australian women as it is diagnosed late when it has already spread into the abdomen. We aim to better understand how this cancer spreads so quickly and have shown that the kallikrein enzymes are involved in this process. In this grant, we are developing a bio-engineered 3 dimensional model to replicate the tumour environment to identify how we can use the kallikrein enzymes as potential therapeutic targets for ovarian cancer.
A/Prof Magaret Cummings, The University of Queensland
Re-defining the molecular evolution of breast cancer and its precursors
A consequence of screening women for early breast cancer is frequent identification of small pre-cancerous lesions. The clinical significance of many such proliferations remains unclear, making management of affected patients difficult. Through the use of molecular studies, we aim to better define the significance and nature of these proliferations within the multistep process of breast cancer evolution. This will provide a better framework on which to manage patients with early pre-invasive lesions identified through breast screening programs.
A/Prof Camile Farah, The University of Queensland
Oral epithelial stem cell markers as a platform for better diagnosis of mouth cancer
Oral cancer is a deadly disease with very poor prognosis. We aim to identify markers for early detection of pre-cancerous lesions using stem cells from the mouth. We will isolate and characterize oral epithelial stem cells from normal and cancerous tissue and compare their genetic profiles. We believe this approach will not only provide valuable information regarding oral epithelial stem cells, but more importantly useful diagnostic information for oral cancer and precancer.
Prof Kwun Fong, The University of Queensland
Detection of treatment-responsive lung cancer mutations
Lung cancer is the biggest cause of cancer deaths in Australia and the world. Lung cancer management is rapidly evolving to the concept of personalised medicine based on recent successes using therapies which target specific vulnerabilities in the cancer genome. We will determine if testing for treatment-responsive lung cancer gene mutations is feasible with routine clinical samples.
A/Prof Brian Gabrielli, The University of Queensland
Defining a response to UV exposure that is defective in melanoma
Ultraviolet radiation is the major environmental risk factor for the development of skin cancer and melanoma. In this application we will examine a normal response to ultraviolet radiation that is defective in a high proportion of melanomas. Loss of this response may be involved in the development of melanoma and possibly be a selective target for new therapies directed against melanoma.
Dr Sandi Hayes, Queensland University of Technology
LEGS follow-up: Lymphoedema Evaluation following Gynaecology Cancer Study
This ongoing cohort study is unique in Australia and indeed worldwide. It will for the first time find out when, in whom and why lower-limb swelling develops after treatment for gynaecological cancer. This research will help us to understand if there is promise for early detection and treatment of lower-limb swelling, when best to initiate treatment, and has the overarching aim to improve patients' quality of life, and potentially survival.
Prof Nicholas Hayward, Queensland Institute of Medical Research
Characterisation of novel melanoma susceptibility genes through whole-genome sequencing
About 10% of melanoma cases occur in a familial setting but the 3 known familial melanoma genes account for susceptibility in only 40% of high-density melanoma families. Linkage and mutation studies suggest that predisposition in other families is most likely due to rare mutations in as yet unidentified genes. Here, we seek to identify new familial melanoma genes in Australian melanoma families through state-of-the-art sequencing of all protein-coding genes.
Dr Tanya Holt, Princess Alexandra Hospital
SCORAD III -- a randomised phase III trial comparing the effect on ambulation rate of single fraction radiotherapy to multifraction radiotherapy in patients with metastatic spinal cord compression
Spinal cord compression (SCC) is a common complication of cancer that has spread to the bones. For the majority of people the treatment of choice is radiotherapy. The optimal number of radiotherapy treatments that is required to successfully treat SCC is not known. SCORAD is a randomised trial that aims to assess whether one radiotherapy treatment is as effective as five in terms of maintaining a person’s ability to walk.
A/Prof John Hooper, Mater Medical Research Institute
THE LYNNIE'S LEGACY RESEARCH PROJECT GRANT
A novel molecular pathway in cancer
This project will define the components of a new molecular pathway that promotes cancer. By understanding this pathway we may be able to identify individual proteins that can be blocked to stop cancer. Thus, our work may lead to new drugs for the treatment of cancer.
Prof Barbara Leggett, Queensland Institute of Medical Research
Molecular and clinical features of serrated adenomas that predict risk of malignant transformation and risk of development of further polyps
Over 13,000 Australians are diagnosed with bowel cancer annually. It develops in precancerous polyps which can be detected and removed during colonoscopy. At least 20% of bowel cancers arise from serrated polyps, a type of polyp previously thought to be harmless. This project will determine which serrated polyps are most likely to become cancerous and how often patients with these polyps should undergo repeat colonoscopy to detect and remove recurrent polyps.
A/Prof Michael McGuckin, Mater Medical Research Institute
Targeting MUC13 to sensitise colorectal cancer cells to apoptosis
We have identified a protein that is produced by colon cancer cells that protects them from death after exposure to chemotherapy drugs. In this project we will identify how this protein protects cancer cells from death, and whether blocking it sensitises cells to treatment.
