TCRN Flagship Support Grant - Congratulations to John Pimanda and Team

9 August 2017
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The TCRN is delighted to announce that the inaugural Flagship Support Grant has been awarded to Professor John Pimanda for his project: A flowcytometry based assay to predict Azacitidine (AZA) responsiveness in Myelodysplasia/Acute Myeloid Leukemia (MDS/AML).


The aim of the project is to better target treatment in myelodysplasia and Professor Pimanda leads a team of co-investigators in this research from the Adult Cancer Program (ACP), Prince of Wales Clinical School, UNSW Australia and the Prince of Wales Hospital (POWH): Dr Ashwin Unnikrishnan, Dr Vashe Chandrakanthan, Dr Tim Brighton, Dr Carol Cheung, Ms Charmaine Marsh, Dr Annmarie Bosco, Dr Lachlin Vaughan, Dr Andrea Nunez, Mr. Christopher Brownlee.


Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) are a group of blood stem cell disorders that result in low blood counts and leukemia especially in the elderly. Azacitidine (AZA) is the treatment drug of choice: it improves blood counts and delays progression to leukemia. On average, 500-600 patients receive AZA for MDS each year and is on the increase. However, AZA treatment is costly and treatment is demanding for patients and only half of those treated respond, with half of these relapsing within a year. Importantly, it takes months of treatment before the response of a patient is known.


Professor Pimanda’s team at the Lowy Cancer Research Centre have developed a test that can predict the likelihood of a patient newly diagnosed with MDS responding to AZA prior to treatment initiation. The test uses flowcytometry and was developed by Drs Ashwin Unnikrishnan and Vashe Chandrakanthan based on a drug response signature that was identified by Dr Dominik Beck. However, the flowcytometry machines used for hospital diagnostics differ from those in the research environment and as such the assay must be adapted. 


“We will use this grant to work up the assay so that it can be applied to patient samples in the hospital diagnostic setting” says Professor Pimanda. “The test will be established at the POWH in Randwick, with our longer term aim to offer this as a state-wide and possibly country-wide test, saving unnecessary treatment, time and money”.

The TCRN Flagship Project Grants Scheme is a funding opportunity that provides up to $75,000 each year to support translational research projects that align with the TCRN flagshipsThe grant will support research projects designed to inform about or initiate direct improvements in cancer patient care, clinical and treatment practices, and/or patient outcomes. Professor Pimanda leads the Haematological Malignancy and Thrombosis stream of the Clinical Improvements into Practice flagship