Tag Archives: cancer

MBS scholarship for woman in leadership role

MBS Leading for Organisation Impact: The Looking Glass Experience program

The Melbourne Business School is offering an open programs scholarship for a woman working within a VCCC partner organisation with a focus on cancer to participate in their Leading for Organisational Impact: The Looking Glass Experience program. This scholarship opportunity is in honour of Jo Leonard who was a longstanding and valued member of the Melbourne Business School. 


Jo first commenced with the Melbourne Business School in 1999 supporting Executive Education programs as a facilitator and executive coach.  She worked with many public and private sector clients including the highly successful BHP Billiton Graduate Program where she was instrumental in its delivery for a number of years.  Jo was also a key facilitator and feedback specialist on the MBS Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) programs, her favourite being Leading for Organisational Impact, Executive Education – MBS.  

Anyone who had the privilege of knowing Jo will know she was incredibly professional and highly dedicated to her work.  She had an engaging personality, a curious mind and a very special warmth.  Colleagues and participants alike benefited from her passion and focus on developing others.  

In August 2016, Jo lost her battle to ovarian cancer – leaving her husband, her teenage daughter and son and a huge network of family and friends. This scholarship has been established in her honour, is valued at $11,900 and is supported by the Melbourne Business School.


This five day program designed by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL)®, shows you how to progress from everyday management tasks to impacting your company as a whole. This includes making tough calls and trade-offs to considering organisation-wide opportunities and bridging gaps that limit growth. It will also uncover your strengths and weaknesses enabling you to gain the confidence to address them and move forward as a senior leader. 

Who is this for? 

  • Experienced senior managers who lead a function or division
  • Executives with local, regional or global responsibility 

Key benefits:

By the end of the program journey, you will:

  • Gain an enterprise-wide perspective
  • Build strategic aptitude
  • Develop decision-making skills
  • Assess investment/funding opportunities
  • Collaborate cross-functionally
  • Improve influencing and negotiation skills. 

Applications are due Monday 25 March 2019 by 5pm. 

Completion of the attached application form and a copy of your CV should be compiled into a single PDF and submitted to Erin Turner, erin.turner@unimelb.edu.au

Applicants would need to be available on one of the program commencement dates below. The successful applicant would need to confirm which program date they would like to attend. You must attend all five days.  

5-9 August, 2019
21-25 October, 2019
25-29 November, 2019

This scholarship is exclusively offered to a woman in a leadership role within a VCCC alliance partner organisation. For more information regarding the program read more here or please contact:

Erin Turner
VCCC Education Program Coordinator
P: 03 8559 8584

This article appears courtesy of our proud precinct partner, the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre

Digital Tools Bring Cancer Trials To All Victorians

External photograph of the VCCC building in the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct

More people from rural and regional Victoria with cancer will access clinical trials closer to home using the teletrial model with digital technology, thanks to a $1.5 million Andrews Labor Government funding boost.

Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos today announced the launch of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre’s (VCCC) Teletrials Program in Bendigo and Albury Wodonga, which will extend to other parts of regional Victoria.

Clinical trials are the gateway to accessing cutting-edge cancer therapies but fewer than five per cent of Victorians outside Melbourne participate in them due to the need for travel and time away from home.

external photograph of the VCCC building in the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct

The VCCC Teletrials Program has built partnerships between metropolitan and regional centres to help more Victorians access trials run by leading cancer hospitals such as the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

Teletrials are part of the Labor Government’s $20 million funding boost to increase the number of cancer trials being run in Victoria.

On top of the Teletrials Program, $3.7 million has been granted for four new projects to help more than 6,000 patients access world-leading trials through the VCCC Investigator-Initiated Trial Capacity Building Program.

The four projects focus on improving radiotherapy before surgery, pain management, combining treatments to enhance success of blood stem cell transplantation and better anaesthetics during surgery.

Recent data shows that in 2017, 34,557 Victorians were diagnosed with cancer and 10,955 died from the disease – with 95 new diagnoses each day.

Victoria has some of the best cancer survival rates in the world – it’s a testament to our proud track record of investing in world-class cancer prevention, treatment and research. The five-year survival rate for Victorians diagnosed with cancer has increased from 46 per cent in 1982 to 68 per cent in 2016.

The article appears courtesy of the Minister for Health, Victorian Government

Access to cancer clinical trials for all Victorians

Associate Professor Kate Burbury stands next to Dr Craig Underhill. They are both smiling at the camera in the VCCC.