Dr Peter Mollee, Princess Alexandra Hospital
Catheter-related bloodstream infections in adults with cancer: a prospective randomised controlled trial
Patients with cancer often require prolonged access to the bloodstream via a central venous access device in order to deliver chemotherapy treatments as well as associated supportive and symptomatic therapies. A common serious side-effect of having this device is the development of an infection in the blood. This research will investigate whether insertion of the device into the non-dominant side of the body will reduce the likelihood of developing a bloodstream infection.
Dr Pamela Pollock, Queensland University of Technology
Genomic analysis of serous endometrial cancer and development of in vitro and in vivo models
We have formed the GenETIC consortium, Genetics of Endometrial Tumours International Collaboration consortia comprised of both clinicians and basic scientists with expertise in tumour collection and genomic analysis. We plan to genomically characterize a poor prognosis subtype of endometrial cancer (EC) and validate our findings in a cohort of biologically aggressive ECs. In addition, we will develop novel in vitro and in vivo models for subsequent basic and preclinical translational studies.
Prof Nicholas Saunders, The University of Queensland
Dysregulated H3K27me3 contributes to differentiation-insensitivity and squamous cell carcinoma development
Skin and oral malignancies occur when the normal processes controlling growth and maturation are disrupted. Approximately 1,500 Australians die of oral and skin cancers each year. In order to improve cure rates for these cancers we need to identify new targets that can be used in the development of potent new anticancer agents. We have preliminary data identifying such a target. In this proposal we will validate this target as a prelude to the development of a new class of anticancer agents.
Dr Andreas Suhrbier, Queensland Institute of Medical Research
The function of Sin1 isoforms in mTORC2 and Ras signalling
A recently discovered pathway that is disrupted in many cancers called mTOR promises to be a new target for anti-cancer drug therapy. However, initial clinical results have been patchy. Understanding the biology of this new pathway and its interaction with other pathways important in cancer cells is the purpose of this grant and should help to predict what tumours are going to be more susceptible to drugs that inhibit mTOR.
Dr Irina Vetter, The University of Queensland
The pharmacology and molecular mechanisms of ciguatoxin-induced cold allodynia
Touching very cold objects hurts - in some conditions like diabetes, even a pleasantly cool surface can elicit severe pain. The mechanisms behind these painful sensory disturbances – known as cold allodynia - are unclear. A form of seafood poisoning caused by eating fish contaminated with ciguatoxin may provide novel insights as cold allodynia develops in the majority of cases. This project aims to determine how ciguatoxin causes cold pain in order to develop novel treatments for cold pain.
Dr Graeme Walker, Queensland Institute of Medical Research
An ultraviolet radiation-induced inflammatory response involving infiltrating macrophages drives melanocyte proliferation and triggers melanoma development
We are working on a novel connection between the immune and melanocyte responses to sun exposure, where melanocyte proliferation is driven by a molecule excreted from infiltrating macrophages. We will use a murine melanoma model to ask whether by depleting macrophages we can attenuate melanoma induction by UV radiation. This work will provide a functional basis for determining melanoma risk based on immune response, and for the use of anti-inflammatory treatments to reduce melanoma risk.
Dr Ingrid Winkler, Mater Medical Research Institute
Characterisation and manipulation of bone marrow niche factors regulating Myeloid Leukaemia Stem Cell fate
Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) is responsible for 1.9% of all cancer-related deaths and 12,000 Australian hospital admissions each year.. Only 25% of patients survive AML despite best treatment available. We have identified a bone marrow (BM) niche factor, the blockage of which may render AML more chemosensitive when used in combination with chemotherapy to improve treatment for this disease.
Prof Chengzhong Yu, The University of Queensland
Novel photodynamic therapy for targeted skin cancer treatment: an integrated bionanotechnology
Australia suffers from the highest rate of skin cancer in the world and an increasing number of people die from skin cancer. This project aims to develop a new technique for skin cancer therapy by integrating state-of-the-art bionanotechnologies. A new photodynamic therapy approach will be designed using mesoporous silica nanoparticles delivered by microneedles. The integrated approach is expected to be applied with enhanced treatment efficiency, lowered toxicity and at a low cost.
Strategic Research Partnership Grant (2009 - 2013)
Prof Robert ('Frank') Gardiner, University of Queensland
A Randomised Trial of Robotic and Open Prostatectomy: Integrated Multi-disciplinary Studies to Guide Patient Management
|2012-2016||Prof Nicholas Saunders
||The University of Queensland, Diamantina Institute|
|2001 - 2015
||Dr Kelli MacDonald
||Queensland Institute of Medical Research
|2009 - 2013
||Dr Graeme Walker
||Queensland Institute of Medical Research
|2012 - 2016
||A/Prof Maher Gandhi
||Princess Alexandra Hospital
|2013 - 2015||Mr Nicholas Ashton||Queensland University of Technology|
|2012 - 2014||Mr Mark Bettington||Queensland Institute of Medical Research|
|2012 - 2014||Ms Marissa Daniels||University of Queensland|
|2011 - 2013||Dr Donald McLeod||Queensland Institute of Medical Research|
|2011 - 2013||Ms Bryony Thompson||Queensland Institute of Medical Research|