Cancer Council Queensland announce the next round of $4 million dollar cancer research grants targeting melanoma and ovarian cancer

This November, Cancer Council Queensland has announced the next round of Accelerating Collaborating Cancer Research (ACCR) Grants. Two Queensland-based cancer research projects will be awarded $500,000 annually for the next four yearscomprising of $350,000 per annum from Cancer Council Queensland and a $150,000 per annum contribution from the Administering Institution of each recipient. 

This year’s ACCR grant recipients focus on conducting research into increasing survival rates for melanoma and ovarian cancers. Long term funding from the ACCR grant scheme will allow the teams working on these research projects to concentrate on discovering tangible outcomes which will assist Queenslanders impacted by these types of cancers. 

For an overview of the research projects receiving essential funding, see below. 

The ECHO trial: A randomised, controlled trial evaluating the effect of exercise during chemotherapy for ovarian cancer on survival and health resource use 

Lead investigator: Professor Sandi Hayes 
Administering Institution: Griffith University 
Ovarian cancer has the worst survival rates of all gynaecological cancers, with only 45% of those diagnosed living longer than 5 years. Its treatment is associated with high levels of morbidity, declines in quality of life and challenges in meeting supportive care needs.  
Exercise during and post-treatment for cancer has consistently been shown to benefit function and quality of life. Yet, the vast majority of the evidence in support of exercise post-cancer stems from studies involving patients with early-stage disease and predicted ‘good’ prognosis. There is a pressing need to determine if exercise is also appropriate and beneficial in cancer cohorts with low-survival and high cancer- and treatment-related morbidity, such as is the case for women with ovarian cancer.

ECHO is a clinical trial designed to determine the effects of an exercise intervention during first-line chemotherapy on survival from ovarian cancer. The study will also assess other outcomes of importance to women including function, quality of life, treatment adherence and costs. If the study shows these outcomes are better with exercise, then exercise should become part of standard care of ovarian cancer. Further, findings will provide a solid indication for the potential benefit of exercise in other cancers, including more rare cancers.  

 “By December this year, we will have recruited 300 women into the ECHO trial, with data from these women allowing us to determine whether exercise can improve function, physical wellbeing and quality of life,” says Professor Hayes.  

“However, now comes the most exciting part…with this amazing Accelerating Collaborative Cancer Research grant from Cancer Council Queensland, in collaboration with Griffith University, we will be able to recruit an additional 200 women into ECHO. This will bring our total sample size to 500 women and as such we are now poised to assess the effect of exercise on survival, health resource use and chemotherapy adherence.” 


 Advanced technological approach to predicting survival in patients diagnosed with locally invasive cutaneous melanoma 

Lead investigator: Professor Kiarash Khosrotehrani 
Administering Institution: The University of Queensland 
In most patients, surgical removal of a cutaneous melanoma cures the disease; however, in a small number of patients the melanoma may spread and ultimately become fatal. The challenge is to identify as early as possible the patients whose cancer could become terminal, in order to give more aggressive treatment with recently developed drugs and improve their chances of survival.

In this project, we propose to use established banks of melanoma tissue as well as a large group of Queensland patients with cutaneous melanoma to be followed prospectively. We will collect clinical details, genetic and gene/protein expression information in tumours and blood samples from each patient and their tumour using the latest technologies, allowing us to explore in parallel thousands of potential predictors of disease progression simultaneously.   

Comparing the blood and tumour sample results between those with no evidence of disease and those with a tumour relapse will help establish new pathology tests to predict an individual’s risk of tumour progression. This prospective longitudinal Queensland study will provide for the first time the means to identify patients at risk of melanoma death, raising hope for improving their survival outcomes through earlier drug therapy.  

Queensland has the highest melanoma incidence and mortality rates in Australia, with 3600 people diagnosed and an estimated 400 deaths annually,” says Professor Khosrotehrani.  

Our team have extensive experience in the clinical care of melanoma patients, as well as expertise in a wide range of technologies with a proven track record of accomplishment in the prediction of melanoma survival. We plan to use this knowledge and these skills to identify new ways of recognising and treating potentially fatal melanomas as early as possible.”   

Cancer Council Queensland looks forward to seeing the outcomes of Professors Hayes and Khosrotehrani’s work over the next four years. We would also like to extend a massive thank you to all our supporters, fundraisers and donors who have helped make the ACCR grant scheme possible. Together, we are all working towards a cancer free future for all Queenslanders. 

To find out more about the latest cancer research projects conducted and funded by Cancer Council Queensland, click here.