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27th January 2020 Latest News

$1 million announced to fight deadly disease

1million announced to fight deadly disease

Nine pioneering research projects to help improve the health and wellbeing of the community.

Finding new treatments for leukaemia and childhood brain cancer and helping surgical patients avoid debilitating complications are among nine pioneering research projects announced today by The Hospital Research Foundation (THRF).

Nine Adelaide researchers are being awarded $1 million in research grants to fight our most deadly diseases and improve the health and wellbeing of the community.

THRF is the largest non-government funder of medical research in South Australia and CEO Paul Flynn said the grants would bring hope to all South Australians fighting disease and illness.

“Sadly there are thousands of South Australians currently suffering from brain cancer, leukaemia, inflammatory bowel disease, surgery-related infections, diabetes, the effects of ageing and more. These projects aim to advance much-needed research in these areas and bring outcomes to patients sooner,” Paul said.

“In line with our Together.Fight. campaign we know that patients can’t fight disease on their own, but together with the knowledge of our researchers and support of the community, they have hope.

“This was a hotly-contested grant round with our highest-ever number of submissions, all of which were of extremely high quality. We are confident the successful projects will deliver excellent medical research and healthcare outcomes for the community that will inform research worldwide.

“This important funding is only possible thanks to the generous support of our donors, corporate partners and ticket buyers in the Hospital Research Home Lottery.”

The successful projects include:


Associate Professor Daniel Thomas
SAHMRI / The University of Adelaide / Royal Adelaide Hospital

New therapy for acute myeloid leukaemia: “Pre-clinical efficacy of ACC1 as a novel target for IDH1 Mutated Cancer”

Many deadly cancers such as leukaemia, brain cancer, gall bladder cancer and sarcoma commonly have a mutated gene that controls cell metabolism, called IDH1. The current treatment for IDH1 mutated leukaemia brings temporary relief but does not cure the disease and does not work on solid cancers. This project will progress work on a new drug and new drug target that specifically blocks cancer cell growth by blocking new lipid production. The project will test patient cancers in sophisticated treatment models to accelerate clinical trials and help many different cancer patients who relapse after current therapy.

Professor Geraint Rogers
SAHMRI / Flinders University / Flinders Medical Centre

Managing gut health to prevent hospital infections: “Microbiome-based prediction of severe infection risk in critically ill patients”

More and more people are dying from severe hospital infections due to emerging antibiotic-resistant superbugs, particularly in patients who are already vulnerable. The complex microbial communities that exist within the gut and upper respiratory tract have a considerable influence on the risk of these infections. This project will assess the microbiota composition of Intensive Care patients’ upper respiratory and intestinal systems, to help predict those who are at greater risk of severe infection and deliver rapid and effective therapy to these patients.

Associate Professor Leonie Heilbronn
The University of Adelaide / SAHMRI

Preventing Type 2 diabetes with time restricted eating: “Examining early versus delayed time restricted eating (TRE) to improve glycaemia in individuals at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes”

Two million Australians are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, escalated by current obesity rates, poor quality diets and reduced physical activity. Preclinical models also show that those who spread out eating over a prolonged period of time each day have impaired glucose metabolism, an early risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. This study aims to increase understanding of the benefits of time restricted eating (TRE) on glycaemic response by analysing the timing of food intake. Preliminary data shows that when individuals confine all energy intake to nine hours per day, it reduces glycaemic response to a breakfast meal and may improve glycaemia across the day. This is an underexplored area of research which may be able to inform public health advice and the clinical management of patients.

Professor Michael Roberts
Basil Hetzel Institute / University of South Australia / The Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Preventing complications for Type 2 diabetes sufferers undergoing surgery: “Addressing potentially life-threatening ketoacidosis associated with key anti-diabetic medicines”

For the two million Australians at risk of Type 2 diabetes, the newest class of anti-diabetic drugs has been very effective in managing the disease. However for those undergoing surgery, these drugs bring a higher risk of the patient developing life-threatening diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA occurs when the body produces dangerously high levels of acids called ketones in the blood, with roughly two to three cases a week seen at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital. This project aims to prevent DKA in patients undergoing surgery by better understanding why some patients develop DKA, developing a model which can predict DKA in patients and therefore altering patient management.

Dr Jyoti Khadka
Flinders University / University of South Australia / SAHMRI

Improving the quality and safety of aged care: “Health Economics Implications of Monitoring Safety and Quality of Aged Care in Australia”

Australia’s population is rapidly ageing, putting an increased demand on the delivery of high quality and safe aged care services. This project will provide a comprehensive assessment of the health economic implications of four major indicators of aged care quality and safety provided to older Australians. The findings will provide essential cost estimates for health care policy makers and aged care recipients and their families, to facilitate interventions which can minimise incidents of poor quality and unsafe care, reduce health system expenditures and maximise the health and wellbeing of our ageing community.


Dr Tessa Gargett
Centre for Cancer Biology / University of South Australia / Royal Adelaide Hospital

Treating childhood brain cancer: “New cell therapies for childhood brain cancer”

Once a young child is diagnosed with brain cancer such as diffuse midline glioma (the most common and lethal type of brain cancer), their chances of survival are almost zero. After palliative radiotherapy, only experimental treatments are available. CAR T-cell therapies have dramatically transformed survival prospects for patients with blood cancers, and this project aims to extend this science to kids with brain cancer. By using basic immunology and clinical science to further develop a new CAR T-cell therapy, this project hopes to harness the power of the immune system to beat brain cancer.

Dr Robert Bryant
Basil Hetzel Institute / The University of Adelaide / The Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Diet strategies for ulcerative colitis (an inflammatory bowel disease): “The 4-SURE (4-Sulphide-Reducing) project: pioneering a new diet paradigm in the management of ulcerative colitis”

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers in your digestive tract. Current treatments are inadequate, helping only one-third of patients while one-in-five patients ultimately require a colectomy. Diet is a key factor in the development of UC via its influence on the balance of gut bacteria. Preliminary studies have shown that adopting a diet strategy aimed at reducing harmful gut bacteria is effective in reducing inflammation in UC. This project aims to explore effective diet therapies as an exciting additional approach to bridging the gap in treatments of UC.

Dr Katharina Richter
Basil Hetzel Institute / The University of Adelaide / The Queen Elizabeth Hospital       

Preventing infections associated with mesh implants in hernia surgery: “A new implant to stop infections in hernia surgery”

About 40,000 hernia repair surgeries are performed every year in Australia, which typically involves inserting a mesh prosthetic into the abdominal wall. However, in up to 40% of patients, the mesh becomes infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria causing debilitating infections, pain and long-term morbidity. This project aims to develop a new medical device, specifically designed for hernia repair surgery, which will prevent implant-related infections. The benefits of this intervention will include improved health outcomes for the patient, reduced length of hospital stay and a lower economic cost to Australia’s healthcare system.

Dr Sebastian Stead
The University of Adelaide / Royal Adelaide Hospital

Avoiding anti-rejection medications for transplant patients: “Human siRNA Loaded Nanoparticles for the Induction of Immune Tolerance”

Currently, organ transplant patients have to take anti-rejection medications for the rest of their lives. Not only do these costly medications have a significant financial impact, they also have debilitating side effects such as increased risk of cancer and infections. This project will specifically target the immune cells responsible for organ rejection by delivering small gene fragments attached to nanoparticles. The gene fragments can switch off these cells, reducing organ destruction and promoting an immune friendly environment for the organ. This allows the patient to live a life free of harmful immuno-suppressive medications.