Lung Cancer

Unveiling #2 - Preparing to Remove Scarf


Investigating patterns of drug resistance in ALK rearranged non-small cell lung cancer.

Dr Malinda Itchins, A/Prof Nick Pavlakis, Prof. Stephen Clarke; Dr Chee Lee; Dr Sarah Hayes and A/Prof Viive Howell

This is a largely non-smoking related lung cancer, characterised by a change to the ALK gene, often affecting a young and fit population. It behaves very differently to smoking related lung cancers and whilst very treatable with targeted therapy, resistance to such treatment is inevitable often through the development of kinase domain mutations

Work is being done in the laboratory treating ALK rearranged critozinib (first-line ALK inhibitor) resistant cell lines with alternating next generation drug therapy and assessing any change in mutational profile.

This pre-clinical modeling will be transferred to the clinical setting, with a clinical trial utilising the same treatment approach. Patients on trial will have plasma samples collected at fixed intervals, for the testing of mutations on circulating free DNA.

This may provide information to direct clinical decision making.


Exploration of molecular phenotyping of adenocarcinoma of the lung and its clinical implications

Dr Csilla Hasovits, Dr Amanda Hudson, Mrs Rozelle Harvie, A/Prof Viive Howell, Prof Stephen Clarke, A/Prof Nick Pavlakis

This research is identifying challenges in the treatment of our lung cancer patients, in particular tumours developing resistance to our current therapies. One arm of this research involves reviewing patterns of lung cancer care in Australia to understand the journey of patients from lung cancer diagnosis to treatment and identifying areas for improvement.

Additional laboratory-based research is identifying the optimal ways in which to sequence different cancer treatments in order to delay or overcome the development of resistance, with the ultimate goal of being able to apply the insights gained in the laboratory to patient care.

Funding: Australian Postgraduate Award (Csilla Hasovits), Sydney Vital Scholar Award (Csilla Hasovits), Donations for Lung Cancer Research to the Bill Walsh Cancer Research Fund


Identification of biomarkers for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Dr Sarah Hayes, Dr Csilla Hasovits, Mrs Rozelle Harvie, Dr Amanda Hudson, Prof Stephen Clarke, A/Prof Mark Molloy (Australian Proteome Analysis Facility, Macquarie University), A/Prof Viive Howell

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in men and women and a leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. We are investigating whether certain tumour-specific molecular characteristics can be detected in minimally invasive samples, like blood, tissue biopsies or exhaled breath. We are ultimately hoping that this research can be used to assist in the earlier diagnosis of patients, prediction of patient prognosis or to help guide personalised cancer treatment selection.

Funding: Cancer Institute NSW Early Career Fellowship (Sarah Hayes)


“The exhaled breath condensate proteome: a promising source of biomarkers for lung cancer”

Dr Sarah Hayes, Prof Stephen Clarke, A/Prof Mark Molloy (Australian Proteome Analysis Facility, Macquarie University), A/Prof Viive Howell

In recent years, there has been increasing interest in using exhaled breath as a tool for screening, diagnosing, and even monitoring diseases of the airway, including lung cancer. Changes in specific proteins found in exhaled breath of lung cancer patients may be an indication of the underlying cancer, presenting a potential screening technique for early detection of this disease.

In this project, we are using cutting-edge mass spectrometry to comprehensively map proteins found in human breath from lung cancer patients to identify these proteins. This is the first time ever that the human lung cancer breath proteome (which we have termed the “breathome”) has been profiled by mass spectrometry.

Funding: The Balnaves Foundation/Sydney Medical School  Early Career Researcher grant (Sarah Hayes)


Chemotherapy resistance in non-small cell lung cancer

Dr Simon Haefliger, Dr Chris Weir, Dr Amanda Hudson, A/Prof Nick Pavlakis, A/Prof Viive Howell

Cancer stem cells are thought to be in part responsible for cancer recurrence and therapy failure. They are highly resistant against chemotherapy and radiotherapy. We are investigating mechanisms of chemotherapy resistance in this specific cell population in lung cancer. Our goal is to identify and target currently unknown molecular pathways involved in cancer stem cell function, ultimately leading to development of more effective therapeutic strategies.

Funding: Merilyn Dwyer Lung Cancer Post-doctoral Fellowship


The Rambo study – fighting lung cancer with science

A/Prof Nick Pavlakis, A/Prof Viive Howell, Dr Emily Colvin, Dr Fatemeh Vafaee (Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney)

This study is piloting a platform for molecular testing of lung cancer utilising non-invasive “liquid biopsies” (ie. blood plasma) and using preclinical models to understand mechanisms of resistance to targeted therapies. This will lead to improved personalised treatment strategies for patients with lung cancer.

Funding: Ramsay Research and Teaching Fund


Exploring the molecular basis of brain metastases in patients with non-small cell lung cancer in order to identify better therapeutic strategies.

A/Prof Nick Pavlakis, A/Prof Viive Howell, Dr Emily Colvin, Dr Fatemeh Vafaee (Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney)

Brain metastases are common in patients with lung cancer, and the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in these patients. We aim to explore how different genetic alterations allow some lung tumours to spread to the brain and evade therapeutic attack whilst others are incapable of brain invasion or are sensitive to current treatment strategies.

Funding: Donations to the Bill Walsh Cancer Research Fund