Joint funding partnership bolsters Australian blood cancer research | Leukaemia Foundation

Joint funding partnership bolsters Australian blood cancer research

Thursday 18 July 2019

Australian research will benefit from a new partnership between US-based The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) and two Australian organisations, Snowdome Foundation and Leukaemia Foundation.

The Snowdome Foundation and Leukaemia Foundation have joined forces with America’s The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) to fund four blood cancer research projects with Australian researchers through the LLS Translational Research Program. LLS funds new and innovative research that shows high promise for translating basic biomedical knowledge to clinical application.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch said the partnership is a fantastic opportunity for the three organisations to unite to support leading Australian blood cancer researchers with the potential to have a global impact.

“This collaboration is a great example of three organisations coming together to support the most innovative blood cancer research with the potential not only to improve treatment and outcomes for Australian patients, but for people living with blood cancer around the world. By partnering together, we are able to raise more funds to increase the depth of research we are able to fund,” said Petch.

The Translational Research Program is an LLS initiative, however this is the first time two Australian organisations have partnered with LLS to bring funding to Australian researchers.

Petch added, “The partnership is proud to announce the 2018/19 grant recipients that sees four Australian researchers each receive grants worth US$600,000 to extend vital blood cancer research programs across myeloma, lymphoma and leukaemia.”

The grant recipients are; Dr. Ricky Johnstone, University of Melbourne, Dr. Stephen Nutt, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and Dr. Ashwin Unnikrishnan, UNSW Sydney, who each will receive a three-year grant. Australian blood cancer researcher, Dr. Charles Mullighan, currently working at the renowned St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, USA, is the fourth grant beneficiary.

Chief Scientific Officer of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Lee Greenberger, Ph.D. said the collaboration was very promising and has great potential to benefit patients with blood cancer worldwide.

“The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is delighted to collaborate with Snowdome Foundation and the Leukaemia Foundation to support these accomplished Australian investigators,” said Greenberger.

“Australia has a strong history of pioneering breakthroughs, from basic discoveries to the clinic, including breakthroughs such as venetoclax, which now has wide application for multiple blood cancers. The diversity of expertise in this current outstanding group of grantees is representative of the significant contributions Australians have made in advancing treatments for cancer patients.”

Snowdome CEO Miriam Dexter said the partnership allowed for increased funding to Australian blood cancer projects.

“Snowdome is passionate about funding Australian blood cancer researchers. We recognise the talent pool of researchers in Australia however there is a real need to increase blood cancer funding,” Dexter said. “The partnership between The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Snowdome Foundation and the Leukaemia Foundation allows for increased funding, greater reach and ultimately more blood cancer research to be conducted. It will continue for another year with several research program grants in 2019/20. We look forward to another year of inspiring research proposals.”

Once again there are multiple grants available in 2019/20, with Letters of Interest closing on August 31st.  For further information, please visit https://www.lls.org/research/translational-research-program.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society-Snowdome Foundation-Leukaemia Foundation Translational Research Program 2018-19 recipients and their respective research proposals are:

Dr. Ricky Johnstone (University of Melbourne) Dr. Johnstone aims to advance novel precision medicine therapies for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), the most common form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He is testing therapies that inhibit a gene called TET2 that is often mutated in blood cancers, including DLBCL. TET2 plays a role in a mechanism called epigenetics, which switches genes on and off. When these epigenetic changes activate or inactivate genes improperly it allows cancer cells to proliferate.

Dr. Stephen Nutt (Walter & Eliza Hall Institute) Multiple myeloma (MM) is a cancer characterised by overgrowth of a white blood cell called plasma cells that form in the bone marrow. This aberrant growth depends on a regulatory protein called IRF4. Dr. Nutt will employ a novel approach to identify and test drugs that can inhibit IRF4 and block the growth of MM cells.

Dr. Ashwin Unnikrishnan (UNSW Sydney) The drug azacitidine is currently the best available treatment for myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), yet the majority of patients do not respond to the drug, and others eventually suffer relapse. Dr. Unnikrishnan will investigate mechanisms by which azacitidine inhibits MDS cells and identify cellular pathways and features that are modulated by azacitidine treatment. This study will provide insight into why some patients do not respond and lay the groundwork for development of alternative therapeutic strategies.

Dr. Charles Mullighan (St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital) Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) remains a leading cause of childhood cancer death, and one type of this disease, Philadelphia-like ALL (Ph-like ALL), has an extremely poor outcome. A common feature of Ph-like ALL is the aberrant function of a particular gene named CRLF2. Dr. Mullighan will develop two novel therapeutic approaches to counteract the CRLF2-related defects in cancer cells.

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