Successful NHMRC funded projects

La Trobe secures $5.2million in NHMRC grants in latest December 2018 announcement

Research into an incurable cancer, musculoskeletal disorders and knee osteoarthritis are among the successful La Trobe University projects to receive grants in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced eight La Trobe University researchers will share in more than $5.5million in research grants and an additional two have been awarded fellowships under the Medical Research Future Fund Next Generation Clinical Researchers Program Translating Research into Practice scheme.

The last NHMRC grants for 2018 take the total awarded to La Trobe this year to almost $14.8million when combined with grants received from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Keith Nugent said La Trobe had attracted a record amount of funds in the past two years.

“Since last year, La Trobe researchers have secured almost $28 million in NHMRC and MRFF grants for their outstanding health and medical research projects,” Professor Nugent said.

“Our continued success in being awarded these grants reflects the calibre of our researchers and a recognition of the world class research they are leading.

“We are incredibly proud of our successful applicants and delighted the NHMRC has once again supported their endeavours to improve the lives of millions of people worldwide.”

Project Grants

Dr Narelle Cox, 'Early HomeBase pulmonary rehabilitation after hospital in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease' (GNT1157313) $1,022,291

Dr Cox will lead a clinical trial that will examine the benefits and costs of home-based pulmonary rehabilitation undertaken immediately following hospital discharge for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Nearly 1.5 million Australians live with symptomatic COPD, a debilitating progressive lung disease, but less than 10 per cent of those who are hospitalised access pulmonary rehabilitation after going home.

Professor Nicholas Taylor, 'Motivational Interviewing to increase walking in community-dwelling older adults after hip fracture' (GNT1157529) $826,846

Hip fractures are a major public health issue and many patients find it difficult to return home. Following a successful, pilot program, Professor Nicholas Taylor and his colleagues will run a large study with 270 patients that will find out if weekly sessions of motivational interviewing helps people recovering from a hip fracture to increase their walking and return to living in the community.

Dr Doug Fairlie, 'Targeting Cell Death Pathways in Malignant Mesothelioma' (GNT1157551) $463,058

This study will conduct further testing of a potentially new treatment option for patients with malignant mesothelioma.  Preliminary studies have shown that a previously untested class of drugs that directly target the cell death pathways can directly kill mesothelioma tumour cells, especially when used in combination with each other or with other anti-cancer drugs. Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos and is an aggressive and incurable cancer.

Professor Kay Crossley, 'SUPER rehabilitation for young people with old knees' (GNT1158500) $1,413,077

Physiotherapist and Director of the La Trobe Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre, Professor Kay Crossley will lead an innovative trial that will investigate whether supervised exercise and education can improve the quality of life and prevent joint deterioration in people aged under 40 who have had knee reconstructions.

Associate Professor Helena Richardson, ' Regulation of cell signalling and tumourigenesis by Lgl' (GNT1160025) $789,984

Disruption to cell shape is a hallmark of cancer and understanding how cell shape proteins regulate tissue growth is key to determining how their disruption causes cancer. This project will investigate the mechanism by which cell shape protein regulates tissue growth and prevents tumour formation in cancer. As well as finding new targets for fighting cancer, the research might also be relevant for neurodegenerative diseases.

Professor Cheryl Dissanayake, ' School-age Outcomes of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Parental Wellbeing: Investigations on the contribution of Method-of-Referral and Age-of-Diagnosis' (GNT1163738) $473,474

Earlier this month, Minister Hunt announced Professor Cheryl Dissanayake, Director of La Trobe’s Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, would receive an NHMRC grant for research into early diagnosis of autism.

Less than 20 per cent of children receive a diagnosis by the age of three in Australia and around three per cent by the age of two. Most wait 12 to 18 months for diagnosis. OTARC will follow up three groups of children diagnosed with autism at different ages, and who accessed different services. The project will look at the impact of early diagnosis on their development and their families.

Postgraduate Scholarships

Louisa Walsh, ' Social media use in public hospitals to enhance consumer engagement in health service design and delivery' (GNT1168409) $111,974

Louisa Walsh’s research project will focus on public hospitals and their use of social media for involving consumers in health service design and delivery.  Her research will consist of four studies, including an analysis of how hospitals currently use social media. She will also conduct focus groups with stakeholders interested in seeing an improvement in hospital social media use to enhance communication and engagement with consumers. The findings could lead to new guidelines.

Sally Coburn, 'Optimising quality of life, and participation in physical and sporting activity in young adults with hip pain.' (GNT1169635) $111,974

Sally Coburn’s project has the potential to improve the quality of life, physical activity and sports participation of patients with hip impingement or femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) and reduce the social and economic burdens associated with the condition. Participants will take part in a clinical trial to assess the effectiveness of physiotherapy treatment for FAI, which causes hip and groin pain in young adults.

