Mater Researcher awarded grant to help provide targeted immunotherapy in blood cancers

Monday 13 September 2021

Mater Researcher and clinician-scientist, Dr Joshua Tobin has been selected by the American Society of Hematology (ASH) to receive the 2021 ASH Global Research Award to help him better understand and identify high-risk patients with Follicular Lymphoma (FL).

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer of immune cells. Follicular Lymphoma is the most common subtype of this cancer with more than 1000 Australians diagnosed with this incurable disease each year.

Patients are treated with chemotherapy, but one in four have aggressive disease that relapses rapidly after treatment and is associated with high mortality. There is currently no method to distinguish these high-risk patients at diagnosis.

Josh will use the award to design and validate a test that he hopes doctors will be able to use to identify this group of patients at an early stage so they can be offered new immunotherapy treatments.

“Follicular Lymphoma develops when B-cells grow abnormally, and it’s currently considered incurable, with early diagnosis important for patient outcomes,” Josh said.

“We have previously shown that patients with aggressive disease can be identified based on the characteristics of the immune response against the tumour, rather than looking at the biology of the cancer cell itself. If we can identify these patients at diagnosis, they could be offered personalised treatment with novel immunotherapies”.

“The ASH Global Research Award represents an extraordinary opportunity. As well as the support to continue this important work in follicular lymphoma, it will also foster close collaborative links between Mater Research and the MD Anderson Cancer Center, a world leader in cancer care and research.”

The American Society of Haematology is the world’s largest professional society concerned with the causes and treatments of blood disorders.

The $150,000 ASH Global Research Award provides partial salary or other support to early-career investigators outside the United State and Canada to help them pursue research projects that will help them progress to the next stage in their careers.

2021 ASH President, Martin S. Tallman, MD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center said ASH Global Research Award recipients are conducting valuable research that will help increase haematology capacity in their home countries.

“Through the ASH Global Research Award, we are able to support the career growth of these future leaders and nurture collaboration across borders, fostering a diverse, global haematology research workforce,” he said.