Patients with cancer living in regional and rural Victoria will soon have access to clinical trials, on their doorstep.

The first patients participating in a cancer clinical trial implemented through a new Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) Teletrials Program has begun in Albury Wodonga and Bendigo. The program provides opportunities for regional patients to participate in clinical trials without the need to travel to metropolitan centres.

Dr Craig Underhill, VCCC Regional Oncology Lead (providing representation for the regional cancer community) and the Director of Oncology at the Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre is a champion of the program, “Regional cancer patients experience several disadvantages including lower survival rates, due to healthcare access differentials. The VCCC Teletrials Program aims to reduce the barriers for regional patients with cancer to access clinical trials, including travel, cost and social disruption.”

Capitalising on digital health technology

Peter Mac Haematologist, Associate Professor Kate Burbury is working with Dr Underhill and the VCCC to deliver Victoria’s first clinical teletrial. “Clinical trials are a gateway to accessing new cancer treatments,” she said. “We are very excited to be a part of this groundbreaking approach to undertake clinical trials and ensure regional Victorians gain all the opportunities available to their metro counterparts. In addition, this approach can help the health service challenge of meeting recruitment targets and the success of clinical trials, which bring new therapies to the wider community.”

Digital health is a rapidly evolving tool for regional patients’ access to health services. Combining this technology with the principles of the Australasian Tele-trials Model, developed by the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA), the VCCC Teletrials Program will implement clinical trials within a framework specifically designed for the Victorian healthcare system to benefit the community.

Associate Professor Kate Burbury and Dr Craig Underhill
Associate Professor Kate Burbury and Dr Craig Underhill

Teletrials to deliver benefits to regional communities

Dr Underhill said, “The VCCC Teletrials Program provides benefits for both our patients and health workforce. Decreased travel and cost will have a big impact on patients. Professional development structures and clinical trial participation will increase our workforce capability.”

Victoria’s first cancer clinical teletrial will be closely monitored to understand challenges and identify opportunities. The VCCC will continue to expand the teletrial program across Victoria to improve clinical trial access and participation for patients living in regional and rural locations.

The VCCC Teletrials Program has been developed in conjunction with the Regional Trials Network; led by VCCC Regional Oncology Leads.  

The VCCC Teletrials Program is supported by the Victorian Government.

This article is sourced from our proud precinct partner, the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre

$100 million investment in new PBS listings to fight cancer

Peter Mac was delighted to host The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health, to announce important changes to the PBS which will provide or improve subsidised access to life-changing cancer drugs.

Minister Hunt toured Peter Mac’s labs prior to the announcement on Friday,  speaking with Professor Keiran Harvey (pictured left in the above photo) about his research which is focused on Drosophilia flies. The flies have genes which are also seen in humans, the study of which can yield important insights into the fundamental drivers on cancer.

The minister also met with patients who will directly benefit from the drug listings.

From December 1, patients with certain forms of leukaemia, advanced tumours of the intestine and pancreas, melanoma, bowel cancer and ovarian cancer.

More about the Peter Mac Centre

Peter Mac is one of the world’s leading cancer research, education and treatment centres globally and is Australia’s only public hospital solely dedicated to caring for people affected by cancer. We have over 2,500 staff, including more than 580 laboratory and clinical researchers, all focused on providing better treatments, better care and potential cures for cancer.

More about Prof Kieran Harvey

Professor Kieran Harvey is interested in the fundamental biological question of organ size control. His laboratory focuses on how deregulation of signalling networks that control organ size contributes to cancer, employing multiple model systems including the vinegar fly Drosophila melanogaster.

More about Prof Rick Pearson

As head of the Pearson Laboratory, a major focus of Professor Pearson’s research is to understand the molecular basis of the regulation of ribosome biogenesis and cell growth and to use this knowledge to address how deregulation of these processes contributes to cancer. His laboratory has recently demonstrated that dysregulation of ribosome biogenesis is critical in the development of cancers of the blood, ovary and skin and can be directly targeted using inhibitors of ribosome biogenesis to treat cancer. His laboratory now plans to build on this research, to develop of a novel class of anti-cancer agents targeting ribosome biogenesis, providing new options for single agent and combination therapies for these cancers.
Minister Hunt in the middle of 6 people all smiling for the camera

This article is sourced from our Proud Precinct Partner, Peter Mac Centre

New ACRF cancer research facility will harness structural biology to discover innovative cancer drugs in Melbourne

Two scientists, proudly smiling at the camera

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) will provide $2 million to fund the creation of the ACRF Facility for Innovative Cancer Drug Discovery at the Bio21 Institute, University of Melbourne.

