Sydney Catalyst Monthly Newsletter
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Have You Seen Our New Website?

We've been working away behind the scenes to update our online presence for a streamlined user experience. And now you, our members, get first glimpse at the result.

We're in the testing phase right now and we invite each and every one of you to search and click, use and abuse the site as much as humanly possible. During the next few weeks we want you to try your best to break it so we know exactly where the fissures lie.
We've added a few new resources and tidbits for the launch, and these will grow and evolve as the months go by. At this stage, make sure you navigate from the homepage as the structure and links are still mismatched in some parts. So bookmark the new Sydney Catalyst website and keep checking back in to discover what's what in the world of translational cancer research.



Roadtrip to ADRI

Last month, Sydney Catalyst Director, Professor John Simes and Research Manager, Danielle Miller took the chance to visit Sydney Catalyst member group ADRI and meet their new Director, Professor Ken Takahashi. Professor Takahashi joined ADRI in February 2017, replacing inaugural ADRI Director, Professor Nico van Zandwijk, who, although retiring from his role as Director, will remain involved with the clinical program at ADRI. John and Danielle’s meeting with Ken, Nico and newly appointed Deputy Director Associate Professor Glen Reid, provided a great opportunity to discuss the current status and future plans of both ADRI and Sydney Catalyst. The two programs remain well aligned and we have no doubt that we will continue to enjoy a productive collaborative relationship with ADRI. 

During our visit we also took the chance to congratulate outgoing Director Professor van Zandwijk on the amazing contribution he has made to asbestos disease research in Australia and to Sydney Catalyst specifically. His contribution to our program is the reason that we’ve identified a special category Travel and Education Award in his honour as part of our upcoming 2017 round. Specifically, the Sydney Catalyst Professor Nico van Zandwijk Trave land Education Award will be given to a student or early-career researcher, particularly working in the field of thoracic cancer research, and wishing to undertake a related training and/or development opportunity,who satisfactorily addresses all eligibility and selection criteria.

Applications for this new round are now open and the guidelines are available online. Congratulations and thank you Nico, and good luck Ken and Glen with ADRI’s ongoing program.


Chris O'Brien Lifehouse In The News

This past month we stumbled upon an emotionally charged story of HSC student Gabbie and her journey from cancer diagnosis to recovery with the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse.

Presented as a cartoon, Gabbie's Story shares some powerful insights from a resilient young woman determined to complete Year 12 alongside her friends. It's well worth the 3-minute read!

Members In The News

Sydney Catalyst members Professor Vanessa Hayes (Head of Garvan's Human Comparative and Prostate Cancer Genomics Laboratory) and Professor Allan Spigelman (Director of Cancer Genetics at Sydney's St Vincents' Hospital) were both in the news recently as a result of their work with genome sequencing and cancer. 

Vanessa's team was the first in Australia to obtain next-generation mapping technology, with aspirations towards personalised medicine for prostate cancer. Her research trajectory is definitely something worth watching.

To read more about this story, click here


Flagship 3: PhD Scholarship & Top-Up Awards

Sydney Catalyst member Dr. Nicky Lawrence was a successful recipient of the Sydney Catalyst PhD Scholarships & Top Up Awards. We caught up with her to see how her research is progressing, and she was more than happy to share her story in her own words:

I am currently undertaking my PhD at the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre, University of Sydney. The aim of my PhD is to determine the optimal methods for clinical trials testing novel, targeted anticancer drugs.

My first project was to perform a systematic review of phase 3 trials of targeted and immune therapy published from 2005 to 2015. We determined the magnitude of effect sizes hypothesised in the design of these phase 3 trials and the magnitude of the effect size observed, and their relationship. We found that many trials were designed to look for small benefits, and as a consequence a quarter of trials that were statistically significant for overall survival reflected benefits that were of dubious clinical importance. I was fortunate to present this work as a poster at the European Society for Medical Oncology in Copenhagen, Denmark in October 2016 (pictured).

Ongoing work includes analyses from an international randomised phase 3 trial of adjuvant sorafenib versus observation after nephrectomy for renal cell carcinoma. We aim to determine; 1. the minimum survival benefits that clinicians judge sufficient to make the side effects and inconvenience of adjuvant targeted therapy worthwhile in renal cell carcinoma, 2. clinicians’ estimates of the potential benefits of adjuvant sorafenib, measured in survival rates and times. I aim to present my findings later this year.


Travel & Education Awards: New Round Open

We are pleased to announce a new round of funding for our Travel and Education (T&E) Awards is now open. Our aim is to encourage training and development of outstanding researchers and clinicians from within Sydney Catalyst member groups and institutions, who have the potential to develop highly significant careers in cancer care and research, and meet the overall goals of Sydney Catalyst.
Five awards are available of up to $2000 each, to allow clinicians (medical, nursing, allied health) and others working in the area of cancer services and research, to attend conferences and seminars related to cancer management, supportive care and research
This year we're introducing two new categories, so pop over to our website to read more or download the application guidelines here.


