Three weeks into 2023, the stellar team at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Omico and UNSW, led by Professor(s) Mandy Ballinger and David Thomas today released scientific findings on the identification of genes and pathways associated with sarcoma predisposition.
The study has identified several new important genes that can cause sarcoma, and the implications of this research are far reaching for those living with sarcoma and their families, allowing detection of the cancer earlier and the potential for improved survival for those diagnosed with this sinister cancer.
The study has found a gene carried by one in 14 individuals diagnosed with sarcoma, which explains why the cancer emerges. In addition, the research team identified a previously unrecognised genetic pathway specific to sarcomas.
Professor Ballinger said today “Further understanding of the heritable genetic drivers will eventually lead to better outcomes for families impacted by sarcoma.”
The research was made possible by the dedication and hard work of those involved, and the support of funding partners
We were delighted to be invited to the opening of the new MDT facility at RPA for the Bone and Soft Tissue Sarcoma Unit.
Equipped with the latest technology to enhance patient care, the facility is dedicated to the memory of Dr Annabelle Mahar, a much loved, highly respected and world-renowned member of RPA’s Tissue Pathology Department.
Sarcoma is an insidious cancer, treatments are complex and it is the leading cause of cancer related deaths in the 15 to 24 year age group in Australia.(AIHW)
Equipping our brilliant sarcoma trained specialists with the space and technology to collaborate in weekly MDT meetings is a critical component of optimal patient care for those diagnosed with sarcoma.
Today marked an important step forward, and with it, tangible hope.
Dr Teresa Anderson delivered the opening words, acknowledging the work of Dr Annabelle Mahar, whose name the centre proudly bears, together with an outline of why this facility is needed.
Dr Stephen McNamara, devoted partner of Dr Annabelle Mahar’s heartfelt speech today resonated with all in the room. A plaque commemorating Annabelle’s immense contribution to pathology at RPA sits at the entrance to this facility.
After an illustrious career that saw him a pioneer in sarcoma surgery in Australia, Professor Paul Stalley has now passed the baton to incoming Chair of the NSW Bone and Soft Tissue Unit , Dr RIchard Boyle, who officially opened the facility with well chosen words expressing the significance of this facility.
We speak for all those touched by sarcoma in thanking Dr Teresa Anderson Chief Executive of the Sydney Local Health District, and NSW Health for this investment in the future of sarcoma in NSW.
An emotional yet uplifting morning at @garvaninstitute as @angustaylormp together with @greghuntmp (not present due to another commitment), announced a joint funding agreement of $185.4min for the ground-breaking vision of Professor David Thomas and the stellar team at @garvaninstitute to facilitate the Precision Oncology Screening Platform enabling Clinical Trials (PrOSPeCT).
It is difficult not to be emotional when you stop to consider the gravity and breadth of this programme, and what it will mean to those patients living with cancer in Australia, and in particular, rare cancers such as sarcomas. Sarcoma patients live with the uncertainty of a ‘heterogenous’ cancer (prone to constant change), and genomic screening for genetic mutations, and the discovery of therapeutic matches (personalised therapeutics) is a critical component of working toward a cure.
Speakers included the Garvan Institute’s Mara-Jean Tilley who managed to do the impossible by putting a very polished press conference together in less than 24 hours, the ever humble Professor David Thomas, The Honourable Angus Taylor MP, Minister for Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction, Mr Stuart Knight, General Manager Roche, Dr Tony Penna representing NSW Health, Andrew Hagger CEO, Minderoo, Richard Vines CEO of Rare Cancers Australia and Omico Chair, Paul Jeans. Each of the speakers spoke with deep passion about the programme, and the inherent difference it would make to those who need it most.
Some of the many aims of this programme are to provide both paediatric and adult patients increased access to genomic screening, (an additional 20,000 patients), repurposed drugs and immunotherapies, to empower Australian clinical trials innovation and capacity building, and to drive pharmaceutical and biotech engagement, establishing Australia as a world leader in this space.
By expanding the current programme to accommodate 20,000 additional patients, will provide untold hope to those who will over the coming months and years, be diagnosed with cancer.
The NSW @nswhealth and Federal Government(s) @healthgovau @industrygovau are to be acknowledged and thanked for their support of this programme, @childrenscancerinstitute for their contribution to the very important paediatric and AYA component, together with @roche and philanthropic partners @minderoofoundation @rarecancers
The Cooper Rice-Brading Foundation is delighted to be joining with The Kids Cancer Project once again, to provide funding support for a new international clinical trial for patients diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma that will be available soon to patients in Australia and New Zealand.
CRBF and TKCP join with the Federal Government Medical Research Futures Fund through Canteen and ANZCHOG, and the GPA Andrew Ursini Charitable Fund providing philanthropic support to ANZSA.
In a recent press release, CEO of The Kids Cancer Project, Owen Finegan said “The Kids’ Cancer Project and the Cooper Rice-Brading Foundation are proud to be providing funding for this exciting international clinical trial, which will help children across Australia and beyond benefit from access to new treatment strategies.”
