In 2016, the ASSC announced 5 winners of an ASSC Enabling Grant.

“Research evaluation of the Princess Alexandra Hospital Transplant Clinic: pilot study”

Professor Adele Green, Associate Professor Kiarash Khosrotehrani, Associate Professor Scott Campbell, Associate Professor Nicole Isbel, Associate Professor Louisa Gordon & Dr Anthony Griffin

The rate of skin cancers (squamous cell carcinomas, or SCCs, and basal cell carcinomas, or BCCs) in organ transplant recipients is at least 30 times higher than in the general population. Transplant patients account for most deaths from these skin cancers. Despite leading the world in skin cancer prevention, Australia fares poorly in controlling skin cancer in OTRs. In view of this deficiency, the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) recently established a Transplant Skin Clinic (TSC) with a small clinical staff, for dedicated management of skin cancer in very-high-risk OTRs. This grant will help to provide the evidence to sustain this pioneering initiative.

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“Pre-clinical development of antigen specific immunotherapy and strategies to overcome regulation in cutaneous malignant melanoma”

Professor Riccardo Dolcetti, Professor Ranjeny Thomas, Dr Kelli MacDonald & Dr Andreas Moller

Results obtained by this joint proposal will provide the proof of concept and the rationale supporting a rapid translation of the proposed immunotherapeutic combination in the human setting within the frames of a specific clinical trial. If successful, the results obtained would lead to a significantly improvement in the response rates currently obtainable in advanced melanoma patients with schedules including immune checkpoint inhibitor.

“The feasibility of circulating tumour DNA as an alternative to biopsy for mutational characterisation in Stage III melanoma patients”

Professor Andrew Barbour, Dr Nicola Waddell & Dr Lauren Aoude

A blood test for determining the mutation load or tumour genomic heterogeneity in tumours from melanoma patients has the potential to change melanoma management. An important outcome of this project would be to determine whether sequencing of cfDNA could be performed on stage IV patients where it is not possible to sequence the tumour tissue directly. This could allow patients with unresectable high-risk stage 1118/C or stage IV disease to be treated with a personalised medicine approach in an appropriate time frame as the window for treatment of late-stage patients may be as little as a few months. If tumours can be characterised in stage Ill, a treatment plan may be developed before the patients reach stage IV so that treatment can be implemented as soon as transition occurs and there is no delay in their therapy.

“Epigenetic modifiers as novel targets for therapy in melanoma”

Associate Professor Jason Lee & Associate Professor Helmut Schaider, Professor Frank Gannon, Professor Nick Hayward, Dr Fares Al-Ejeh & Dr Victoria Atkinson

This will be the first comprehensive study assessing the efficacy of epigenetic enzyme inhibitors in melanoma. This project will identify gene signatures associated with aggressive nature of melanoma that can be directly utilized in the clinic for the stratification of patient before standard or novel treatment. This will impact on the molecular understanding of how recurrent and metastatic melanoma is driven by epigenetic changes and identify a panel of markers important in aggressive progression. NanoString platform designed for clinical diagnostics (FDA-approved) will permit direct translation into novel biomarkers of epigenetically driven-melanoma and novel melanoma therapeutics.

“Immune contexture of transforming naevi”

Professor Mark Smyth, Professor Rajiv Khanna, Dr Michele Teng, Associate Professor Rick Sturm, Professor Brian Gabrielli, Dr Mitchell Stark, Associate Professor Helmut Schaider

Despite advances in our knowledge concerning the diagnosis of naevi it is still not known how well clinical screening with the naked eye or imaging techniques, combined with genetics, predicts risk of developing melanoma. This study will utilise various genetic analyses combined with immunological characteristics on the basis of clinically and dermoscopically well defined naevi to help identify a diagnostic improvement in naevus transformation. We will generate new data by exploring the immune context of different types of naevi, generating more naevi cultures, and comparing this data in the same lesions with germline and somatic markers of early transformation.


Read News about the ASSC Enabling Grant Scheme announcements.

See presentation slides from the Grants winners.