2013 FCIC Research Grants

2013 FCIC Research Grants

The FCIC research grant round for funding in 2013 received 30 applications. This was a highly competitive round, each grant was reviewed by a minimum of three reviewers with expertise in the discipline(s) covered by the application.

The FCIC research grants are made possible thanks to the Flinders Medical Centre Foundation.

The successful grants for the 2013 round are listed below:

Analysis of breast cancer stem cell heterogeneity

Dr Robyn Meech

Cancer stem cells (CSC) are emerging as key therapeutic targets in cancer because they are believed to drive tumour formation, spread (metastasis) and relapse after chemo and radiation therapy. This project studies the variation in populations of breast cancer stem cells which may aid in developing therapies to prevent cancer relapse.

Blocking the pathways that lead to the growth of malignant mesothelioma

Assoc Prof Sonja Klebe and Professor Keryn Williams

Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive tumour of the lung surface which is invariably fatal and caused by inhalation of asbestos. The growth of this tumour is driven by several factors. For the first time, we aim to simultaneously block two of the pathways that are known to independently drive tumour growth. Each of the molecules can be measured in patients, paving the way for personalised therapy.

Study of MicroRNA-18: a tumour suppressor in colorectal cells

Dr Michael Michael

This project will study the microRNA molecule miR-18a, which displays an anti-cancer role in colorectal cells.

While studying the role of diet on microRNA activity in colorectal cancer cells, we have shown that a cancer-associated cluster of microRNAs is dampened by dietary fibre-derived butyrate, possibly explaining the protective effects of a high fibre diet.

Further, we have shown that miR-18a, acts to supress the cancer causing activity of the other microRNAs. In effect, the cluster appears to behave in a “Ying and Yang” manner to provide balance to bowel cells and allow them to develop properly.

Improving treatment and prevention of prostate cancer by utilising Parthenolide

Prof Pamela Sykes and Dr Rebecca Ormsby

The study of a naturally occurring molecule called parthenolide which has been shown to slow down or kill prostate cancer cells in the lab, and which can act to protect normal cells from some radiation damage. This study will attempt to determine if parthenolide will slow down prostate cancer, increase killing of prostate cancer cells during radiotherapy and selectively protect normal organs during radiotherapy.

Novel biomarkers of hypoxic tumours in breast cancer and their role in tumour progression

Prof Jonathan Gleadle and Dr Michael Michael

This project focuses on the mechanisms by which cancer cells signal to each other and to neighbouring cells and explores a potential link between cancer aggression and tumour hypoxia (reduced oxygen supply to cells and tissue).

Regulation of UDP Glucuronosyltransferase Expression by microRNAs in Cancer

Prof Peter Mackenzie

The UDP glucuronosyltransferase (UGT) inactivates and removes chemical carcinogens and steroid hormone drivers of cancer growth. Low levels of these enzymes may increase the risk of cancer initiation and progression. This investigation will look at the mechanisms that regulate the enzymes which remove carcinogens and control growth-promoting hormones in cancer.

Molecular mechanisms of rapamycin action on the liver

Prof Greg Barritt and Dr Robert Padbury

Tumour recurrence is a major concern in surgery for liver cancer.  Rapamycin, an immunosuppressant currently employed in the management of liver transplant patients, inhibits the growth of cancer cells and is now increasingly being used clinically to inhibit tumour cell regrowth. 

Identifying the long term effects of low dose irradiation on DNA

Dr Rebecca Ormsby

While high dose radiation exposure is associated with an increased risk of cancer, there is increasing evidence that low doses of radiation can increase longevity as well as suppress the development of cancers, and reduce the level of DNA damage that naturally accumulates with age. The aim of this project is to determine whether low dose X-rays (equivalent to a chest X-ray) have long-term effects on the chemical structure of DNA.

