La Trobe University and ONJCRI researchers (as the La Trobe School of Cancer Medicine) will advance knowledge of transplant cure rates for Hodgkin Lymphoma, therapy for thyroid cancer, and other fields, thanks to $5.97 million awarded to La Trobe in the latest round of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). The MRFF funding scheme aims to transform health and medical research and innovation to improve lives, build the economy and contribute to health system sustainability.

La Trobe University Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Industry Engagement) Prof Susan Dodds is thrilled with La Trobe’s success.

“La Trobe researchers are focused on improving lives and health outcomes of people around the world. This funding enables our researchers together with clinical partners to advance their understanding and develop treatments and therapies for diseases like cancer, which affect so many individuals and families,” Prof Dodds said.

“I am particularly pleased that three of the successful projects are from the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute which is La Trobe University’s School of Cancer Medicine. This School is located in the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre, a comprehensive cancer centre at Austin Health. This important partnership between institutions is focused on discovering and developing breakthrough cancer therapies to provide the best health outcomes for patients. It is great that their important work has been recognised with this funding.”

Prof Matthias Ernst, Head of the La Trobe University School of Cancer Medicine, agreed.

“The three ONJCRI MRFF funded projects will enable us to perform the cutting edge translational research that will make a real difference to treatment outcomes for cancer patients and allow our laboratory scientist to understand the underlying molecular mechanisms on which we can build our next discoveries,” Prof Ernst said.

About the research projects

I-124 PET Directed Redifferentiation Therapy for Radioiodine Refractory Thyroid Cancer – the I-FIRST Study

Led by: Prof Andrew Scott AM

For patients with advanced thyroid cancer, tumours that no longer trap radioiodine have an extremely poor prognosis and more effective treatments are urgently required. This study will examine whether redifferentiation therapy is able to resensitize tumours to radioiodine treatment and improve patient survival and quality of life.


Employing rational novel agent combination therapy to improve transplant cure rates for relapsed/refractory Hodgkin Lymphoma

Led by: A/Prof Eliza Hawkes

Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL) is a rare malignancy, with 500 new cases annually in young Australians. While 70 per cent of patients are cured with front line treatment, 30 per cent of patients require second line therapy which often fails resulting in death. Immunotherapy and targeted therapies have dramatically improved survival in haematological malignancies. This study will combine two agents currently approved in recurrent HL to maximise survival of these young Australians.


Repurposing valproate for the treatment of colorectal cancer

Led by: Prof Niall Tebbutt

Colorectal cancer is a major cause of cancer related deaths for which there is an urgent need to develop new treatments. The drug valproate has been used to treat epilepsy and mood disorders for over 50 years. We have found that valproate can profoundly increase the anti-tumour activity of a class of drugs known as EGFR inhibitors in laboratory models of colon cancer. We will now test the activity of this drug combination in a phase II clinical trial in patients with advanced colon cancer.


Congratulations also to Prof Della Forster, from the La Trobe University School of Nursing and Midwiferywhose project will focus on the ‘Impact of midwife-led group antenatal care and education on caesarean section’.