PhD Scholarships Program | Leukaemia Foundation

PhD Scholarships Program

PhD scholarships co-funded by the Leukaemia Foundation and the Haematology Society of Australia and New Zealand (HSANZ).

The Leukaemia Foundation is helping more medical and science graduates pursue a research career in blood cancer by combining resources and working in partnership with HSANZ to co-fund PhD scholarships.

These prestigious doctoral scholarships are awarded to Australian applicants who demonstrate outstanding merit in blood cancer research. They are open to all areas of Australian research in blood cancers and blood cancer related disorders.

2018 PhD scholarship recipients

Dr Wei Jiang (Haematologist - Westmead Cellular Therapies Group, Sydney)

Dr Wei Jiang will be conducting two trials to establish the clinical safety and efficacy of T-cell immunotherapies for infection and malignancy; and the detailed functional, phenotypic and molecular changes in patients’ blood post T-cell therapy.

The research team will conduct a clinical trial of autologous CD19 chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cells generated using the PiggyBac system for relapsed or refractory B-cell malignancies such as acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and lymphoma. This is revolutionary research, as CAR T-cells can be generated with this technology for a fraction of the cost of those produced using viral vector, making CAR T-cells more affordable to patients. This research aims to establish the safety and efficacy of PiggyBac CAR19 T-cells in a cohort of 20 patients.

This research will also examine into pathogen-specific T-cells for therapy resistant viral infections after an allogenic haemopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT), which can lead to significant morbidity and mortality. Dr Jiang and team will run a Phase lll study assessing the safety and efficacy of administering banked 3rd party donor derived infection-specific T-cells to patients with resistant viral infections such as cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV or adenovirus).

Dr Karthik Nath (Haematologist - Mater Research Institute, Queensland)

This research undertaken by Dr Nath aims to develop a deeper understanding of the biology of Follicular Lymphoma (the second most common Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma) by employing evolving genetic and molecular laboratory technologies in prognostic paradigms.

Dr Nath and team hopes to incorporate these elements into upfront prognostication in Follicular Lymphoma that would represent a practical means of improving diagnostic techniques and treatment approaches with real-world applicability.

The second part of this research aims to help engender precision medicine in the treatment of patients with Follicular Lymphoma. By applying patient-specific immunological, molecular and genetic markers in prognostication, the research team is confident they will improve patient outcomes through individualised treatment approaches.

Utilising these highly specific markers may also help the greater research community understand disease processes and be incrementally beneficial to public health medicine. The team is hopeful individualising treatment will empower patients and reinforce the importance of psychosocial aspects involved in cancer care.

Elizabeth Lieschke (Scientist - Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Victoria

Ms Lieschke’s research investigates the mechanism by which tumour suppressor gene, Tp53, prevents the development of leukaemia, lymphoma and other cancers; and the processes by which activation of Tp53 kills malignant cells.

The study aims to understand why some blood cancer cells die, whilst other cancer cells undergo cell cycle arrest/cell senescence and are therefore more likely to relapse following cancer therapy.

Ms Lieschke and team hopes to identify biomarkers that will enable the team to predict the nature of the response of cancer cells to drugs that activate Tp53, and leading to therapies that will be more personalised and targeted.

Mutations in Tp53 occur frequently in blood cancers that relapse following therapy and for these patients, the prognosis is extremely poor. A deeper understanding of the impact of mutations in Tp53 on the expression of critical genes involved in tumour suppression will inform the design of novel therapeutics that could act downstream of Tp53, and efficiently kill mutant Tp53 expressing blood cancers. The team believes such therapies are desperately needed because they would improve the prognosis for blood cancer patients.

Applicants’ work must align with a least one of the Leukaemia Foundation’s seven research priorities:

1. Understanding the biology of blood cancers.
2. Precision medicine – investing in new, tailor-made therapies to treat each patient’s cancer.
3. New diagnostics.
4. Novel (new) therapies.
5. Psychosocial aspects of cancer.
6. Innovative clinical trials and/or incorporation of real world data.
7. Prevention research including investigating risk factors and possible causes of blood cancers.

The PhD scholarship program offers applicants – early career scientists, nurses and haematologists – a three-year scholarship with annual funding of $40,000 (a total of $120,000 per scholarship).

Three PhD scholarships will be granted in the first and second year of this program (2018 & 2019) and two scholarships in the third year (2020).

The total value of all eight scholarships is $960,000.

The HSANZ has an existing grants and awards program and its review process, expertise and selection panel will administer the PhD scholarship program – scholarship selection (with representation from the Leukaemia Foundation) and grants administration.

The selection criteria used by the HSANZ is based on National Health and Medical Research Council scoring.

Applications for the next round of scholarships will open in March 2019.

Last updated on November 8th, 2018

Developed by the Leukaemia Foundation in consultation with people living with a blood cancer, Leukaemia Foundation support staff, haematology nursing staff and/or Australian clinical haematologists. This content is provided for information purposes only and we urge you to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis, treatment and answers to your medical questions, including the suitability of a particular therapy, service, product or treatment in your circumstances. The Leukaemia Foundation shall not bear any liability for any person relying on the materials contained on this website.

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