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2019 Pilot & Seed recipients announced

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News Articles
12 July 2019

Sydney Catalyst is proud to announce the recipients of Pilot & Seed funding for 2019. This year we awarded a record $357,500 in funding to seven recipients across the translational spectrum.


Wojciech Chrzanowski & team, The University of Sydney
HIFUn+ - Nanotechnology-Enhanced High Intensity Focused Ultrasound As The New Generation Of Cancer Therapy: Advancing HIFU Towards Mainstream, Non-Invasive Cancer Therapy

Wojciech and his team are investigating the potential of high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) by developing nanoparticles that are sensitive to ultrasound. Nanoparticles deliver compounds that are activated within the focal point of the ultrasound (submillimetre resolution), which results in synthesis of a drug in situ. In this way they'manufacture' the drug inside the body. By combining locally synthetised drug with thermal ablation they hope to achieve therapeutic synergies - a unique two-pronged approach for non-invasive, truly targeted cancer treatment - HIFUn+


Angela Ferguson & team, The University of Sydney
Exploring Functional Capabilities Of Immune Cells In The Tumour Microenvironment (TME) To Determine Patient Responses To Immunotherapy

Although immunotherapy has made a huge impact on cancer patient care, it is still unclear how immunotherapy actually works. It is believed that reinvigoration of T cells is likely to be a key factor in the success of immunotherapy. The expression of checkpoint receptors however, are not restricted to T cells. Their preliminary research shows only 10 to 20% of tumour infiltrating T cells express checkpoint receptors supporting multiple recent studies in animal models reporting the discovery of novel subsets of myeloid cells. Interestingly, they have also found multiple myeloid populations expressing a range of checkpoint receptors and their ligands. What has been overlooked is that myeloid cells are responsible for both the antigen presentation that initiates immune response to pathogens and cancer and the source of cytokines that determine whether T cells are retained in tissues and the TME or forced back into circulation. The immune cell diversity of myeloid cells, especially macrophages has been largely ignored and a simple 'good' or 'bad', M1 or M2 paradigm adopted. Recent studies of human tissue environment that are inflammatory have illustrated how limited this hypothesis is and how diverse and significant these cell subtypes may be for human health.


David Herrmann & team, The Garvan Institute of Medical Research
Intravital Imaging To Overcome Pancreatic Cancer Resistance To Immunotherapy

David's research will use intravital imaging microscopy of live pancreatic tumours to optimise drug targeting in pancreatic cancer.


Andrew Hoy & team, The University of Sydney
Unravelling The Metabolic Link Between The Host And Breast Cancer Disease Progression

The link between obesity and breast cancer has been known for several decades; however, the underlying reasons for the increased tumour growth and metastasis in these patients is poorly understood. This project will take a systematic (i.e. diet-agnostic) approach to determine the influence of macronutrient intake (fat, protein, carbohydrate) on host physiology and breast cancer behaviour and the associated mechanisms. 



Kate Edwards & team, The University of Sydney
Aerobic exercise training during chemotherapy infusion

Kate's research will focus the effect of aerobic exercise on tumour blood flow to test the hypothesis that exercise will increase blood flow, and therefore, drug delivery. They are also developing the intra-infusion exercise intervention for use in humans, and testing its efficacy and effectiveness.


Heather Shepherd & team, The University of Sydney
Ensuring The Symptoms Of Vulnerable Populations Are Known: Identifying Patient Barriers And Facilitators To Completing PROMs In Cancer Care

In Australis there are over 300 separately identified languages spoken in homes, with over 20% of Australians speaking a language other than English. In some health care services, this equals about 50% of the patient population, an acceptably high number who are excluded from participation in intiatives to gather PROM data for immediate clinical care management. Understanding the reasons why patients from diverse CALD backgrounds and/or with low literacy levels may or may not complete PROMs will increase PROM collection as part of standard cancer care. 


David Yeo & team, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Very Low-Energy Diet Before Surgery In Obese Patients Undergoing Partial Liver Excision: A Pilot Randomised Control Trial (Very Supple Trial)

Obesity in Australia is an increasingly concerning issue in healthcare. Obesity has been shown to make abdominal surgery more technically challenging and is associated with poorer outcomes. Studies suggest that liver resections in patients who are either obese or overweight are more likely to result in life threatening morbidity. Of particular concern is fatty liver (steatosis), a risk factor for mortality, morbidity and need for blood transfusion after liver surgery.

Hepatic steatosis is a particular problem whenever the liver needs to be retracted - as the stiff liver may fracture and bleed during mobilisation. Bariatric studies that used preoperative very low-energy diets (VLEDs) prior to surgery have shown a reduction in the size and flexibility of the left lobe of the liver leading to improved access, visualisation, and safer surgery. The use of VLED for two weeks has been shown on ultrasound to decrease both liver size (5.1%) and fat content (5.1%) in addition to BMI (4.2%). If given for four weeks pre-operatively, a mean 24.6% reduction in steatosis can be achieved. 

Liver resection can be technically difficult in overweight/obese individuals for several reasons, not only because of difficulty accessing the organ. Parenchymal transection can be challenging in such patients because the steatosis makes the liver tissue turgid, more difficult to handle and more fragile to transect. This leads to more bleeding and bile leakage during and following transection.

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