NSW will receive a $39 million boost from the Cancer Institute NSW to support emerging and ground-breaking cancer research.
The announcement, made on 7 June by NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner, will see funding from the Institute support cancer researchers, research infrastructure and the state’s translational cancer research centres.
“By having the best researchers here in NSW, we are ensuring that people with cancer have the best access to new and available treatments,” Mrs Skinner says.
Fellowships will go to 18 researchers in three categories across the state, including Future Research Leader grant recipients Dr Mark Polizzotto and Dr Mark Larance.
“Through this year’s Future Research Leader program, we see two outstanding senior researchers return from overseas, bringing with them a wealth of knowledge to establish substantial programs in cancer treatment and prevention.”
Professor David Currow, Chief Cancer Officer and CEO of the Cancer Institute NSW, says an ageing population and increasing cancer cases across the state make this support incredibly important.
“In five years’ time more than 53,000 people in NSW will be told: ‘You have cancer,’” Professor Currow says.
“It’s vital we continue developing new approaches to treatment and prevention and better understand survivorship.”
“The Cancer Institute NSW is proud to fund this ground-breaking research as we know it is the foundation for better cancer treatments and will ultimately take us closer to our vision of ending cancers as we know them.”
Bright minds coming home
Dr Mark Polizzotto has returned from the National Cancer Institute in Maryland, USA to establish a clinical trial program at the University of NSW to prevent and treat HIV-associated cancers.
He says the link between cancer and HIV has been present since the beginning. In 2016, it’s now the leading cause of death among people with HIV.
“If you go back, one of the very first indications that HIV had entered the human population was that a cancer called Kaposi’s Sarcoma started to occur in young men in New York and San Francisco who would never otherwise have had that tumour,” he explains.
“A great deal of that link is driven by a failure of the immune system’s normal response either to the cancer itself or viruses that cause cancer.”
He says it’s incredibly important that we have dedicated studies for people with HIV and cancer.
There are 27,000 people in Australia living with HIV, with 75% in NSW, and overall numbers growing.
His work is testing out a new class of drugs, called immune modulatory anti-cancer agents, which stop cancer from being able to hide from the body’s own immune system, as well as turning up the immune system’s response to fight the cancer.
Clinical trials will run to see how these drugs can prevent certain cancers in people with HIV and treat certain HIV related cancers.
HIV clinical trials to end exclusion
Dr Polizzotto says that while people with HIV are at a greatly elevated risk of cancer, in the past they have almost always been excluded from clinical trials for cancer related drugs because of the complexity of their condition.
“It’s been difficult to ensure that people with HIV are benefiting from the tremendous advances in cancer therapy that we’ve had,” he says.
“Dedicated clinical trials in people with HIV give us the safety information and the efficacy information to make sure that those agents can be safely and effectively used.”
Dr Polizzotto is passionate about seeing change, seeing real outcomes from his work.
“I would be very hopeful that the treatments that we’re developing will be improving outcomes for patients in the very near future.”
The full list of fellowship grants inlcudes:
Future Research Leader Fellowships
Dr Mark Polizzotto - University of NSW; Dr Mark Larance - University of Sydney.
Early Career Fellowships
Dr Angelica Marie Merlot, Dr James Wilmott, Dr Ben Roediger - University of Sydney; Dr Seong Beom (Charlie) Ahn - Macquarie University; Dr Elizabeth Hinde, Dr Duohui Jing, Dr Anchit Khanna - University of NSW; Dr Gillian Gould, Dr Flora Tzelepis - University of Newcastle; Dr Phillip Fromm - Anzac Research Institute.
Career Development Fellowships
Dr Anne Cust, Dr Lenka Munoz - University of Sydney; Dr Loretta Lau - Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network; Dr Nadeem Omar Kaakoush, Dr Joshua McCarroll - University of Newcastle; Associate Professor David Smith - Cancer Council NSW.
Translational Cancer Research Centres
Professor John Simes, Associate Professor Paul Harnett - University of Sydney; Professor David Goldstein, Professor Glenn Marshall - University of NSW.