Sydney Catalyst PG&ECR Symposium Wrap-Up

On Friday 28th April 2017 Sydney Catalyst held its 6th annual Post-Graduate Student and Early-Career Researcher Symposium at the Concord Medical  Education Centre. Approx. 50 registrants joined the working group, led by Dr Phillip Fromm and including Dr Mun Hui, Reichelle Yeo and Merran Findlay, for a full day program that included 2 keynote presentations, 13 oral abstract presentations, a panel discussion and plenty of time to meet with other Sydney Catalyst members.
Professor Barbara Fazekas de St Groth, a medically and mathematically trained immunologist spoke on the topic “Translating immunology into cancer care” and generously shared some of what she has learned in her career, including the importance of thinking outside of the box. The program then switched gears into the first session of oral abstract presentations and throughout the day the participants were taken on a journey across the translational cancer research spectrum and back again, hearing an incredibly diverse range of talks, from Angelica Merlot’s Exploiting the Unfolded Protein Response against Cancer Progression to Brooke Nickel’s Does calling it cancer matter? The impact of papillary thyroid cancer terminology on anxiety and treatment preferences and finally Marissa Williams’ Tumour suppressor microRNAs regulate PD-L1 expression in malignant pleural mesothelioma. The full program including abstracts and bios for all speakers is available on our website.  At the end of the day a number of Best Presentation prizes were awarded, including;
  • Best T1T2 presentations – Blake Hsu, Bone marrow graft-versus-host-disease in reduced intensity conditioned major histocompatibility complex matched murine allogeneic hemopoietic cell transplantation and Ashleigh Morgan, Targeting the Src/JAK/STAT3 signalling pathway: A novel and promising therapeutic strategy for pancreatic cancer
  • Best T2T3 presentation - Liesbeth Geerligs, Hospital-based interventions: a systematic review of barriers and facilitators to support successful implementation
  • Best example of translation - Jennifer Hsu, Next-Generation Dendritic Cell Vaccines: Providing a Therapeutic Option for Frail Acute Myeloid Leukaemia Patients
  • People’s Choice - Marissa Williams, Tumour suppressor microRNAs regulate PD-L1 expression in malignant pleural mesothelioma
We’d like to send a big congratulations to all of the oral abstract presenters; thank you for helping make the day such a success.
An engaging panel discussion was facilitated after lunch on the topic of involving cancer consumers in research. The panel involved John Stubbs (community representative and Sydney Catalyst Scientific Advisory Committee member), John Fullagar (lead for the North Shore Prostate cancer Support Group), Rhiannon White (Project Officer in the Research Grants team at the Cancer Council NSW) and Jo Shaw (Research Program Manager and Research Fellow, PoCoG). Some of the key messages from the discussion included the importance of recognising the valuable and broad experience that community representatives can bring to research, not just as individuals with a personal experience with cancer, but as people with significant professional and life experience across an almost infinite range, and the value of doing so, including ensuring that research is relevant and relatable to those it seeks to help.  
Finally, the Symposium’s second keynote speaker, Dr Thomas Cox, closed the day with a presentation about what he has learned so far in his career, including his journey to the Garvan Institute, where he has established a new lab as head of the Matrix and Metastasis Group. It is clear that Thomas has come a long way since his first foray into scientific research, measuring the length of weed roots as a high school student, and while his advice to listen to and persist with your instincts may not result in a Nature paper for everyone, we all agreed it was good advice none-the-less. Sydney Catalyst and the working group would like to extend a big thank you to both Thomas and Barbara for their presentations, as well as the time they committed to the entire day.
Those who missed out on Friday’s Symposium are encouraged to register for the Sydney Catalyst International Translational Cancer Research Symposium, which is scheduled for Tuesday 08th August. With 3 keynote speakers, plus an additional 10 oral presentations and a panel discussion to be facilitated by former radio and TV personality Julie McCrossin, the SCITCRS2017 is set to be a great opportunity for us to examine Frontiers in Translational Cancer Research together.  

Other Opportunities

As always we have some exciting events and opportunities coming up. Check out the highlights below and then head to our website for even more. 


Double Shot With ... Dr Mark Larance

Dr Mark Larance is a recipient of the CINSW 2016 Future Research Leader Fellowship. The research, entitled, “Nutrient Deprivation and the Protective Proteome for the Prevention of Disease” aims to identify how intermittent fasting can assist with the prevention and treatment of cancer. We caught up with Mark to ask him a few questions about himself and his research.
  1. I chose a career path in nutrition and cancer because … Colorectal cancer and other cancer subtypes have poor diet, obesity and diabetes as key risk factors. I want to understand the pathways modulated during these dietary regimes at the protein level using state-of-the-art proteomics technology.
  2. My research is looking into the Fast Mimicking Diet and will include a small scale trial. The premise behind the diet is …To counter the risk factors outline above, nutrient deprivation such as intermittent fasting (including the fasting mimicking diet), has been shown to reduce metabolic disease risk and improve longevity with healthier ageing in model animals. Importantly, intermittent fasting has also been shown to reduce cancer progression by working synergistically with chemotherapy. However, at the moment little data is available regarding the tolerability and effectiveness of different formats of intermittent fasting diets in either healthy volunteers, or cancer patients.
  3. My research is complimentary to research currently being conducted in the prevention and treatment of cancer because … Both the consumption of nutrients in excess and intermittent fasting can each have profound effects on normal metabolism and cancer risk. Studying these metabolic perturbations is complimentary to the large amount of research looking at new chemotherapeutics, which may be combined with intermittent fasting to increase their effectiveness.
  4. The aspect of my research I’m most excited about is … Understanding the responses to these diets at the protein-level using the great technology platforms available at the Charles Perkins Centre is very exciting.
  5. My proudest career achievement so far is … Returning to Australia from the UK to start my own lab at the University of Sydney.
  6. The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is ... Know when to say no.
  7. My top tip to an early career researcher would be … Be persistent.
  8. The most rewarding thing about being in this line of work is … Making new discoveries.
  9. What makes me smile is … Sunshine! Have missed this in the UK.
  10. My usual drink order is … Beer with lots of great Hops flavour.
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