Top cancer researchers from the University of Sydney have won 7.5 million in grants to fund ground-breaking research that will transform the way cancer is treated around the world.
Announced by NSW Health Minister The Hon Brad Hazzard this week, two innovative cancer research programs will commence at the University with funding from the Cancer Institute NSW and the Cancer Council NSW.
The funding will support researchers to develop and trial targeted radiotherapy technologies for a wide range of cancers, and to investigate methods to increase access to cutting edge immunotherapy for people with leukaemia and lymphoma.
These significant cancer projects will potentially help millions of patients around the world and increase survival rates by developing more effective, personalised treatments, while significantly reducing the side effects of cancer treatment.
Project 1: Cancer imaging and targeted radiation therapy
Chief Investigator Professor Paul Keall, Director of the ACRF Image X Institute, and his research team will develop and trial new targeted and personalised radiotherapy technologies, making radiotherapy more effective and accessible while significantly reducing side effects by limiting unnecessary tissue damage.
Targeted radiotherapy has the potential to limit damage to healthy tissue and focus treatment on the most aggressive and resistant parts of the tumour. For people with cancer, it could increase survival rates and improve quality of life.
“We are excited that we can accelerate bringing our discoveries to clinical trials in a more comprehensive, robust and supported manner,” said Professor Keall.
“Our plan is to translate a pipeline of cancer imaging and targeted radiotherapy medical devices from the advanced discovery phase to new first-in-the-world clinical trials and to broad clinical practice.
“Much of our work involves how we can image and treat cancers whose position and motion is affected by normal physiologic motion such as breathing, cardiac motion and digestion.
“As our research is applicable to all major cancer types and radiotherapy is essential for cancer cure and symptom control for half of all cancer patients, success means a global real-world impact on the lives of millions of cancer patients,” he said.
Project 2: Establishment of a comprehensive pipeline for T-cell immunotherapies
Researchers at the University of Sydney will develop methods for making cutting edge CAR T-cell immunotherapy for leukaemia and lymphoma patients simpler and more affordable.
Chief Investigator Professor David Gottlieb will lead the project which will develop cell therapies for cancer and infections by advancing methods that expand immune cells called T lymphocytes from the blood of cancer patients or their donors.
“These are completely new types of treatment and this funding will allow us to extend available treatments to more patients with leukaemia and blood cancers,” said Professor Gottlieb from the Westmead Institute of Cancer Research and Westmead Hospital.
“CAR T-cell immunotherapy is one of the most exciting cancer therapies to emerge in recent years. This project is about providing treatments for patients very soon in as many hospitals as we are able.
“This grant will allow Australians with leukaemia and lymphoma greater access to CAR T-cell immunotherapy and will fast-track CAR T-cell delivery at multiple health facilities. It will also allow us to provide state of the art treatments for critically ill patients with serious virus and fungus infections.
“For people with recurrent and difficult to treat leukaemia and lymphoma, the genetic therapies we intend to make widely available will offer a chance for cure that may not be currently available. We look forward to applying state of the art cell and gene therapies widely in the near future,” he said.