Since 2016, Roche has been partnering with the New Zealand Society for Oncology (NZSO) to award the Roche Translational Cancer Research Fellowship to an annual value of $30,000. Both Roche and NZSO recognise the importance of keeping up-to-date with international developments in cancer research and oncology clinical practice.
Translational research bridges the gap from basic science in the lab to clinical practice, in order to enhance human health and well-being. It’s sometimes referred to as bench to bedside to community. Research is most effective when clinicians and scientists work together and a key role of NZSO is to encourage collaboration between clinicians and scientists.
This award provides a unique opportunity for NZ cancer research teams to upskill an integral team member, so that the team can work together more effectively and improve research output.
Dr Sharon Pattison
Senior Lecturer and Medical Oncologist
Department of Medicine, University of Otago
Dr Pattison and her team have been studying the immunoproteasome, a protein complex that is present in many cell types, including cancer cells, and how this complex can influence cancer survival.
The fellowship will enable a member of her team to travel to the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne where they have been given access to lattice light sheet microscopy. This is a new way of imaging live cells over an extended period of time.
Dr Andrew Das
Department of Pathology and Biomedical Science, University of Otago
Dr Das' research involves investigating the role epigenetics plays in the development and maintenance of acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).
Epigenetics began as a theory of how a whole organisms can develop from a single cell. Over nine months in the womb, an incredible process takes place, the development of all the various cells and organs that make up our bodies. Because every cell has the same DNA code, extra markings must be required to tell each cell which part of the DNA code they should be using. In other words, these epigenetic markings help cells remember their identity. A similar process takes place on a daily basis where our bone marrow generates many different blood cell types from stem cells.
When bone marrow cells acquire mutations in DNA that affect this process, they become dysfunctional and potentially cancerous. This is in fact what we see with AML. Because epigenetic markings can be written or erased, the effects are potentially reversible. Recent pre-clinical data suggests that patients with specific mutations could benefit from treatment with ascorbate. This grant was awarded for Dr Das to develop epigenetic and bioinformatic expertise. The data the project generates will help the rational design of clinical trials with respect to the use of ascorbate for treating specific AML subtypes.
Dr Stephen Jamieson
PhD Senior Lecturer, Senior Research Fellow
The University of Auckland
The 2017 Scholarship was originally awarded to Dr Francis Hunter who moved overseas. It was then transferred to Dr Hunter’s colleague at the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre Dr Stephen Jamieson in November 2018.
Dr Jamieson’s research has identified potential resistance genes to trastuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla), a treatment for HER2-positive breast cancer. He aims to investigate these genes further and identify treatment strategies to overcome resistance to Kadycla and improve patient outcomes.
The Fellowship has been central to the initiation of a collaboration with medical oncologists from the Jules Bordet Institute in Brussels, Belgium who are involved as investigators in numerous clinical trials in breast cancer, including patients treated with Kadcyla.
A/Professor Roslyn Kemp
Department of Microbiology and Immunology
University of Otago
A/Prof Kemp was awarded the fellowship in 2016 for her work involving the study of the immune response in colorectal cancer. The team used mass cytometry, which enables the study of 40-100 individual proteins on a single cell. Dr Kemp’s team compared the immune response in the tumours of people with colorectal cancer to that of the healthy bowel tissue in the same patients. They found multiple immune cell populations that were enriched in the tumours of all patients, allowing the identification of immune cell populations that are the most important for predicting outcome, diagnosing patients and possibly creating new targets for therapy.
There is no mass cytometry facility in New Zealand and the fellowship enabled the team to travel to the Ramaciotti Centre for Human Systems Biology at the University of Sydney a number of times to collect data, develop new analysis tools and collaborate with researchers abroad.