Ewing sarcoma is a rare and highly aggressive tumour that forms in bone or soft tissue, which can affect all age groups, but hits our young (paediatrics, adolescents and young adults) disproportionately hard. Survival rates for localised disease currently sit between 65% – 75%, however for those patients with advanced disease, survival rates plummet as low as 25%.
INTER-EWING-1 is an international clinical trial that examines several new treatment strategies for Ewing sarcoma patients, including access to a novel agent (a tyrosine kinase inhibitor), optimising radiotherapy doses and adding “maintenance” chemotherapy at the end of other planned treatments for patients of all ages.
This study will involve an internationally renowned team of sarcoma researchers led by Bone Cancer Research Trust Trustee and world-renowned Consultant Paediatric Oncologist, Professor Bernadette Brennan and will be conducted throughout Europe, the United Kingdom, Israel and Australia, where Australian researchers have contributed to development of the trial.
The University of Birmingham will act as the International Sponsor for the INTER-EWING-1 trial, with ANZCHOG the National Sponsor for participating Australian and New Zealand paediatric and adult oncology centres. Associate Professor Geoff McCowage, Medical Oncologist Westmead Children’s Hospital, is Chief Investigator of this trial and has also recently joined the CRBF Medical Advisory Board, and brings a wealth of experience in sarcoma to this study.
July 2021, saw the allocation of funding through the efforts of media heavyweight, Michael “Wippa” Wipfli in Celebrity Apprentice Australia, to the phosphoproteomic sarcoma specific trial, under the auspices of PRISM 2, Zero Children’s Cancer Programme. “Wippa’s” significant personal sacrifice throughout filming, and that of his young family, was on behalf of CRBF and sarcoma patients nationally.
The Wipfli Family Sarcoma Research Fund will be directed to the programme which will aim to conduct a high level tumour analysis on all sarcoma tissue samples with a view to discovering and matching personalised therapeutics not currently used for the treatment of sarcoma. Dr Emmy Fleuren will oversee this cutting edge research at the Children’s Cancer Institute of Australia, and enrolments will commence immediately.
To read more about this innovative research, please press the link below:
Eminent specialist surgical oncologist Associate Professor David Gyorki, together with Associate Professor Anne Hamilton, and colleagues from Royal Prince Alfred Hospital led by Associate Professor Peter Grimison, Princess Alexandra Hospital led by Professor Andrew Barbour collaborating with the national scientific body for sarcoma, ANZSA, have received a sizeable grant from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) under the Rare Cancers, Rare Diseases and Unmet Need (RCRDUN) scheme.
The grant is to run the international trial in Australia – “A randomised phase III study of neoadjuvant chemotherapy followed by surgery versus surgery alone for patients with High Risk RetroPeritoneal Sarcoma (STRASS 2)”.
“Eligible Australian patients with retroperitoneal sarcoma at high risk of recurrence will be able to participate in this randomised controlled trial designed to answer the question of whether preoperative chemotherapy improves outcome for patients. The current standard of care for these patients is surgery alone. However, the risk of recurrence for many of them is 50% or higher.
The purpose of the STRASS 2 trial is to determine whether the administration of chemotherapy before surgery represents a better treatment compared to surgery alone and if the administration of chemotherapy before surgery is safe. It is also to assess whether specific chemotherapy can be used to reduce recurrence risk in a patient with either high-grade leiomyosarcoma or high-grade dedifferentiated liposarcoma.
It is the first time a trial has studied the role of preoperative chemotherapy specifically in patients with retroperitoneal sarcoma, an anatomical location with unique challenges and disease patterns.” (ANZSA, July 2021)
The trial, led by the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) has participation from Europe, Canada, USA and now Australia.
“With aims to recruit 40 Australian patients, the STRASS 2 trial will open at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (VIC) as the lead site, with A/Prof Hamilton as the lead oncologist on the trial. The trial will also open at Royal Prince Alfred/Chris O’Brien Lifehouse (NSW) and at the Princess Alexandra Hospital (QLD).
About clinical trial
Please speak to your treating team about this clinical trial to see if you are eligible for it.
Remember that participation in a clinical trial is voluntary and that you should never feel forced to participate in it.
Before you agree to participate in a clinical trial, it is important to be as informed as possible. It can be helpful to write down questions you have before seeing your doctor.” (ANZSA, July 2021)
Please refer to the ANZSA website for further information by pressing the link below
To mark the commencement of Global Sarcoma Awareness Month, it is our great pleasure to announce the “Wipfli Family Sarcoma Research Grant”, a $186,799 grant, made possible by the family’s incredible efforts throughout Celebrity Apprentice Australia. But it doesn’t end there – joining with us is The Kids Cancer Project who have stepped in and doubled the grant.
All in all, $373,597 will be heading towards sarcoma specific research under the auspices of the Children’s Cancer Institute of Australia and the Zero Childhood Cancer Phosphoproteomic Study!
