Collaborative Research Grants: Improving Cancer Outcomes for Upper Gastrointestinal Cancers

john zalcberg Real-time patient-reported outcomes in clinical practice – a novel approach to improving quality of care for patients with upper gastrointestinal cancer ($1,598,233)

Investigators: Prof John Zalcberg (Lead Applicant), Dr Liane Ioannou, A/Prof Sue Evans, Prof Madeleine King, Dr Daniel Croagh, Dr Charles Pilgrim, Prof Wendy Brown, Prof Kate White, Prof Jennifer Philip, Prof Arul Earnest

People with pancreas and oesophagus/stomach cancers generally have very poor quality of life. Often, they don’t tell their medical team about serious physical or emotional problems, so won’t always get the help they need. We hope to change this. Patients in the trial group will complete an online symptom questionnaire every 2 weeks. If they report problems, they will immediately: 1) receive information on how they might help themselves; 2) be asked whether they wish to report the problem to their medical team; and 3) receive a phone call from a trained nurse, who will connect them with appropriate services.


Daniel Croagh Using next generation sequencing to improve the speed and accuracy of diagnosis in pancreatic cancer ($459,446)

Investigators: Dr Daniel Croagh (Lead Applicant), Prof Melissa Southey, Prof Brendan Jenkins, Prof Eva Segelov, Dr Vivek Rathi, Dr Bronte Holt, Mr Charles Pilgrim, Dr Belinda Lee, Prof Manoop Bhutani

Endoscopic ultrasound fine needle biopsy is the predominant diagnostic investigation for pancreatic cancer. However, its accuracy is only 85 per cent. A negative biopsy means patients need repeat procedures to achieve a diagnosis which is necessary to begin chemotherapy or enter clinical trials. Falsely negative biopsies, therefore, delay treatment and cause enormous distress. We are using next generation sequencing to significantly improve the sensitivity of this test. We wish to validate this approach and demonstrate its potential in a prospective clinical trial. The information provided will also allow patients to be considered for personalised treatment which will become the standard of care.


2018 Workforce Funding Recipients

Roxanne Toivanen


E.J. Whitten Foundation Mid-Career Research Fellowship
Dr Roxanne Toivanen, Monash Biomedicine Discovery InstituteInvestigating the origins of neuroendocrine prostate cancerThe most common drugs for treating advanced prostate cancer target the actions of hormones. Unfortunately, in some patients these treatments promote the emergence of aggressive, treatment-resistant tumours, known as neuroendocrine prostate cancer. This study will investigate the progression of neuroendocrine prostate cancer in patient samples and identify early detection strategies for these tumours.
Mitchell Lawrence


Mid-Career Research Fellowship incorporating the Victoria-USA Cancer Fellowship Exchange Program. Dr Mitchell Lawrence, Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute

New combination therapies for castration-resistant prostate cancer

Some men with prostate cancer have life-threatening tumours that require ongoing treatment. These patients usually receive one drug after another until their tumours become drug-resistant. In contrast, some other types of cancer are often treated with multiple drugs at once. Therefore, this study will examine whether it is better to treat aggressive prostate cancer using two drugs at a time. We predict that this approach will improve patient treatment by eradicating more prostate cancer cells, providing new treatment strategies for advanced prostate cancer.

Lan Nguyen Mid-Career Research Fellowship. Dr Lan Nguyen, Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute

Combating adaptive resistance to targeted therapy in triple-negative breast cancer

Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive form of breast cancer that desperately needs new treatments. TNBC patients treated with single-drug therapies, however, often develop resistance as TNBC cells rapidly find ways to bypass the drug effect. Doctors are turning to combination therapies – cocktails of drugs – in an effort to kill the cancer. However, there is currently no reliable way to predict which combinations, amongst many possible candidates, will work (and work quickly) for an individual patient. This project aims to identify novel combination therapy strategies for TNBC and biomarkers that help match them to the right patients.