The chief investigators, Professor Michael Parker and Dr David Ascher of Bio21, Professor Rick Pearson of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Professor John Silke of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, represent some of Victoria’s major cancer research institutions.

Professor Parker said: “The ACRF funding will make it possible to create a facility that houses some of the most cutting-edge structural biology instruments and technologies to cater for the cancer research community in the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct and beyond. It will provide our partners with powerful tools to develop and deliver new cancer drugs to patients.

Structural biology has played a key role in targeted molecular medicines including imatinib (Gleevec) to treat myeloid leukaemia, venetoclax for leukaemia and gefitinib for lung cancer.

“Structural biology holds the key to developing innovative cancer drugs by providing detailed information about the shape of molecules that are involved in cancer-causing biological signalling pathways within cells of our bodies,” Professor Parker said.

ACRF chief executive Professor Ian Brown said: “The ACRF is proud to be providing the ACRF Facility for Innovative Cancer Drug Discovery with state-of-the-art equipment for the identification, development and delivery of drugs for cancers in this era of personalised medicine where there is currently no therapy available or where improved treatments are required. Structure-based drug discovery offers great potential to hasten advances to improved patient outcomes.”

The grant was announced at a reception hosted by the Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd) and Lady Cosgrove, tonight at Admiralty House in Sydney.

The Bio21 Institute of Molecular Science and Biotechnology aims to understand human health and disease at the molecular level and improve patient outcomes through biotechnology. It is home to more than 700 research scientists, making it one of the largest biotechnology research centres in Australia. The Institute has major analytical and imaging technology platforms providing world-leading capability to researchers in the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) supports Australian cancer research to end all types of cancer. ACRF funding for cutting-edge technology and infrastructure to speed up discoveries in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment. For more information, please visit www.acrf.com.au

The Melbourne Biomedical Precinct in Parkville has more than 25 health service, research and academic partners, making it one of the world’s largest life science research clusters and Australia’s largest research and higher education teaching precinct. Partners include Bio21, the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, the University of Melbourne, Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx), CSL, CSIRO, Monash Institute of Pharmacological Sciences and Melbourne Health.
Professor Michael Parker and Dr David Ascher are available for interview.


This article is sourced from our Proud Precinct Partners, Bio21 


Study Master of Cancer Science in 2019

Logo for Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre

Explore an unprecedented breadth of integrated, advanced cancer knowledge

In 2019 the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre with the University of Melbourne is offering a Master of Cancer Sciences program for the first time.

The two-year, part-time course will be Australia’s first cancer-specific, wholly online program, delivered by world-class experts from the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) and Australia’s leading university. It will equip students with cutting-edge, specialist knowledge from the forefront of the rapidly evolving fields of clinical care and cancer research.

Whether you aspire to provide top quality clinical care or high impact cancer research, our Master of Cancer Sciences program will enable you to connect the latest evidence-based knowledge to practical skills, positioning you to make a strong contribution to a world-class cancer workforce.


The VCCC is offering 20 supported places to study in 2019


Twenty supported places are being offered in 2019, providing 50% fee reduction for the first year. Apply by 30 November.

Core subjects for Masters:

Foundations of Cancer
Cancer Research
Research Thesis Capstone – Part 1 (Core for Masters)
Research Thesis Capstone – Part 2 (Core for Masters)
Cancer in Society
Cancer Therapeutics
Cancer Diagnostics
Supportive Care and Palliative Care
Cancer Prevention and Control
Drug Discovery and Development
Cancer Across the Lifespan
End of Life Issues
Foundations of Leadership
Quantitative Methods for Evaluation
Psychosocial Oncology
Health Behaviour Change
Leadership in Practice

Online course options
Term 1 February 2019
Term 2 April 2019
Term 3 July 2019
Term 4 October 2019

Applications close: 14 January 2019

For further information and to register your interest: online.unimelb.edu.au/cancer-sciences

You can also contact The University of Melbourne student support team at study-online@unimelb.edu.au or +61 3 8344 0149 (Mon–Fri 8.00am–9.00pm, Sat–Sun 10.00am–5.00pm, public holidays 10.00am–5.00pm).

