Burden of disease measures the impact of living with illness and injury or dying prematurely.
However, bowel cancer received around 46 percent less research funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) compared to breast cancer (2019: $12.6 million v $22.5 million); and receives no government funding to support dedicated Bowel Care Nurse Specialists, compared to around $82 million for Breast Care Nurse Specialists and $33 million for Prostate Cancer Nurse Specialists.
To help address this research funding inequity, Bowel Cancer Australia established the Bowel Cancer Research Foundation Australia.
Through the Foundation, Bowel Cancer Australia has made a significant investment in the Lawrence Penn Chair of Bowel Cancer Research, dedicated to leading edge bowel cancer discoveries that aim to have an everlasting impact on Australia's health future.
The establishment of the Lawrence Penn Chair, in collaboration with the University of Sydney and the Kolling Institute, strengthens our collective pursuit of a bowel cancer cure.
Other major bowel cancer projects funded to date, include the ASCOLT Clinical Trial; ICHOM Colorectal Cancer Standard Set; patient-reported experiences (My Colonoscopy Experience), community awareness and understanding; patient and metastatic patient lived-experiences; and demographic research.
To date, Bowel Cancer Australia, collaboratively with funding partners, has funded $11.6 million in bowel cancer research projects.
You can make a lasting contribution to bowel cancer research through a donation or a bequest (a gift made in your Will) to Bowel Cancer Australia or by calling us on 1800 555 494.
Mudy is also curious as to why immunotherapies, which have led to landmark survival rates in several other cancers, do not appear to be effective for most patients with bowel cancer.
“Furthermore, there is an alarming trend indicating young onset bowel cancers are on the rise,” said Mudy.
“Personally, I have come across many younger patients with bowel cancer at various stages, including two young women who were diagnosed with metastatic disease during pregnancy.”
“I sincerely hope to bring discoveries from our lab to the clinic and translating them into clinically meaningful benefits for patients.”
“Despite significant improvements over the past 4 to 5 decades, the 5-year overall survival of patients with metastatic disease remains poor at around 15%.”
“Furthermore, data from registries of real-world patients suggest there has been no improvement in overall survival for patients with metastatic disease since 2008.”
“At present, we give empirical therapies to patients with bowel cancer based on just a few biomarkers, highlighting the significant need for discovery of novel biomarkers and therapeutic strategies through translational research,” said Mudy.
“We now have a better understanding that the clinical activity of many cancer therapies can be attributed to the re-establishment of immune surveillance within the tumour microenvironment through a specific type of immunogenic cell death (ICD).”
“ICD is unique to other forms of regulated cell death and necrosis in that it produces a robust anti-tumour adaptive immune response, which can be lasting.”
“There are several hallmarks of ICD, and I am keen to explore whether these are detectable with currently available technologies, and whether they have prognostic or predictive value as biomarkers.”
Mudy will also be exploring which treatment strategies optimise immunogenic cell death, in order to better understand how cancers develop resistance to it.
The $600,000 grant will provide a three-year fellowship salary for Dr Pascal Steffen and help to cover some research costs for him to apply proteomic techniques to investigate the role of immune cells in rectal cancer.
Approximately 5,000 Australian men and women are diagnosed with rectal cancer each year. The aim of Dr Steffen’s CINSW fellowship is to understand the involvement of immune cell infiltration in rectal cancer, how this impacts tumour biology and how it affects patient outcomes.
To conduct the study over the next three years, Dr Steffen will apply his knowledge of protein mass spectrometry with access to the large archival rectal cancer tissue database at Royal North Shore Hospital. He will map the proteome (proteins found in the cancer) of these rectal cancers to understand their biology and how this links to patient prognosis, and work to resolve the complex immune cell architecture of these cancers by using a new technique of imaging mass cytometry.
The outcome of this research will lead to new prognostic biomarker panels, provide a better understanding of immune cells in rectal cancers and pave the way for new treatments.
“I am very excited to receive the CINSW fellowship as it will allow me to apply my expertise in proteomics to the cause of advancing the understanding of the role of immune cells in rectal cancer and furthering the research of new ways to combat this disease. This fellowship will also grant me the opportunity to broaden my knowledge especially in the field of immunology and imaging techniques,” said Dr Steffen.
Dr Pascal Steffen will conduct his fellowship in the Bowel Cancer and Biomarker Laboratory at The Kolling Institute, Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney under the supervision of Professor Mark Molloy, Lawrence Penn Chair of Bowel Cancer Research, The University of Sydney.
“One of the key objectives for the Chair of Bowel Cancer Research is to increase research capacity and foster researcher development. I am delighted that the CINSW is supporting our vision through the award of this prestigious fellowship to Pascal. His research will reveal important new understandings in rectal cancer which is an essential step towards improving the outcomes for people with this disease,” Professor Molloy said.
Dr Pascal Steffen is a post-doctoral research associate (early career research fellow) and the newest member of the team working with the Lawrence Penn Chair of Bowel Cancer Research, Professor Mark Molloy.