June 8, 2016  Print

Westmead cancer researchers have been granted almost $7.5 million of NSW Government funding to support groundbreaking cancer research, including renewed support for a multi-disciplinary bench-to-bedside translational cancer research centre.

Ovarian cancer researcher, Professor Anna deFazio from The Westmead Institute for Medical Research
Ovarian cancer researcher, Professor Anna deFazio 

Molecular profiling to categorise cancers into new subtypes and enable personalised treatment approaches is one of four flagship programs of the Sydney West Translational Cancer Research Centre (SW-TCRC), which has been funded by the new grant from Cancer Institute NSW.

Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner yesterday announced $6.5 M of funding over five years for a host of bench-to-bedside research projects directed by the SW-TCRC which spans cancer centres across the west, including Westmead, Nepean and Blacktown Hospitals.

The announcement was a part of a larger $39 million of NSW Government funding to support emerging and groundbreaking cancer research including the careers of cancer researchers, research infrastructure and translational cancer research centres.

The SW-TCRC, led by Professor Paul Harnett, brings together more than 400 expert clinicians and researchers in Western Sydney – including researchers from The Westmead Institute for Medical Research and the University of Sydney – to accelerate the fight against cancer.

Sydney West Chair in Translational Cancer Research and Westmead Institute ovarian cancer researcher Professor Anna deFazio said the aim of the new personalised therapy project is to end the current “one size fits all” approach to ovarian cancer treatment, paving the way for new, desperately needed treatments.

“We are now recognising that there are different types of ovarian cancer that require different treatment approaches,” Professor deFazio said.

“Using new technology that being established at the Children’s Medical Research Institute at Westmead, we will capture a portrait of thousands of proteins within individual patient ovarian cancer biopsies. This will help to better understand ovarian cancer and will pave to way to develop individualized treatment.”

In collaboration with Professor Graham Mann from The Westmead Institute’s Melanoma Research Group, the ovarian cancer team will then determine how the protein profiles of these tumours match up with preexisting data on these tumours in terms of gene expression and whole genome sequencing.

 “We already have many tumour samples that have undergone DNA analysis,” Professor deFazio said. “The hope is that the new protein technology can help us to analyse these samples in a much shorter time and for less cost.”

Other projects funded under the new grant include the continuation of a program that aims to embed research into multi-disciplinary team-based cancer care; re-funding of a highly successful translational liver cancer research project led by The Westmead Institute and Westmead Hospital’s Professor Jacob George, and a new program for the evaluation of real-time patient data to improve patient care.

Additionally, almost $1 million of funding will go towards research infrastructure at Westmead. This includes almost $300, 000 for next-generation cancer biobanking led by Professor de Fazio; $300,000 to The Westmead Institute’s Professor Graham Mann to support a senior flow cytometry specialist to manage and operate the expanded Westmead Research Hub core facility; and $300,000 to The Westmead Institute’s Professor Christine Clarke to support the translation of research by the Australian Breast Cancer Tissue Bank.