This article is sourced from our proud Precinct Partner, VCCC 


Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancers: Role of Dental and Medical Practitioners – 15 March 2019

Photograph of a dentist's gloved hands working in a patient's mouth performing and oral exam

Early diagnosis, care and management of oral cancer: Dental and medical practitioners have a major role to play in the diagnosis, care and management of patients with head and neck cancer.

Learn about the care and management of oral and oropharyngeal cancers at a one-day professional development forum hosted by the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre alliance.

The course will be conducted in the new VCCC building in Parkville. Some of you will fondly remember the building as 711 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne.

Delegates will gain an introduction to oral oncology focusing on the early diagnosis of oral and oropharyngeal cancer , treatment pathways, consequences and complications of the disease. Ensure you are up-to-date with the latest research and therapies in oral oncology and advance your knowledge and skills in this specialist area.

Who should attend?

Dentists, dental therapists, dental specialists, dental hygienists, oral health therapists.General and specialist medical practitioners, and allied health practitioners with an interest in head and neck cancer

Learning objectives
  • Understand the aetiology, recognition, early diagnosis and referral of oral and oropharyngeal cancers
  • Identify the major fundamentals of treatment for head and neck cancer
  • Understand the principles of treatment planning, pre and post-cancer treatment
  • Identify complications and their management, including both the of short and long-term effects of treatment

Expert speakers from the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre’s ten partner alliance will facilitate the day with both a morning and afternoon program. A question-and-answer opportunity will be hosted by a panel of clinicians at the forefront of head and neck cancer research and clinical care. Patients will be present to discuss their own care and its impact on their lives.

The full day program will provide CPD hours.



Half-day program cost is $ 200.00 (8.30am – 1.00pm)
Full-day program cost is $ 350.00 (8.30am – 5.00pm)
Read draft program

Event details
Date: Thursday 15 March 2019
Time: 8.30am – 5.00pm
Location: Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Level 7 Lecture Theatre B,
Address: 305 Grattan Street, Parkville

Morning and afternoon teas and a light lunch will be provided.

Register today to attend

Monday Lunch Live featuring A/Prof Allison Werner-Lin (US) – 10 December

Photograph of a Monday Lunch Live auditorium clapping and smiling

A/Prof Allison Werner-Lin is from the School of Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania. She is also senior advisor, US National Cancer Institute, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics and we are delighted to welcome her to the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre.

Studying the ethical, legal, and social implications of genomic technologies is vitally important to identifying pathways towards greater engagement in personalised medicine, thereby extending the potential of genomic discovery. Yet, too often, psychosocial genomics research only includes individual perspectives and adaptations. When families are included, the focus is on the uptake of genetic testing by first-degree relatives and limited attention, if any, is given to other family members related by blood, law, or choice. Dr Werner-Lin’s research considers the ways families engage with genomic medicine and identifies how engagement is driven by ongoing family dynamics, social contexts, complex disease histories, and grief. Her work suggests practice models informed by family systems and developmental perspectives can support patient engagement in genomic medicine to reduce psychosocial harms.

Allison Werner-Lin’s research addresses the intersection of genomic discovery and family life. Her work seeks to broaden social work’s guiding ‘person-in-environment’ framework to include genetic variation as a core feature of assessment, one in constant interaction with developmental, sociocultural, and environmental contexts. Presently, her work addresses the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of emerging genomic technologies in reproductive, pediatric, adolescent, and young adult populations with inherited cancer predisposition syndromes.

She is among the first to explore the psychosocial challenges unique to women and men of reproductive age who carry a genetic mutation (BRCA1/2), which exposes carriers to elevated risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. She holds appointments with the Clinical Genetics Branch of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute where she oversees psychosocial research addressing hereditary tumor predisposition syndromes, including Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. She is a member of the Scientific Committee governing the International Meeting on Psychosocial Aspects of Hereditary Cancer, serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, and is a Distinguished Fellow of the Society for Social Work and Research, where she serves as facilitator of the Cancer Special Interest Group, and the National Academies of Practice in Social Work.



Date: Monday 10 December 2018
Time: Presentation: 1-2pm
Venue: VCCC Building, Level 7 Lecture Theatres
Catering: Light lunch served from 12.30pm


Photograph of a Monday Lunch Live auditorium clapping and smiling



Genomic sequencing offers new hope for rare cancers – Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

A cord-like shape across the screen entwined red and pink bubbles
A cancer’s genetic sequence may be the key to matching people with rare cancers to the right anti-cancer treatments, according to a new clinical trial instigated by patients.

