THE CONNIE JOHNSON BREAST CANCER RESEARCH LABORATORY
Chief Researchers: Associate Professor Elgene Lim, Head of the Connie Johnson Breast Cancer Research Laboratory at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and Associate Prof Alex Swarbrick, Head of the Cancer Tumour Progression Laboratory at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research
The Connie Johnson Laboratory performs clinically focused laboratory research, aiming to better understand the heterogeneity in breast cancer, and identifying novel ways to treat breast cancer. Patients are key partners in this endeavour, and A/Professor Elgene Lim and A/Prof Alex Swarbrick engage patients to donate a sample of their tumour tissue to be used for research. The grant is directed, in the first instance, toward establishing the necessary infrastructure to maximise patient-centric research, broadly called Project SHARE (Specimens Help All Research Efforts). The grant will also be used to expand the Cancer Sampling Program for autopsies on patients who have died from advanced breast, prostate, lung and pancreatic cancers. Finally, the grant will establish Clinical Trials Connect, a digital platform to help cancer patients navigate current clinical trials, and to connect patients with researchers.
FULL-TIME RESEARCH ASSISTANT FOR A THREE-YEAR PERSONALISED BREAST CANCER RESEARCH PROJECT
2019 - 2022
Chief Investigator: Professor Robin Anderson, Head of the Translational Breast Cancer Program at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI)
A model to create a living breast cancer biobank
Patients will donate a tumour sample for analysis; genetic testing examines the DNA of every single cell in the tumour sample; and insights gained identify which drug is best to attack that particular cancer.
This grant funds a full time Research Assistant for a translational breast cancer research project at ONJCRI. The Research Assistant transports tumour samples from the clinic to the laboratory and prepares the samples for genetic and drug testing. This research is dealing specifically with the cancer cells most likely to be responsible for forming metastatic cancers. This research hopes to gather enough evidence to prove that personalised cancer treatment should not only be the standard way of treating metastatic breast cancer patients but can be applied to any cancer type where a tumour sample can be collected.
STOPPING CANCER CELLS’
PRO-SURVIVAL MECHANISMS IN TRIPLE-NEGATIVE BREAST CANCER
In association with NBCF / IIRS-19-058
Chief Investigator: Dr Sumit Sahni, The University of Sydney researcher
Development of novel therapy targeting autophagy against triple negative breast cancers (TNBCs).
TNBC accounts for 15-20% of all breast cancers and is more common in young women. It can be more likely to spread and hard to treat. TNBC cells lack the three receptors - oestrogen, progesterone and HER2 - and so many of the standard therapies which target one of these receptors will not work. TNBCs are also highly likely to develop resistance to chemotherapy. Cancer cells can experience highly stressful conditions as a result of treatment with chemotherapeutic drugs and in order to escape the effects of treatment, cancer cells use a pro-survival pathway, known as autophagy. This can help cancer cells to grow and spread. Dr Sumit Sahni will test new drugs to block autophagy, which he hopes will stop the growth and spread of TNBC and re-sensitise the cancer to anti-cancer drugs. Donated tissue samples will be used to learn more about the role of autophagy. Dr Sahni is excited to bring his expertise in pancreatic cancer to the fight against breast cancer.
COMBATING AGGRESSIVE BREAST CANCER WITH A NEW TREATMENT
In association with NBCF / IIRS-19-066
Chief Investigator: Professor Matthias Ernst, Scientific Director at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI).
Targeting Interleukin-11-signalling for treatment of Metastatic Breast Cancer.
Tumours contain different types of cells, some help the tumour to grow, while others help it to spread to different parts of the body. Cancer cells that spread (metastasise) become difficult to treat and eradicate. It is important that we learn more about how these aggressive cancer cells spread, and how we can prevent cancer metastasis.
Professor Matthias Ernst’s research focuses on the molecular mechanisms that promote the growth and spread of cancer cells and specifically investigates the role of inflammatory signals called cytokines. One of these cytokine – called interleukin-11 - causes cancer cells to grow and spread in stomach and colon cancer.
Professor Ernst’s group proved that blocking interleukin-11 is an effective treatment for these cancers. With this grant, Professor Ernst together with his colleague Dr Ashwini Chand will determine whether these novel experimental approaches can also stop breast cancer cells from spreading. The study hopes to provide the required data for designing new clinical trials to potentially deliver a new treatment for aggressive forms of breast cancer.
DEVELOPING PERSONALISED TREATMENTS FOR BREAST CANCERS WITH POOR PROGNOSIS
In association with NBCF / IIRS-19-083
Chief Investigator: Professor Roger Daly, Head of the Biomedicine Discovery Institute Cancer Program at Monash University
A comprehensive evaluation of the TAOK2 protein and its role in aggressive breast cancer.
Two of the most challenging breast cancers to treat are the triple negative breast cancers (TNBCs) and HER2 breast cancers. These cancer types are aggressive and prone to treatment resistance. There is an urgent need to develop targeted and personalised treatments for these breast cancer subgroups. This grant is fully funding a new study to investigate an innovative protein target treatment, developed by Professor Daly. Professor Daly’s team have identified a signalling protein, called TAOK2, which is needed for some TNBC and HER2 cancer cell types to grow and spread. They hypothesise that it may be possible to use this protein as a predictive test for patients, in order to determine which treatment drugs will be most effective for their individual cancer. The potential outcome of this work will be validation of TAOK2 as a target for future drug development, which will lead to novel targeted and personalised treatments for triple negative and HER2 breast cancers and significantly reduce patient morbidity and mortality.
USING POLYGENIC RISK MODIFICATION TO IMPROVE BREAST CANCER PREVENTION: THE PRIMO TRIAL.
In association with NBCF / IIRS-20-068
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Genomic testing will be used to identified women who can benefit the most from preventative strategies. Outcomes from this study will lead to the implementation of personalised risk management.
SHARE, COLLABORATE & CURE: THE MACQUARIE UNIVERSITY CANCER BIOBANK
Chief Investigator: Dr. Helen Rizos
A bold plan to provide a library of viable cancer specimens, across all cancers
Macquarie University is Australia’s first fully integrated health science centre which brings together a hospital, clinics, clinical trials and the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. This enables a rapid translation of research results and new treatments into clinical care. The Macquarie University biobank (est 2019) has the capacity to store 80,000 high quality biospecimens. This grant will be used to generate and store tissue samples across all cancers (including breast, colorectal, prostate, brain, liver, gastrointestinal and bladder); and also the associated cell-profile and genomic data. This research team argues that the days of studying one cancer at a time are over and will make their biospecimens available to the best and most innovative domestic and international researchers who share this vision.
OVERCOMING NETWORK REMODELLING TO IDENTIFY NEW THERAPEUTIC STRATEGIES FOR POOR PROGNOSIS BREAST CANCER
In association with NBCF / IIRS-20-094
A subset of Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) patients have abnormal activation of a protein (FGFR) which leads to the growth of these TNBC tumours. The study will employ the use of novel machine learning techniques (data science) to develop predictive markers to identify these patients and use new combination therapies.