The study will be led by Dr Emmy Fleuren, the sarcoma research lead in the Translational Tumour Biology Group at the CCIA. Emmy is leading the way in the paediatric and adolescent space in Australia, and the future of sarcoma is all the better from having her expertise.
We need not remind you of the efforts of Wippa and Lisa to facilitate the money raised throughout Celebrity Apprentice. They are an incredibly special family, and their efforts to grow Cooper’s legacy is inspirational.
The Kids Cancer Project, with a special mention to CEO Owen Finegan, have supported high level paediatric, adolescent and young adult cancer research in Australia for almost three decades. Their commitment to funding research projects for all childhood cancers is as humbling as it is life-changing for those young patients who stand to benefit.
We extend our deepest gratitude to each of these outstanding contributors to sarcoma research in Australia.
Head to the Children’s Cancer Institute social media accounts to read more about the research!
World-first clinical trial targets immune molecule IL23 as potential treatment for sarcoma
Sydney researchers are testing whether an existing medication could be repurposed to treat sarcoma.
Garvan team leading IL23 sub-study (clockwise from top left) Dr Maya Kansara, Prof David Thomas, Dr Mandy Ballinger, Dr Frank Lin, Keith Thornton, Dr Subo Thavaneswaran, Dr John Grady
Media Release: 26 March 2021
Recruitment is now open for a national clinical trial that will test whether an existing therapy for psoriasis can help treat patients with sarcomas, which are rare cancers arising in the connective tissues (bone, muscle, tendons, nerves, fat, cartilage and blood vessels) and may occur anywhere in the body. In particular, the trial focuses on osteosarcoma, a rare but aggressive form of bone cancer that most commonly affects teenagers and young adults.
The phase II clinical trial, which is a collaboration between the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Omico (the Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Centre) and the University of Sydney’s NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre, will investigate if treatment with a drug targeting the immune molecule IL23 could improve outcomes for sarcoma patients.
The new trial is the first globally to test a new anticancer pathway for sarcoma. It is supported by the Cooper Rice-Brading Foundation, the Australian Government, the NSW Office of Health and Medical Research, SunPharma, The Kids’ Cancer Project, the Matthew Fisher Sarcoma Research Fund and the Daniel Allchin Race for a Cure, and brings new hope to those affected by sarcoma.
“This immunotherapy trial is part of our national Molecular Screening and Therapeutics (MoST) trials program, and will be open in at least eight centres nationally,” said study chief investigator Professor David Thomas, Head of the Genomic Cancer Medicine Laboratory at Garvan, Director of The Kinghorn Cancer Centre and CEO of Omico.
“Sarcomas are aggressive cancers with few treatment options. For osteosarcoma in particular, there have been few advances in treatments for this form of cancer in four decades. We hope that this clinical trial, which will investigate if treating patients with a sarcoma with a medication currently in use for another condition will have anti-cancer effects.”
Immunotherapy for osteosarcoma
Sarcomas are rare cancers of connective tissues such as fat, muscle and bone. They particularly affect the young, with osteosarcoma, or bone sarcoma, among the ten most common cancers affecting Australians between ages 15 to 29.
The five-year survival rate for sarcomas remains as low as 65%, while options for patients with incurable disease are very limited.
The new clinical trial follows an earlier study that demonstrated the immune molecule IL23 is central to the development and progression of soft-tissue and bone sarcoma in animal models. By targeting IL23, the study authors were able to successfully shrink osteosarcoma tumours in mice.
“Our previous research showed us that when we blocked IL23 in mice with osteosarcoma, their tumour growth slowed,” said Dr Maya Kansara who leads the Immunobiology of Cancer Group at the Garvan Institute.
“We hope that our promising pre-clinical results will translate to improved clinical outcomes in osteosarcoma patients.”
The trial, opened to enrolment this month, will examine how patients with advanced osteosarcoma and soft tissue sarcomas respond to the anti-IL23-targeting treatment. It is a single-arm, open-label phase II trial design which means all 32 sarcoma patients planned to be recruited will receive the treatment.
“If we see promising signs from this initial study, we believe that targeting IL23 may play a role in the treatment of many cancer types,” said Professor Thomas.
Robert Beech-Jones, Chairman of the Cooper Rice-Brading Foundation, said “CRBF is delighted to have the opportunity to support this highly significant research. We thank Professor David Thomas and Dr Maya Kansara and the highly accomplished team behind this research, for the hope this world first study provides to sarcoma patients. This exemplifies the high level research Cooper envisaged this Foundation would support.”
For further information about the clinical trial [ACTRN12620000984998] please see the eligibility criteria. To register interest for the trial please contact the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre, University of Sydney on email@example.com or 02 9562 5000.
Declaration: This clinical trial is being supported by the Australian Government, the NSW Office of Health and Medical Research and SunPharma. There are no conflicts of interest. The clinical trial is being sponsored by the University of Sydney and is being conducted under the Australian CTN scheme. The research has ethics approval from St Vincent’s Hospital Human Research Ethics Committee.