The national trial indicated that genomic profiling of rare cancers – which collectively account for more than 20 per cent of cancer diagnoses in Australia – has the potential to improve a patient’s diagnosis and treatment.

The trial, which will be presented today at the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting, was the first of its kind in Australia to be instigated by people affected by rare cancers.

The pilot study was conducted at four centres across Australia, and was led by Walter and Eliza Hall Institute researcher Professor Clare Scott, who is a medical oncologist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the Royal Women’s Hospital.

At a glance
  • Better treatments are needed for people with rare cancers, which collectively cause more cancer deaths in Australia than any single cancer type
  • A new, patient-driven clinical trial has investigated whether genomic profiling of rare cancers can improve the diagnosis and treatment of people with rare cancers
  • Genomic profiling provided meaningful information that influences diagnosis and treatment in more than half the trial participants, offering hope for better outcomes for patients
Finding better treatments

A cancer type is considered rare if it affects fewer than 6 people per year per 100,000 people. Despite being individually uncommon, rare cancers collectively account for more than 20 per cent of cancer diagnoses in Australia.

Better approaches to diagnosing and treating rare cancers are urgently needed, said Professor Scott. “More people die from rare cancers in Australia than any other single cancer type. This is because treatments for many rare cancers have not advanced at the same pace as treatments for more common cancers,” she said.

The trial sequenced a panel of genomic markers in participants’ cancers to identify molecular features or mutations in the cancer that could be targeted with existing treatments used in other cancer types with the same characteristics.

“While genomic testing is becoming increasingly used in other cancer types, this is one of the first national studies of its kind in Australia to look at the potential benefits for those with rare cancers,” Professor Scott said.

Promising results

The NOMINATOR Pilot Study results released today included 36 patients. The two-year study will eventually include 100 patients and will lay the groundwork for other national initiatives looking into genomic profiling across a range of cancer types.

“Australians in this trial came to us after they had exhausted all their options. Using genomic profiling we were able to uncover new information that gave many patients new treatment options – and ultimately, new hope,” said Professor Scott.

“Genomic profiling provided meaningful information that influenced diagnosis and treatment in around half of the participants. 20 percent of those tested got a new treatment plan as a result and 6 percent of participants were given a new diagnosis.”

Professor Phyllis Butow, President, Clinical Oncology Society of Australia said one of the impressive things about the study was that it was driven by Australians directly affected by rare cancers.

“Around 52,000 Australians are diagnosed with rare or less common cancers each year. Those directly affected by the disease helped call for and fund this research, so it’s great to see these initial promising results being presented to cancer experts from across the country.”

Professor Clare Scott is leading the NOMINATOR trial that uses genomics to match people with rare cancers to better treatments.

The trial was funded by Rare Cancers Australia, the Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance, the Australian Genomics Health Alliance, Melanie and Neil Rae and the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Foundation.

Professor Scott’s research is supported by the Stafford Fox Medical Research Foundation, the Victorian Cancer Agency and the Victorian Cancer Council.

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the Royal Women’s Hospital are part of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre Alliance.

Participating centres

The trial is currently accruing patients through the following hospitals:

  • Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Queensland
  • Royal Adelaide Hospital, South Australia
  • Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Victoria
  • St John of God Hospital Subiaco, Western Australia


This article was sourced from https://www.wehi.edu.au/

Dr Laura Mackay awarded $1.25 million 2019 Viertel Fellowship

Two smiling women scientists in white coats and safety glasses inspecting a vial containing a pink substance.

University of Melbourne Laboratory Head and Senior Lecturer at the Doherty Institute, Dr Laura Mackay, has been awarded a $1.25 million, five year Viertel Foundation Fellowship to further her research into co-opting the body’s existing immune cells to work against viruses and cancers.

The development of optimal immunotherapies against viruses and cancer requires the generation of an effective cellular immune response. While some immune cells patrol the blood, a unique subset of T-cells, called tissue-resident memory T-cells, exist in tissues of the body and are different to those ordinarily circulating in the blood.

These type of T-cells are ‘first responders’ against pathogens that are encountered at body surfaces and are critical to immune protection for pathogens such as influenza, herpes simplex virus, malaria, and even some tumours. Most recently, these T-cells were associated with significantly improved survival rates in patients with breast cancer and melanoma.

