Young researchers awarded Fellowships to pursue innovative treatments for melanoma

Young researchers awarded Fellowships to pursue innovative treatments for melanoma

4 March 2021

Melanoma research has received a boost with two researchers from Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) and The University of Sydney awarded highly competitive fellowships from Cancer Institute NSW.

Dr Tuba Nur Gide and Dr Camelia Quek were each awarded an Early Career Fellowship to support their innovative research into melanoma treatment. The Fellowships are designed to encourage promising early career researchers who recently completed their PhD to choose cancer as their selected field of research endeavor.

“It is deeply rewarding to see these two talented young researchers receive these prestigious Fellowships,” said Prof Richard Scolyer, Co-Medical Director of MIA. “Their dedication and passion for developing more effective treatments for patients is inspiring and we are proud to have them as part of our team.”

While immunotherapy is proving effective in treating many advanced melanoma patients, others either don’t respond or develop resistance. These treatments can also cause significant, life-altering side-effects. Dr Nur Guide and Dr Quek are trying to identify which patients will respond to treatment and why, as this is essential to improving survival and quality of life for advanced melanoma patients around the world.

Prof Georgina Long AO, Co-Medical Director of MIA, is delighted that Dr Nur Guide and Dr Quek have received funding to pursue their research endeavors.

“Supporting medical research into Australia’s national cancer is vital to improving care for melanoma patients,” commented Prof Long. “With Australia at the forefront of global melanoma research efforts, it is exciting that our early career researchers will have the support they need to pioneer new treatments to improve the lives of melanoma patients.”

Personalised immunotherapy

There are currently no effective tests to determine which patients will respond to immunotherapy and which will need another treatment to stop their melanoma progressing. Dr Nur Gide’s research project is investigating this by assessing the accuracy of a panel of predictive tests with the aim of taking this out of the lab and into the everyday clinic setting.

“Once a patient enters a clinic, in real time we will be able to determine if they are likely to respond to treatment,” said Dr Nur Gide. “This will allow patients to avoid unnecessary toxicities and limit costs to patients and the healthcare system, as well as ultimately improving survival outcomes.”

The research project will help change the way cancer patients are treated and selected for clinical trials, by moving away from the one-size-fits-all approach and towards a precision approach to delivering effective immunotherapies on a personal basis.

“It is a great honour to have been awarded the CINSW Early Career Fellowship,” said Dr Nur Gide. “It will allow me to continue conducting research that will positively impact the lives of patients with advanced cancer and contribute to achieving our goal of zero deaths from melanoma.”

Understanding resistance to immunotherapy

Dr Camelia Quek’s research is trying to understand why some people with advanced melanoma become resistant to immunotherapy after they receive treatment. She is investigating the relatively new concept that a tumour and the microenvironment around it can evolve, causing resistance to immunotherapy. She will be using innovative computational biology methods to identify which genes and proteins involved in immune control are altered.

“Ultimately my research will provide significant benefits in developing innovative drug combination strategies and novel therapeutic targets to improve treatment for melanoma patients,” commented Dr Quek. “This will improve survival for patients, as well as improve their quality of life.”

“This fellowship will provide a fantastic opportunity for me to continue making discoveries that enable the development of innovative treatment strategies and biomarkers, ensuring the prolonged survival of Australians with cancer,” she said.