MRFF Next Generation Clinical Researchers Program Translating Research into Practice Fellowships

Associate Professor Jodi Oakman, 'Closing the evidence-practice gap in occupational health practices to prevent musculoskeletal disorders' (MRF1168036) $181,066

Musculoskeletal disorders affect about seven million Australians annually and are a National Health Priority Area. During her fellowship, Associate Professor Jodi Oakman will use an online toolkit to train occupational health professionals who work in industry sectors where musculoskeletal disorder risk is a concern. Associate Professor Oakman will provide ongoing support and will monitor and evaluate the workplaces via quarterly interviews. In the future, she plans to open the toolkit website to all practitioners and create an online database to enable participants to benchmark their workplaces against others in their sector.

Dr Katherine Harding, 'Translating evidence to improve access to paediatric therapy services' (MRF1168314) $181,066

Dr Harding’s research aims to reduce unnecessary delays for children with disabilities in accessing health care services such speech pathology, occupational therapy and physiotherapy and improve outcomes for the children and their families. This project follows an early NHMRC-funded trial that involved 3000 patients and reduced waiting times for people referred to community-based health services by 34 per cent.

MRFF Next Generation Clinical Research Fellow

Associate Professor Natasha Lannin, 'Development and implementation of evidence-based stroke rehabilitation' (GNT1162492) $483,404

A rehabilitation researcher, Associate Professor Lannin will continue to develop and implement evidence-based stroke rehabilitation. Her aim is to improve the translation of rehabilitation research into practice and policy. This funding will allow her to build on her national achievements and continue to make an international impact on stroke rehabilitation outcomes.

Medical Research Future Fund

Dr Hui Gan, 'A Basket Study of Low Survival Cancers Treated with EGFR-ADCs' (GNT1167847)

This study utilises a new class of drugs, based on Australian science, targeting Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR). Similar drugs have proven highly promising in glioblastoma, a lethal cancer with low survival that is usually driven by EGFR. This study will use ABBV-321 to treat patients with a group of low survival cancers which have EGFR dysregulation. An investigation of tissue, blood and imaging biomarkers will be undertaken.

Career Development Fellowship

Dr Catherine Chamberlain, 'Evidence-based life-course approaches to improve health equity of Aboriginal families during the perinatal period' (GNT1161065) $437,036

During this four-year Fellowship, Dr Chamberlain will lead a team of researchers to develop effective strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to improve health equity during pregnancy and up to two years after the birth of children. This includes a project titled Healing the past by nurturing the future, which aims to co-design perinatal assessment and support strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents who have experienced complex childhood trauma. The Fellowship also includes a program of work around evidence synthesis and reviews to address priority areas for improve health equity during the perinatal period.

Early Career Fellowships

This research is part of the Femoroacetabular impingement and hip OsteoaRthritis Cohort (FORCe) study, which is the world’s largest cohort of young, active people with hip pain being followed prospectively. Dr Mosler will conduct follow up assessments on 200 existing participants and identify factors associated with quality of life burden. Her research will guide best practice intervention and prevention strategies aimed to improve the lives of young people living with hip pain, and reduce the societal burden of this common condition.

Dr Cassandra Wright, 'A fellowship program aiming to reduce risky alcohol consumption by understanding and intervening during drinking events' (GNT1161246) $327,192

The aim of this project is to reduce risky alcohol consumption by understanding and intervening during drinking events. Dr Wright will investigate a range of interventions - including the potential of using a smart-phone based program that she developed during her PhD. She will also analyse real-time behavioural, sensor and biometric data collected from young people during risky drinking events using smartphones and transdermal alcohol monitors.

Dr Ashleigh Poh, 'Targeting HCK in Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma to Restrict Tumour Growth and Metastasis' (GNT1166447) $327,192

This research will investigate the role of a protein known as Haematopoietic Cell Kinase (HCK) in pancreatic cancer. HCK is found in a type of immune cell known as a macrophage, which are major components of pancreatic tumours. The more HCK activity a macrophage has, the more it is able to promote tumour growth. By targeting HCK, the research believe they can reduce pancreatic cancer progressive by impairing the “tumour-promoting” ability of macrophages.

Development Grant

Professor Andrew Scott, 'Novel antibody for cancer therapy' (GNT1157528) $985,528.34

Professor Scott leads an international team, including colleagues from La Trobe University and the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, to develop a novel monoclonal antibody that specifically targets advanced and metastatic breast cancer. Their research will enable delivery of potent drugs into cancer cells and inhibit abnormal tumour cell growth.

Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF)

Professor Andrew Scott, 'Prospective, multicentre trial evaluating FET-PET in high grade glioma' (GNT1152501) $1,564,17.71

This prospective multicentre trial will be the largest study performed to date, aiming to develop a novel imaging test (FET-PET) for the accurate evaluation of residual or recurrent disease in patients with high grade brain cancer. We also aim to establish the prognostic ability of FET-PET in patients with high grade glioma.