Dr Mackay and her team are looking at ways to boost the generation of these T-cells and enhance their ability to protect people from disease via a new program of T-cell based immunotherapies that can work with existing treatments and improve patient outcomes.

“It’s an honour and privilege to be awarded the 2019 Viertel Fellowship, the funds will go a long way in advancing my quest to harness the immune system to fight infection and cancer,” Dr Mackay said.

“Investing in medical research is paramount for scientists to make discoveries and to enhance treatments. This is a tremendous commitment by the Sylvia and Charles Viertel Charitable Foundation and one that I’m extremely appreciative of.”

Dr MacKay originally wanted to pursue a career as an artist, like her mother. But decided on getting a ‘sensible’ degree in science. She became very interested in immunology after suffering from glandular fever during her time at university.

“Being creative is a crucial skill as a scientist – innovative discoveries don’t happen unless you think outside the box,” Dr Mackay said.

Dr Mackay was one of three researchers awarded a prestigious Senior Medical Research Fellowship from the Viertel Foundation with South Australian Health and Medical Science Institute and Flinders University Associate Professor James Ward also receiving a Viertel Fellowship, and Monash University Dr Kim Jacobson named the Bellberry-Viertel Fellow.

Professor Peter Leedman, Chairman of the Viertel Foundation’s Medical Advisory Board, revealed that the 2018 candidates were a very strong and closely matched high quality field representing very different disciplines, making the decision of selecting three from the six finalists extremely difficult.

“We really saw the depth and breadth of scientific research in Australia and it was truly inspiring. Every candidate is worthy of support for their research into areas which will have a critical impact on advancing medical and health outcomes for Australians and internationally,” Professor Leedman said.

Dr Laura Mackay from the Doherty Institute awarded $1.25 million 2019 Viertel Fellowship.

Article sourced fromhttps://www.doherty.edu.au/ 

New treatment combination brings breast cancer hope

Patient Julie with Medical Oncologist and Study Researcher, Dr Sheau Wen Lok.

Combining two cancer drugs has seen a potential breakthrough for women with metastatic breast cancer.

In a world first, breast cancer researchers at The Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, successfully combined a drug that has shown promise in the treatment of chronic leukaemia with therapy used to treat breast cancer.

The Royal Melbourne Hospital’s and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre’s medical oncologist, Professor Geoff Lindeman, principal investigator of the study, said the combination of the two drugs has given researchers and patients a boost in tackling metastatic breast cancer. Professor Lindeman is also a researcher at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

“The primary aim of the study was to determine the safety and tolerability of Venetoclax in combination with Tamoxifen,” Professor Lindeman said. 

“We tested this combination on the basis of our laboratory findings at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. Venetoclax is a drug that switches off BCL-2, a protein that helps keep cancer cells alive. Our findings suggest that adding Venetoclax to conventional hormone therapy might boost responses.

“Although the study was aimed at determining safety and finding the right dose, we found that 75% of the women involved in the study experienced an overall improvement or derived clinical benefit.

“This result has provided a basis for further studies with Venetoclax, where the hope would be to produce deeper and more durable responses for women affected by breast cancer.”

Professor Lindeman added this was the first time Venetoclax has been used on solid tumours. 

“Venetoclax is not currently approved in breast cancer and further studies will be required to determine its effectiveness,” Professor Lindeman said.

Venetoclax was developed based on a landmark discovery made in Melbourne during the late 1980s by Walter and Eliza Hall Institute scientists, that the BCL-2 promoted cancer cell survival.

“There were 42 women enrolled in the study, which was conducted at The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre over the last three years. 

“The drug was well tolerated, and the majority received the maximum dose with minimal side effects. We have now established a new benchmark dose for future studies.

“We are excited by the findings and what it could mean for patients with incurable hormone receptor positive breast cancer.”

Patient Julie was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer just before her 60th birthday. She enrolled in the study and was given the combined dose of Venetoclax and Tamoxifen.

Patient Julie with Medical Oncologist and Study Researcher, Dr Sheau Wen Lok.

Patient Julie with Medical Oncologist and Study Researcher, Dr Sheau Wen Lok.

The 10cm tumour in Julie’s breast shrank rapidly in response to the treatment.

“My tumour is undetectable at the moment – the doctors said they couldn’t find it,” Julie said.

“I’m hopeful this research will help other women in future.”

This article is sourced from our proud precinct partner, The Royal Melbourne Hospital