From clockwise starting at top-left: Dr Kofi Stevens, Dr Jonathan Chee, Dr Wen-Shuz Yeow, Professor Delia Nelson, Assistant Professor Orazio Vittorio, Dr Andrew Crowe.
NCARD researchers Dr Jonathan Chee, Dr Kofi Stevens and Dr Wen-Shuz Yeow have won a UWA Research Collaboration Award for their fruitful collaboration with Assistant Professor Orazio Vittorio of the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Dr Andrew Crowe and Professor Delia Nelson of Curtin University to help improve treatment of resistant cancers.
Orazio Vittorio is a Scientia Assistant Professor and NHMRC Career Development Fellow within the Faculty of Medicine at UNSW as well as a Project Leader at the UNSW Children’s Cancer Institute (CCI), specialising in childhood brain cancers. Orazio leads the Metal-Targeted Therapy and Immunology Group at CCI, which explores the role of copper in tumour immune evasion. Delia and Andrew are NCARD’s long-time collaborators and previously discovered that copper accumulates in rapidly growing mesothelioma tumours.
When Orazio spoke at the Randwick Precinct Cancer Roundtable seminar series about his research on regulating copper levels to prevent immune-evasion in neuroblastoma, NCARD saw the potential in applying the same method to mesothelioma tumours. Orazio is interested in the protein programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1), which is responsible for immune-evasion in tumours. Accumulation of copper in cancer cells increases PD-L1, with higher levels corresponding to poorer outcomes . Anti-copper drugs, such as copper chelators, can reduce immune-evasion by cancer cells and increase their susceptibility to immunotherapy.
Orazio very kindly provided NCARD researchers with reagents and knowledge for their first foray into anti-copper treatments and has continued to work closely with them on their project. Jon, Kofi and Wen volunteered to head the research team, as an exciting new area of cancer treatment expanding both their own and NCARD’s range of expertise.
So far, the collaboration has proved to be successful for all parties. Jon, Kofi and Wen’s research have won them the UWA Research Collaboration Award, which will allow them to conduct pilot experiments. The NCARD team and Orazio will incorporate the results of the mesothelioma research into ongoing research.
Congratulations to all the researchers involved in this collaboration, which we hope will result in valuable outcomes for cancer treatment!