Cure Brain Cancer Foundation Innovation Grants
The Innovation Grant aims to fund new research projects that deviate from existing paradigms and current lines of investigation. The grant allows investigators to follow leading observations and exploration of novel ideas in brain cancer research. The grant supports investigators to produce proof-of-concept data for their higher-risk projects and establish feasibility for future research and grant applications.
The Innovation Grant in aid will offer up tp $200,000 over two years.
Professor Andrew Scott
Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (La Trobe University School of Cancer Medicine) - $200,000 (2018)
Cure Brain Cancer Foundation's Innovation Grant will support a multi-centre clinical trial in Australian patients who have been diagnosed with glioblastoma (GBM). Leveraging an Australian Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) funded, multi-centre trial of amino acid imaging in GBM patients, we will develop and validate novel imaging signatures that are prognostic for survival, and predictive of early response or resistance to chemoradiation therapy. This will allow improved personalised treatment regimens to be developed that enahance response to initial treatment, and to ensure optimal investigation and management of patients with GBM.
We will also establish new approaches to radiation treatment planning that incorporate advanced imaging, aimed at enhancing treatment response and durability of disease control, and ultimately cures. Importantly, the proposed trial involves, for the first time, a partnership between three established clinical trial co-operative groups; the Australasian Radiopharmaceutical Trials Network (ARTnet), the Cooperative trials Group for Neuro-Oncology (COGNO), and the Trans Tasman Radiation Oncology Group (TROG). In this context, the project is highly relevant to Cure Brain Cancer Foundation's Mission of improving five-year survival to 50% by 2023.
Associate Professor Lee Wong
Monash University's Biomedicine Discovery Institute - $200,000 (2017)
A project investigating how the epigenetic changes which result from ATRX/histone H3.3 mutations will aid the development of targeted therapies for brain tumours.
This project involves precise genetic engineering to recapitulate the initial driver events in the epigenetic pathway which promote gliomagenesis. While cancer lines used in most studies are generally adequate, the presence of multiple mutations can complicate data analysis. The team will generate accurate mutations of ATRX/H3.3 in the context of a ‘clean’, otherwise normal, background for detailed investigations on the epigenetic changes which occur in the absence of other confounding factors. This systematic approach to understanding this crucial component of gliomagenesis will provide insights which cannot be obtained using any other methods.
Doctor Leonie Quinn
Australian National University, ACT - $200,000 (2017)
Treatment strategies for patients with invasive brain tumours are currently based on the World Health Organization (WHO) tumour grading system. This system does not account for differences within tumour types, although these can significantly affect treatment outcomes. This grant focuses on the second most common primary brain cancer in adults, oligodendroglioma.
Although patients with this class of brain cancer have a median survival of 15 years, this prolonged disease is associated with considerable suffering, including seizures and major neurological deficits. Of major concern are observations that although the current palliative treatment regime for Oligodendroglioma does not alter tumour grade in most patients, in a subset of patients (around 15 per cent) the recurring tumours become extremely aggressive hasten death for reasons currently unclear.
This project aims to identify new prognostic markers and investigate drug therapies for specific Oligodendroglioma tumour types based on their molecular signature. These studies will lead to more individualised treatments, which is critical to improving survival and quality of life for brain tumour patients.
Associate Professor Nick Gottardo
Telethon Kid's Institute (2017)
Brain cancers kill more young people in Australia than any other disease. Nick Gottardo's work will focus on the most common malignant brain cancers in children and adults, to improve survival rates. His research aims to find approaches that enhance existing treatments, prove the new methods work using laboratory techniques, then translate them into clinical trials.
Radiation treatment works by damaging the DNA inside cancer cells, causing the cells to die. However, cancer cells often repair the DNA damage, survive, and multiply, leading to treatment failure and cancer regrowth. He has evidence radiation therapy can be improved if DNA repair is stopped.
He will study two drugs that stop DNA repair. Called iCHK and iATR, these drugs work by blocking proteins in the cell called CHK and ATR. When DNA is damaged, CHK and ATR normally work to repair DNA, allowing cancer cells to survive. But in the presence of the drugs, DNA repair is stopped, and the cells die. This works better in cancer cells than healthy cells because cancer cells multiply faster.
He aims to prove that iCHK and/or iATR enhance the ability of radiation to kill brain cancer cells, without causing damage to healthy brain tissue. For this, he will create "avatars" of brain cancer in the lab by growing the cancer cells in mouse brains, then give them each new drug together with radiation.
A/Prof Gottardo expects to see decreased cancer growth and increased animal survival as measures of success. To measure safety, he will examine the animals for side effects.
His results will determine if iCHK and iATR can improve the effects of radiation, which in turn should reduce the chances of the brain cancer relapsing. This will lead to new clinical trials, and help achieve more cures and better quality of life for patients.
Doctor Roberta Mazzieri
University of Queensland, QLD (2017)
Dr Mazzieri will focus on an immunotherapy study to combat glioblastoma, the most common and deadly form of brain cancer. Immunotherapy has previously proved ineffective against glioblastoma for two reasons: the cellular environment within the tumour contains signals that actively suppress the activity of immune cells, and the fact that glioblastoma cells lack signals to make them visible to immune cells.
This project will investigate new and innovative approaches to overcome these obstacles. To combat immune activity suppression, Dr Mazzieri will use genetic engineering technology to reprogram a class of cell to produce a powerful immune response within glioblastoma tumours. To make glioblastoma cells more visible to the immune system, she will apply a technique to kill tumour cells that causes them to release powerful immune-activating signals. These will then be delivered to the patient using new nanotechnologies.
Dr Mazzieri is based at The University of Queensland and is one of Australia’s most respected researchers. This Innovation Grant was awarded following a competitive application process. These types of projects are not commonly funded within traditional funding models, and these grants enable researchers to gain proof of concept data to establish whether the ideas are feasible for ongoing funding.
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