Researcher Spotlight Special Edition: Our Research Success!

Researcher Spotlight Special Edition: Celebrating Our 2018 Research Success!

In our first Researcher Spotlight of the Year, we take the opportunity to look at the difference your donations have been making and celebrate some of the research successes of our Class of 2018.

Our Class of 2018 at our annual Researcher Symposium and Showcase.

Our Class of 2018 at our annual Researcher Symposium and Showcase.

A/prof Jyostna Batra

A/Prof Jyotsna Batra

Prostate Cancer Researcher, QUT

Researcher of the Year 2018

Cure Cancer Researcher of the Year Jyotsna Batra has been working on examining the DNA sequences of around 140,000 men of European descent in the world’s largest prostate cancer study ever.

With this data, she and her team were able to identify 63 new genetic markers which predispose men to prostate cancer. Using new and known risk variants, an estimated 28 percent of familial prostate cancer risk can now be accounted for. These findings enable the identification of which men should have early and regular screenings and may eventually inform treatment decisions. In 2018, Jyotsna and her team further examined a number of these genetic markers, discovering credible genetic variants which could be potentially causal for prostate cancer.

 
Dr Kate Van Dyke

Dr Kate Van Dyke

Blood Cancer Researcher, University of Adelaide

Kate specialises in multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer which is diagnosed in approximately 140,000 people around the world each year. Many patients find the disease progresses rapidly after treatment because of its ability to spread throughout the body.

Kate’s project was focused on a particular protein which is found in cancer cells in more than half of all myeloma patients. With the funding from Cure Cancer, Kate and her team have found that this protein is a key driver of the spread of tumour cells throughout the body. One of the major findings from 2018 was using a drug that targets this protein to block the spread of tumour cells in a mouse model of myeloma. This is a promising finding, as it could mean that this drug could be used to slow the progression of disease.

 
Dr Orazio Vittorio

Dr Orazio Vittorio

Childhood Cancer Researcher, CCI

Neuroblastoma claims more lives of children under the age of 5 than any other cancer. The survival rate for high-risk neuroblastoma is about 50% and the rate for the most aggressive form can be as low as 15%.

Last year, Orazio and his research team found that the antioxidant, Catechin (found in green tea amongst other foods), significantly reduces the capacity of a neuroblastoma tumour to accumulate copper from the blood.

Copper is an emerging target for the treatment of cancers, and Orazio’s paper (published in the journal Theranostics) is the first in the world that demonstrates how PET imaging techniques can be used to reveal elevated copper levels in neuroblastoma and to monitor tumour response to therapies.

 
A/prof Steven Lane

A/Prof Steven Lane

Blood Cancer Researcher, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

Last year, A/Prof Steven Lane and his team showed that blood cancers progress from early stage disease to more aggressive advanced stage disease (myelofibrosis) through new changes in DNA.

Steven was able to use genome editing to mimic this process in a model of myeloproliferative neoplasm (a type of blood cancer) and show that this relates to activation of inflammatory pathways within the cancerous cells, leading to the possibility of treatment of the myelofibrosis by blocking these pathways.

 
Dr Camille Guilleray

Dr Camille Guilleray

Blood Cancer Researcher, Mater Research Institute

Funded by the Can Too Foundation

Camille spent half of 2018 on maternity leave, joining Kristen Radford’s lab at the Mater Research Institute in August.

One of Camille’s key successes last year was the publication of a short report in the journal ‘Blood’, identifying a particular immune-suppressive molecule as a potential target in multiple myeloma. They showed that blocking this molecule delayed tumour progression in a mouse model of multiple myeloma. Altogether, their findings open up new avenues for the treatment of multiple myeloma patients.

 
Dr Esther Lim

Dr Esther Lim

Skin Cancer Researcher, Macquarie University

Funded by the Can Too Foundation

Esther’s project last year investigated means of stimulating the immune system as a form of therapy for patients with advanced melanoma, an aggressive type of skin cancer. Her work entails looking at the genomic and protein profiles of these patients to identify who will benefit from this treatment and anticipate whether patients will develop life-threatening side effects due to treatment.

This research may take the medical community a step closer to personalising effective therapies with greatest benefit and lowest risk of adverse effects.

 
Dr Mark Pinese

Dr Mark Pinese

Bone Cancer Researcher, Garvan Institute of Medical Research

Last year, Mark’s team completed a major milestone in the Medical Genome Reference Bank project (MGRB).  Although not yet complete, the MGRB is the largest sequencing project undertaken in Australia, and the largest sequencing cohort of well elderly people in the world. 