Mediating resistance to anti-androgen therapy in Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Dr Dong Gui Hu and Prof Peter Mackenzie

Approximately 70% of all breast cancers express the estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR), or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, and targeting these receptors has been an effective therapeutic strategy. The remaining breast cancers do not express any of these receptors and are collectively termed Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) and generally have a poor prognosis due to a lack of targeted therapies. This research project will explore specific molecules that could improve outcomes for these patients.

A qualitative study investigating cancer patient’s trust in multi-disciplinary healthcare professionals

Dr Samantha Meyer, Prof Paul Ward and Prof Carlene Wilson

Evidence suggests that specifically for patients living with cancer, trust is a dominant concern and central to the use of recommended preventive services and treatment decision making. The aims of the proposed study are to quantitatively measure the extent of patient trust in a range of healthcare professionals and compare patient trust in medical, nursing and allied health care professionals in cancer services.

Utilising social media and social networks to change acceptability of sun exposure in young women

Prof Carlene Wilson, Dr Ivanka Prichard and Dr Amanda Hutchinson

With the use of sun protective behaviours, skin cancer should be largely preventable. However having a tanned appearance is still viewed as desirable by many young women. This project will test an intervention that utilises social media and links shared with peers on Facebook to materials that challenge the norm, that a tanned skin is more attractive. If effective in changing this perception and associated tanning behaviour we will be well-placed to undertake a viral marketing campaign that may decrease the incidence of skin cancer 10 years hence.

Detecting chromosomal abnormalities in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)

Dr Melanie Hayes, Assoc Prof Bryone Kuss and Assoc Prof Peta Macardle

This team’s project is focused on developing a novel technique to detect genetic abnormalities in CLL. This method is faster and more sensitive than current methods, allowing the detection of very small populations of cells that cannot be seen using current techniques and may help predict whether a CLL patient will relapse following treatment.

Targeting cancer treatments – using old therapies in innovative ways

Dr Benjamin Lewis

The aims of this research is to understand how lipophilic chemicals (drugs, toxins, environmental chemicals and products of metabolism) are eliminated and to understand how this process is controlled at the gene level to improve tumour specificity. This information will provide a framework for predicting the risk of toxicity when exposed to lipophilic chemicals and predicting an individual’s response to drug treatments.

A prospective clinical trial investigating antimullerian hormone (AMH) as a predictor of chemotherapy induced menopause

Prof Bogda Koczwara and Dr Fiona Young

Each year in Australia over 3000 premenopausal women with cancer are given chemotherapy. While many patients with early breast cancer and lymphoma are subsequently cured, the treatment has the potential to result in early menopause, and infertility. Currently there are no validated tests which allow us to predict whether particular women will develop early menopause or infertility following their treatment. This study is investigating the use of antimullerian hormone (AMH) as a predictive marker for post-chemotherapy menopause and infertility.

Expectations of cognitive side effects from cancer treatment: Do they affect patient outcomes?

Dr Amanda Hutchinson, Professor Carlene Wilson and Dr Ivanka Prichard

Although chemotherapy is valuable in treating cancer, it is also associated with physical side effects and both actual and perceived cognitive impairment, referred to as ‘chemobrain’, ‘chemofog’ or ‘chemotherapy related cognitive impairment’. This is an important concern as up to 95% of cancer patients report cognitive impairment. This project aims to establish whether cancer patients’ expectancies of the cognitive side-effects of cancer treatment predict self-reported cognitive impairment.

Identifying epigenetic changes in inflammatory colorectal cancer models

Dr Ying Hu

Developing a better understanding of environment-epigenome interactions and of how human diet influences the biology of colorectal cancer will have important implications for enhancing human health through foods, specifically in terms of developing cost-effective cancer preventive strategies. The outcome of this pilot study will provide important information as to if potential epigenetic biomarkers can be used for colorectal cancer risk assessment and prevention. It will identify if naturally occurring agents present in food and drink, such as trace element selenium, green tea, grape, curcumin and soy products might alter abnormal genes and restore gene function.