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. Creating an opportunity for our community to collaborate to bring the greatest benefit to New Zealanders impacted by cancer.
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Lung cancer and improving the diagnostic process by sampling circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) in blood, is at the heart of research that has won the 2022 Award.
Dr Annie Wong is leading a team from the universities of Otago and Auckland, to develop a method to speed up diagnosis. Identifying oncogenes in ctDNA in peripheral blood could replace the invasive biopsy with a simple blood draw – and reduce diagnosis from months to weeks.
Dr Wong, working with academic colleague Dr Kirsty Danielson, will lead a translational study, to be developed through the Thoracic Oncology Group of Australasia, called FAST (feasibility analysis of ctDNA in the diagnosis of lung cancer in patients with poor performance status).
Success will see the ctDNA method introduced into clinical practice championing the RTCRF objective to scale research from “bench to bedside to community”.
Associate Professor Aniruddha Chatterjee in the Department of Pathology at Otago and Dr Rajiv Kumar a medical oncologist in Christchurch and honorary Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Pathology at Otago, were announced as winners of the 2021 Roche Translational Cancer Research Fellowship Award at the recent NZSO Annual Conference, for their project on lung cancer.
Dr Kumar says the Fellowship funding will be used to develop a DNA methylation panel for the early detection and tracking of treatment response in lung cancer patients.
“The collaboration this Award supports is what is so exciting about this project for us. The opportunity to develop the latest advances in science from the laboratory so they can be applied in clinical settings, and seeing them improve patients’ outcomes is immensely rewarding,” he says.
Otago scientists win national award for cancer research.
Winners will explore how inflammation contributes to colorectal cancer in IBD patients using novel ‘NanoString’ technology
A University of Otago researcher and a colorectal surgeon have won the 2020 NZ Society for Oncology (NZSO) Roche Translational Cancer Research Fellowship to advance knowledge of how inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) related colorectal cancer develops, and ultimately to improve treatment for patients.
Researcher Dr Rachel Purcell (PhD) and consultant surgeon Dr Tamara Glyn (MBChB, FRACS) were announced as winners of the award at the NZ Society for Oncology (NZSO) Annual Virtual Conference recently. Dr Purcell was also named Roche Fellow for 2020. The Roche award, which has an annual value of $30,000, provides a unique opportunity for NZ cancer research teams to up-skill an integral team member, so that the team can work together more effectively and improve research output.
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 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.
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/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.
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M-NZ-00000625-v6.0/MR9618/NOV23. This site was last updated NOV2023