New Funding for Cancer Research

Posted 2 Feb 2023

World Cancer Day (February 4) marked the announcement of funding for four new cancer research projects thanks to the generosity of guests and supporters of Flinders Foundation’s Pink Yellow Blue Enchanted Garden event.

These four Flinders Foundation Cancer Seed Grants, totalling nearly $100,000, will enable researchers to make new discoveries to help improve the lives of patients with breast, bowel, bladder and head and neck cancers.

Grants were awarded to:

Dr Ashley Hopkins -  Patient-centred care and precision medicine in breast cancer: Leveraging patient-reported outcome data to inform survival and quality-of-life.

Dr Ashley Hopkins will use state-of-the-art data science methods to generate new knowledge and insights into the quality-of-life effects of contemporary treatment options for breast cancer.

“At present there is limited standardisation to the reporting of patient reported quality-of-life outcomes in clinical trials, so the ability to compare the physical, psychological and financial impacts of different anticancer medicines is difficult,” Dr Hopkins explains.

“This research aims to improve clinical trial designs and evaluations to provide insights into the effects of treatment according to patient reports, and to help with choosing of the right medicine for the right patient with regards to both quality-of-life, as well as survival.”

Dr Luke Grundy - Silencing sensory neurons to improve bladder cancer survivorship

Immunotherapy is the gold standard treatment for decreasing the risk of progression and recurrence of some types of invasive bladder cancer.

And whilst effective, it comes with a variety of side effects – the most common being lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS), including impacts on urinary frequency, urgency and bladder pain. In some patients these side effects are so severe they have to stop treatment, leading to worse cancer outcomes.

Dr Luke Grundy will use his Cancer Seed Grant to build on work carried out as part of his Ralph Ernst Fellowship, to identify novel ‘nerve blocking’ treatments that prevent bladder pain and dysfunction following immunotherapy for bladder cancer.

“By identifying a novel therapeutic intervention that relieves lower urinary tract symptoms during immunotherapy, we hope to provide an opportunity to ultimately improve both quality-of-life and cancer prognosis for patients with bladder cancer,” Dr Grundy says

Dr Molla Wassie - Should we continue or stop surveillance for colorectal cancer in older persons aged over 75 years?

Dr Molla Wassie has been awarded a Flinders Foundation Cancer Seed Grant to build on his team’s research, exploring ways to safely and more cost-effectively manage colonoscopies as part of cancer surveillance programs for people at high risk of bowel cancer.

This latest project will take a closer look at Australian clinical colonoscopy guidelines, which currently recommend surveillance colonoscopies should stop when a person turns 75.

“The risk for bowel cancer steadily increases with age, and the aim of our work is to determine the risk factors of developing bowel cancer in those individuals over the age of 75 who are no longer undergoing surveillance colonoscopies,” Dr Wassie explains.

“We then want to evaluate that alongside the need for personalised care and cost-effective shared decision making between a patient and their clinician to determine which older patients are at increased risk for bowel cancer and need to continue with regular colonoscopies after the age of 74.

Dr Charmaine Woods - Old drugs, new cures? Pre-clinical validation of new chemotherapeutic options for treating head and neck cancer

Could ‘old drugs’ provide new cures for patients with head and neck cancers? That’s the question Flinders University’s Dr Charmaine Woods is asking with the help of a Flinders Foundation Cancer Seed Grant.

Dr Woods and her research team of PhD student Dr Lucy Huang, Associate Professor Eng Ooi and Associate Professor Michael Michael, will look at ‘repurposing drugs’ to investigate whether some existing drugs stop head and neck cancer cells from growing when they are combined with metformin – a drug used to treat Type 2 diabetes.

“Cancer of the head and neck can have a severe impact on essential functions such as breathing, chewing, swallowing and speaking,” Dr Woods explains.

“Unlike breast and lung cancer which have an arsenal of chemotherapy drugs for treatment, the options for treating head and neck cancer are limited, and the toxicity from treatments that are available can be severe and further impact these essential functions, often for life.

“So new chemotherapy treatments are urgently needed to provide alternative curative treatment options that are better tolerated and minimise the toxic side effects of treatment.”


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