20 July 2021, By Mater Lotteries

100 lotteries of impact

5 min read

We’re celebrating 100 Cars for Cancer lotteries and thousands of lives changed thanks to your support.

Every ticket you have purchased in our Cars for Cancer lottery has helped to provide funding for vital cancer research —improving outcomes and providing hope for patients with cancer and their families.

Mater believes, as you do, that no one diagnosed with cancer should have their life cut short by this disease. We are most grateful for your ongoing support of our cancer research work. With your support, Mater is making incredible advances in research and care for our community.

Advances in Melanoma Research

Professor Brian Gabrielli in collaboration with Mater Research leaders, Kristen Radford and Gregor Kijanka, Brian is investigating a novel concept – that is, by using a targeted therapy it is possible to gain immediate control of tumour growth and to enhance the immunogenicity of the tumour, effectively immunising the patient with their melanoma.

20 years ago, the average life expectancy for someone with advanced melanoma was six or seven months. Until immunotherapies changed the face of cancer treatment.

Today, more than half of people with advanced melanoma will live another year, and over a quarter will live more than 5 years.*

Using the immune system as a living drug

Professor Maher Gandhi is running a clinical trial to improve treatment for relapsed lymphoma patients. Once identified, patients’ T-cells (the killers of the immune system) are extracted then engineered to identify and attack a specific protein on tumour cells. The T-cells are then ‘cloned’ until there are hundreds of millions of cells, then inserted back into the patient. It is like giving the patient a ‘living drug’ that can recognise and kill their cancer.

Harnessing the power of the immune system to improve the visibility of cancer

Professor John Hooper and his team work closely with Mater clinicians, in multi-disciplinary teams, to identify key areas of need at the clinical coal-face. Using a technique developed internally at Mater Research, the team is working towards the goal of using the immune system’s inherent accuracy to better locate cancers. This research will help clinicians better understand the exact location and extent of a patient’s cancer, if it has spread to other parts of the body and to better plan a patient’s treatment based on the tumour’s unique properties.

Mapping the cancer journey

Professor Janet Hardy and her team are evaluating the efficacy, safety and acceptability of treatments for symptom relief in advanced cancer patients receiving palliative care. The trial will assess symptoms as a whole, physical and psychological, rather than focussing on the impact of individual symptoms.

Teaching the immune system to treat cancer

Cancer immunotherapies harness the power of the immune system to fight cancer. They unleash the immune system’s ability to recognise and eliminate cancer cells, wherever they are in the body.

Immunotherapy can work on many different types of cancer and offers the possibility for long-term cancer treatment. Because immunotherapy can ‘train’ the immune system to remember cancer cells, this may result in longer-lasting remissions.

Associate Professor Radford and her team are focussed on creating an ‘anti-tumour vaccine’ which would enable the body’s immune system to kill cancer cells and eliminate them from the body.

Their research focuses on a specialised type of white blood cell called a dendritic cell. Dendritic cells are responsible for activating the immune system and directing it to make appropriate responses that are highly specialized to the type of threat it receives. They identified a rare subtype of dendritic cell that is critical for activating the immune response to fight cancer.

Their vaccines’ targets present in multiple different types of cancer, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, melanoma, and most blood cancers.

These vaccines provide new avenues for potential treatment, and importantly hope, for patients diagnosed with advanced cancer, or difficult to treat subtypes.

The antibodies in the vaccine educate the immune system about the cancer, which can then activate the killer T-cells to kill the cancer. The goal is to create an immune response that will not only kill the cancer present in the body, but also stop it from ever coming back.

This research from A/Prof Radford and her team is ultimately targeting the development of a ‘next generation’ vaccination strategy. If successful, a therapeutic vaccine, which treats the cancer rather than preventing it, could be developed to activate an anti-cancer immune response in the bodies of patients with many different types of cancer.

Improving the effectiveness and safety of current treatments

Therapy for cancer is not without its unique challenges. Current cancer therapies—whether it be chemotherapy, radiation and newer targeted cancer therapies and immunotherapy approaches, also damage healthy cells and can lead to blood system toxicity. If severe enough, this can interrupt, or even completely stop, treatment.

Unfortunately, blood system toxicity will cause the patient to experience the debilitating negative side effects of cancer treatment, without receiving the benefit of the treatment.

Mater Research’s Professor Allison Pettit is tackling this challenge, head on. Allison has a bold vision – she wants to find new ways to overcome the immediate and long-term consequences of cancer therapy to maximise treatment benefits and alleviate both short- and long-term side effects from cancer treatment. are investigating whether a specific type of cell in the bone marrow can protect against the side effects of cancer therapies by maintaining the pool of blood stem cells.

Their goal is to better understand the protective mechanisms that exist within bone marrow that sustain a lifelong supply of blood stem cells and discover ways to exploit and amplify these protective mechanisms. Their belief is that this treatment will reduce both the immediate and long-term side effects of cancer therapy on bone marrow and lifelong blood cell supply.

Your continued generosity and investment in research provide the critical resources to allow our researchers to advance their vital, life-changing work.

Research is the most important tool we have in the fight against some of the major challenges facing healthcare today. Your donations to Mater Foundation are funding incredible advances that can change lives.

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