Cancer research boost

08/04/2016 - 14:00

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Perth-based law firm Jackson McDonald has honoured a former partner by funding an emerging cancer researcher as part of a record $4 million in grants announced by the Cancer Council WA today.

Cancer research boost
RESEARCH FUNDING: Karene Primrose (centre) with researcher Alisdair Cook (left) and grant recipient Samantha Bowyer. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Perth-based law firm Jackson McDonald has honoured a former partner by funding an emerging cancer researcher as part of a record $4 million in grants announced by the Cancer Council WA today.

Jackson McDonald Medical Research Grant, which was established in memory of construction lawyer Dimo Christides, who passed away from a rare and aggressive lung cancer in 2013, will provide almost $35,000 as an ‘early career investigator’ grant to Samantha Bowyer.

Dr Bowyer is looking at the role of immune cells in blood to predict responses to immunotherapy in cases of melanoma and lung cancer as a way of identifying patients who will most benefit from a particular type of treatment.

Jackson McDonald partner Karene Primrose said the fact that staff could see where their donations went, and the benefits of the research, gave them confidence in the process and provided a sense of purpose.

“We feel supporting the work of a young researcher directly involved with lung cancer research is a great match with something that matters to us,” Ms Primrose said.

The grant to Dr Bowyer was revealed with several other major grants at Cancer Council WA’s awards event today.

Among the other grant recipients announced today were Western Australian oncologist and cancer researcher Nicholas Gottardo, who was awarded a $400,000 Cancer Council Western Australia Research Fellowship to help investigate a new class of more effective chemotherapy drugs with the purpose of leading to new clinical trials for children with the brain tumour, medulloblastoma.

Dr Gottardo, from Princess Margaret Hospital for Children and the Telethon Kids Institute, said despite being the second most common childhood cancer, brain tumours remained the biggest cause of childhood cancer deaths.

He said there was a desperate need for a new approach, so his project aimed to make the current chemotherapy more effective from the start of the treatment with the ultimate goal of relying less on radiotherapy, which caused toxicity and long-term side effects.

Cancer Council WA chief executive officer Susan Rooney said it was the biggest amount the council had provided in annual research grants, and reflected the charity’s ongoing commitment to make funding cancer research a priority.

Ranked 15th by revenue in the BNiQ search engine list of charitable organisations, the council provided almost $3.8 million in research grants during the 2015 financial year, up from nearly $3.4 million the previous year.

The charity had $26 million in revenue in the year ending June 30 2015, almost 60 per cent of which was derived from sponsorship, donations and bequests. About 19 per cent of revenue came from a combination of grants for education and prevention programs and 10 per cent was from cancer information and support services.

This year it has launched a new fund raising project in the form of a lottery to raise up to $10 million.

The Ultimate Lifestyle Lottery offers a fully furnished  $1.59 million penthouse apartment at Taskers in North Fremantle, plus a BMW X1 and $20,000 cash as the major prize, along with 6,670 prizes other opportunities to win.

Apart from funding research, the bulk of the council’s $27.1 million expenditure was in offering support services and performing information and education programs. The cost of fund raising was also significant.

Other areas of cancer research to be funded in 2016 included:

• a world-first trial investigating the effectiveness of exercise for patients with advanced prostate cancer;

• the establishment of a Cancer Council Epidemiology Network to bring together the best cancer epidemiologists in WA;

• a  trial to test a new therapy that allows cancer patients to drain fluid in the lining of the chest at home; and

• a research project to develop blood tests that can accurately predict the risk of primary liver cancer.

Ms Rooney said the research program cemented the Cancer Council’s position as a leading funder of independent cancer research in WA. There are at least 17 cancer charities in WA, although many of them are focused on supporting patients and their families rather than research.  

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