Cancer Council funding drives new Garvan research

Three Garvan scientists will be taking their research on breast, prostate and pancreatic cancer to new heights, thanks to funding from Cancer Council NSW.

Dr Marina Pajic, Dr David Gallego-Ortega, Dr Michelle McDonald and Dr Ruth Pidsley

28 March 2018

The Garvan Institute of Medical Research congratulates Dr David Gallego-Ortega, Dr Marina Pajic and Dr Ruth Pidsley, who have all received Cancer Council NSW funding to carry out their ground-breaking cancer research. 

The three grants, along with 14 others, were announced last night at Cancer Council NSW’s annual Research Awards. Together the 17 grants represent over $10 million in funded cancer research in NSW.

Garvan’s three funded projects are:

  • Breast cancer immunotherapy

Dr David Gallego-Ortega, with Professor Chris Ormandy (Garvan) and Professor Ido Amit (Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel) will investigate why most breast cancers do not respond well to current immunotherapies (checkpoint inhibitors).

The researchers will focus on a group of cells inside breast tumours that appear to ‘get in the way’ of effective immunotherapy. The researchers have already shown, in mice, that targeting these cells – called myeloid derived suppressor cells, or MDSCs – can make breast tumours far more responsive to immunotherapy. Accordingly, they will explore human MDSCs in detail at the level of the single cell, to uncover ways to target these cells in patients, with the ultimate aim of making immunotherapy a far more powerful treatment option for those with breast cancer.

  • Trialling a new prostate cancer assessment tool

Dr Ruth Pidsley, with Professor Susan Clark (Garvan) and Professor Phillip Stricker (St Vincent’s Hospital and Garvan) will further investigate and develop their new prostate cancer test, based on epigenetic marks on tumour DNA, and will work to bring it into clinical practice.

The test is intended to identify which men with prostate cancer would benefit from focal therapy: a treatment that removes single tumours and has minimal impact on prostate function. Men with low risk, single tumours can currently benefit from focal therapy – but it is crucial that those men are correctly identified, and that those with high risk tumours are treated more aggressively.

  • Personalised treatment for pancreatic cancer

Dr Marina Pajic’s work on personalised approaches to pancreatic cancer treatment is co-funded by Cancer Council NSW and by Cancer Australia, through the Priority-driven Collaborative Cancer Research Scheme (PdCCRS). Read more about Dr Pajic’s funded research.

large_image.pngA fourth Garvan researcher, Dr Michelle McDonald (Bone Biology Division) had a leading role in last night’s Research Awards ceremony. Dr McDonald, who has received Cancer Council NSW support in previous years, spoke with Adam Spencer about her Cancer Council-funded research, which aims to prevent and repair bone destruction and improve quality of life in patients suffering from multiple myeloma.

She also shared insights from her recent work, in which she is able to watch directly as tumour cells and bone cells ‘talk’ to one another inside living bone. 

Read the full media release from Cancer Council NSW, including the list of all 17 grant recipients. 

Dr Michelle McDonald speaks with Adam Spencer about  her
Cancer Council-funded work on multiple myeloma