Mid-Career Research Fellowships for cancer researchers

L-R: Dr Mitch Lawrence, Dr Roxanne Toivanen and Dr Lan Nguyen
L-R: Dr Mitch Lawrence, Dr Roxanne Toivanen and Dr Lan Nguyen

Three researchers from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) have received Mid-Career Research Fellowships from the Victorian Cancer Agency (VCA). This fellowship scheme supports full-time mid-career researchers undertaking high quality translational cancer research and support talented individuals in the field of cancer research in Victoria.

Dr Lan Nguyen, Dr Mitchell Lawrence and Dr Roxanne Toivanen have all been successful in the latest round of fellowship grants announced by the VCA today. These three fellowships amount to nearly $1.8 million in funding over four years for cancer research.

Dr Lan Nguyen has received $596,794 for his project titled Combating adaptive resistance to targeted therapy in triple-negative breast cancer.

Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive form of breast cancer that desperately needs new treatments. TNBC patients treated with single-drug therapies, however, often develop resistance as TNBC cells rapidly find ways to bypass the drug effect. Doctors are turning to combination therapies - cocktails of drugs - in an effort to kill the cancer. However, there is currently no reliable way to predict which combinations, amongst many possible candidates, will work (and work quickly) for an individual patient. By innovatively integrating computer modelling and lab-based experimental measurements Dr Nguyen’s project aims to rationally identify effective drug combinations for TNBC and biomarkers that help matching them to the right patients.

Dr Lawrence (Risbridger lab) has received $592,403 for his project titled New combination therapies for castration-resistant prostate cancer.

Some men with prostate cancer have life-threatening tumours that require ongoing treatment. These patients usually receive one drug after another until their tumours become drug-resistant. In contrast, some other types of cancer are often treated with multiple drugs at once. Therefore, Dr Lawrence’s study will examine whether it is better to treat aggressive prostate cancer using two drugs at a time. The research team predicts that this approach will improve patient treatment by eradicating more prostate cancer cells, providing new treatment strategies for advanced prostate cancer.

In addition to his Mid-Career Fellowship, Dr Lawrence has been awarded the Victorian-USA Cancer Fellowship Exchange. This fellowship exchange is open to applicants who are able to demonstrate their projects would be enhanced by undertaking research either at the National Cancer Institute or a NCI-designated cancer centre. Dr Lawrence will travel to John Hopkins University to complete part of his research project.

Dr Toivanen (Risbridger lab at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Monash BDI), has received $595,707 for her project Investigating the origins of neuroendocrine prostate cancer.

The most common drugs for treating advanced prostate cancer target the actions of hormones. Unfortunately, in some patients these treatments promote the emergence of aggressive, treatment-resistant tumours, known as neuroendocrine prostate cancer. Dr Toivanen’s study will investigate the progression of neuroendocrine prostate cancer in patient samples and identify early detection strategies for these tumours.

Congratulations to each of these researchers on their success.

Read the full list of VCA 2018 funding recipients here.


Combating adaptive resistance to targeted therapy in triple-negative breast cancer - Nguyen, L., Swarbrick, A., Richardson, G., Loi, S. & Daly, R.

New combination therapies for castration-resistant prostate cancer - Lawrence, M., Risbridger, G., Azad, A., & Taylor, R.

Investigating the origins of neuroendocrine prostate cancer - Toivanen, R., Risbridger, G., Taylor, R., Goode, D., Clouston, D. & Murphy, D.


About the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute

Committed to making the discoveries that will relieve the future burden of disease, the newly established Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University brings together more than 120 internationally-renowned research teams. Our researchers are supported by world-class technology and infrastructure, and partner with industry, clinicians and researchers internationally to enhance lives through discovery.