20 November 2023

Research aiming to advance immunotherapy treatments for Australians diagnosed with prostate cancer is one of ten research collaborations sharing in over $50 million in NHMRC Synergy Grant funding.

Synergy Grants are designed to support multidisciplinary teams of expert investigators in working collaboratively together to address health issues from discovery through to translation.

Professor Gail Risbridger and her research team from Monash University will receive $5 million in funding over 5 years for research to advance immunotherapy treatments for treating prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in Australia, and it is estimated that men have a 1 in 6 risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer by the age of 85. New treatments are needed for men with advanced stages of prostate cancer. 

Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy is a new immunotherapy treatment that has successfully treated some forms of blood tumours. However, as it currently stands, CAR T-cell therapy is ineffective in treating solid cancers such as prostate cancer.

Professor Risbridger’s approach will use novel integrated methods of generating CAR T-cells, a range of models to test them, and state-of-the-art imaging tools to bring this therapy to the clinic.

Professor Risbridger said that she has created a cross-disciplinary team spanning three research institutes (Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute, Garvan Institute of Medical Research and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre) to bring fresh ideas, skills and technologies to tackle this complex problem.

'The Synergy Grant is an opportunity to pull together diverse streams of expertise to produce transformative results for solid cancer treatment.'

The research program has evolved over time because of longstanding collaborations between researchers and clinicians.

Attributed to patient, Tim Baker, the program offers hope to individuals battling prostate cancer.

'Patients, like me, take comfort from the collaboration between Australia's experts who are addressing this challenge - both for current prostate cancer patients and those who will face this battle in the future,

'Discovering new treatments that can spare patients from the life-altering effects of hormone therapy,

'Not only presents alternative options for patients, but also potentially avoids its devastating impact,'  said Mr Baker.

Quotes attributable to NHMRC CEO, Professor Steve Wesselingh:

  • 'The Synergy Grant scheme supports high-performing research teams to tackle complex research questions and improve human health.' 
  • 'These grants offer opportunities to foster collaboration between diverse researchers to ensure a range of skills and perspectives are brought together to solve a problem.'
  • 'This research is so important, and NHMRC hope to meet these health challenges now and into the future.'

Disclaimer: We acknowledge the enthusiasm and engagement of the health and medical research sector, as well as their interest in the 2023 Synergy Grant funding outcomes. The full list of funded projects under the scheme will be announced in due course, and therefore all other Synergy Grants remain under strict embargo.