Mark directs the analysis of this dataset and is first author on the main results paper.

The MGRB has real value as a reference dataset for any researchers doing genomics work, potentially halving the amount of sequencing they need to do.  It is also valuable as a reference for clinical work, to establish what is ‘healthy’ when looking at a human genome. 

The team are comparing the MGRB to sequences from young adults with sarcoma to try and identify genetic patterns linked to this type of cancer.

 
Dr Angelica Merlot

Dr Angelica Merlot

Pancreatic Cancer Researcher, UNSW

Funded by the Can Too Foundation

In 2018, Angelica successfully moved institutions after obtaining a prestigious and highly competitive tenure-track Scientia Fellowship with the University of New South Wales. The program attracts the best and brightest people with outstanding research track records. Angelica is now working towards establishing her own research independence and group.

Angelica was also recently nominated for the Harvey Norman Young Woman of the Year award in partnership with NSW Women’s Week.

 
Dr Kelly Brooks

Dr Kelly Brooks

Eye Cancer Researcher, QIMR Berghofer Research Institute

Last year Kelly was invited to give presentations at uveal melanoma meetings both in Australia and overseas. This has led to collaborative projects with researchers from America and Europe, including submission of a collaborative research grant at the end of 2018.

This strong clinical collaboration has also led to the creation of unique resources and a large-scale sequencing project which will provide valuable information and tools to further understanding of eye melanoma, including a potential marker for immunotherapy response in patients.

 
Dr Yuan Cao

Dr Yuan Cao

Breast Cancer Researcher, University of Melbourne

Funded by the Can Too Foundation

Yuan’s project investigates the feasibility of targeting a specific protein as a novel therapeutic strategy to promote immune response against breast cancer. During 2018, Yuan’s team have accomplished most of the important experiments and verified the role of the protein in immunoregulation.

Yuan hopes to further verify the function of this protein in breast cancer tumour growth and progression.

 
Dr Lauren Aoude

Dr Lauren Aoude

Skin Cancer Researcher, University of Queensland

Funded by the Can Too Foundation

Lauren has been busy trying to understand how PET/CT scans can be used to better characterise tumour genomics in melanoma patients. She has also successfully established a collaboration with a cancer immunology lab at UQ and has new funding to examine the immune system of long-term oesophageal cancer survivors to understand what allows them to have an enduring anti-tumour response.

 
Dr Sumit Sahni

Dr Sumit Sahni

Pancreatic Cancer Researcher, University of Sydney

Funded by the Can Too Foundation

Sumit last year received a prestigious Boncardo Fellowship in Pancreatic Cancer and has moved to the Kolling Institute to continue his research in the area of Pancreatic Cancer. He also received the AMP Tomorrow Fund Grant to support his research at the bench in 2019.

 
Dr Prahlad Raninga

Dr Prahlad Raninga

Breast Cancer Researcher, QIMR Berghofer

Funded by the Can Too Foundation

Prahlad is working on identifying novel genes that are essential for the survival of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and developing novel therapies for TNBCs. He and his team have identified a particular protein significantly increased in TNBC patients and developed a novel combination therapy to treat TNBC more effectively. They have also gone on to test the same methodology in high-grade ovarian cancer and obtained similar results.

 
Dr Fernando Guimaraes

Dr Fernando Guimaraes

Skin Cancer Researcher, WEHI

Funded by the Can Too Foundation

In 2018, Fernando was invited to provide training and teaching to post grad students from the Institute Pasteur Network, Cambodia and Federal University of Parana, Brazil. In addition, he was invited to numerous seminars at research institutions in Australia and overseas (USA, Hong Kong, France, and Cambodia).

Fernado had a total of 10 scientific manuscripts published last year, with 2 already accepted for publication in 2019. He was the only granted postdoctoral fellow as a NHMRC New Investigator Grant awarded to the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.

 
Dr George Sharbeen

Dr George Sharbeen

Pancreatic Cancer Researcher, UNSW

Funded by the Can Too Foundation

In 2018, George and his team continued with the development and validation of nanomedicine, gaining a better understanding of how their therapeutic approach kills pancreatic cancer cells. They also discovered how timing can affect tumour response to their therapeutic approach.

George currently has multiple manuscripts in preparation on these findings, and supervised an honours student to completion with 1st class honours.

 

A BIG THANK YOU and Congratulations

Congratulations to all our researchers on their inspiring work. Thanks to them, we are one step closer to making this the last generation to die from cancer.

If you want to further support our dedicated researchers and donate today, you can do so below and help us make this the last generation to die from cancer.

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