More than $25m awarded to Monash researchers for vital medical research

Preventing deaths from cancer, therapies for traumatic brain injury, new models of rehabilitation for stroke and patients on ventilation, and improving quality use of medicines in residential aged care are among projects funded by the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) awarded to Monash researchers.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced more than $25M in funding for Monash researchers across all areas of health and medical research, including paediatric cancer, traumatic brain injury, genomics health and stem cell therapies.

Monash received funding for 13 projects, predominantly in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, as well as the faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Monash University President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner AC said this latest MRFF funding recognised the significant benefits and possibilities of Monash’s innovative and world-leading research.

"Our researchers are dedicated to solving some of the world’s most critical health issues. These grants will enable them to progress their projects and make a positive difference to the health of millions of people," Professor Gardner said.

Monash University Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) and Senior Vice-President Professor Rebekah Brown said the breadth of projects funded under the MRFF illustrated the diversity of research being undertaken at Monash.

"Monash researchers are involved in research spanning the full spectrum of care, from advances in childhood cancer research, aged care and cardiac health, to studies on traumatic brain injury and support with family planning," Professor Brown said.

The projects under the latest MRFF grants round are:

PAEDIATRIC CANCER

Dr Ron Firestein

The Victorian Paediatric Cancer Consortium: A Multi-institutional Partnership to Catalyse Advances in Childhood Cancer Research and Clinical Implementation.
Childhood cancer remains the second leading cause of death among children in Australia. In the past decade, comprehensive mapping of the genomic architecture of childhood tumours has provided a comprehensive landscape of paediatric tumours and revealed striking biological distinctions between malignancies diagnosed in children compared to adults. These data underscore the need to develop a paediatric patient-centric approach towards improving outcomes for children with cancer.

GENOMICS HEALTH

Paul Lacaze

Population genomic screening of young adults to prevent cancer in Australia.The study will develop a new DNA screening study to identify cancer risk in young adults. The new low-cost DNA screening test which will be offered to 10,000 young Australians and, once scaled-up, has the potential to drastically improve access to preventive genetic testing in Australia, and could help make Australia the world’s first nation to offer preventive DNA screening through a public healthcare system.

PRIMARY HEALTH CARE RESEARCH DATA INFRASTRUCTURE

Associate Professor Nadine Andrew

Optimising health information exchange during aged care transfers.The project will look to deliver a digital health solution, accessible using a range of devices, that will provide point-of-care clinicians and Residential Aged Care staff, residents and their families, with information considered critical during the transfer of people living in Residential Aged Care.

TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY

Professor Andrew Udy

PRECISION-TBI - Promoting evidence-based, data driven care for critically ill moderate-to-severe TBI patients.The project vision is to improve the health and social outcomes for m-sTBI patients, by promoting more uniform, evidence-based, and data-driven care, across all major neurotrauma centres in Australia and New Zealand.

Dr.Gerard O’Reilly

The Australian Traumatic Brain Injury National Data (ATBIND) Project.
Will identify the key determinants of outcomes for patients with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) across Australia.

Professor Terence O’Brien

Exercise therapy for mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and persistent post-concussion symptoms (PPCS) across the lifespan.
The project will propose a clinical trial to examine subthreshold aerobic exercise intervention in mTBI patients. We hypothesise that exercise intervention will improve recovery in mTBI patients. Based on these findings we will develop and distribute protocols/guidelines for both adolescent and adult mTBI patients that can be accessed and applied in clinical settings across Australia.

CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH

Professor Stephen Nicholls

Statins and Progression of Coronary Atherosclerosis in Melanoma Patients Treated with Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors.Emerging evidence has suggested that patients treated with checkpoint inhibitors demonstrate a greater subsequent risk of experiencing cardiovascular events. In the Statins and progression of Coronary atherosclerosis in melanoma patients treated with checkpoint inhibitors the (SOCRATES) study we will conduct a randomised clinical trial to compare the effects of statin therapy or matching placebo on the progression of coronary atherosclerosis using serial computed tomography imaging in melanoma patients treated with an immune checkpoint inhibitor. With increasing clinical outcomes of melanoma patients, the ability to identify cost effective approaches to reduce the subsequent cardiovascular risk in the setting of cancer survivorship will form an important component of comprehensive health service delivery platforms moving forward.

Professor Carol Hodgson

ECMO-Rehab: A Randomised Controlled Trial of Early Cardiac Rehabilitation to Improve Survival and Recovery in Critically-ill Patients on ECMO.Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a high-risk, invasive and expensive therapy used in intensive care to sustain life for cardiovascular failure when conventional life support fails. The use of ECMO has more than doubled in Australia in five years, and there are now over 30 hospitals that provide ECMO as a form of advanced life support. The perceived risk of bleeding and cannula dislodgement mean that patients remain immobile for prolonged periods. These patients are at significant risk of ICU-acquired weakness due to prolonged immobility, and ICU-acquired weakness is associated with substantial long-term morbidity and mortality.

Early cardiac rehabilitation is an intervention that may reduce ICU-acquired weakness and improve important patient-centred outcomes. ECMO- Rehab is a pivotal, multicentre, 100-patient registry-embedded randomised controlled trial (RCT) comparing the effect of early cardiac rehabilitation, involving physical activity and mobilisation versus standard

care on disability and health related quality of life in critically ill adult patients requiring extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).

Professor Natasha Lannin

New models of rehabilitation to improve work and health outcomes after stroke.

While the overall incidence of stroke has been declining, rates in Australians of working age have been increasing. In 2020, an estimated 10,670 first-strokes were experienced by Australians of working age.
Returning to work is a national priority, but stroke survivors are unable to return to work without specialist rehabilitation which is not currently available within Australia.

To address this community priority we propose a hybrid implementation study to test two evidence-based vocational rehabilitation models.
Findings will underpin development of a comprehensive knowledge translation strategy, necessary to support practice change.

NEUROFIBROMATOSIS RESEARCH

Dr Andrew Ellisdon

Defining NF1 clinical variation at the microscale to discover new therapeutic targets.

The project will build knowledge of the factors that underlie variation in neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) with the aim of identifying new therapeutic targets to improve clinical care for Australians with neurofibromatosis.

STEM CELL THERAPIES

Associate Professor Gregory Moore

Locally administered extracellular vesicles for perianal fistulising Crohn’s disease.Crohn’s perianal fistulas are abnormal connections between bowel epithelium and perineal skin due to chronic inflammation, dysregulated healing and fibrosis. This debilitating condition occurs in a third of patients with poor healing rates (<40 per cent) despite high doses of costly anti-tumour necrosis factor alpha drugs.

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are a new safe and effective treatment for perianal Crohn’s fistulas. Human amnion epithelial cells (hAEC) have similar therapeutic properties plus advantages of non-invasive isolation, high yields without expansion and a superior safety profile. We have completed recruitment for the first in human phase I trial using local injection of hAEC thawed for immediate use in perianal Crohn’s fistulas with promising results.

QUALITY USE OF MEDICINE

Professor Danielle Mazza Quality family planning services and referrals in community pharmacy: expanding pharmacists’ scope of practice.The ALLIANCE trial will improve the health and wellbeing of Australian women by promoting safe and effective use of contraceptive medicines amongst those at high risk (women seeking the emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) or early medical abortion (EMA) in settings such as rural and regional communities.

Dr Simon Bell

Knowledge brokers for evidence translation to improve quality use of medicines in residential aged care.The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has highlighted over-reliance on psychotropic medications as needing immediate action. Psychotropic medications can be inappropriately prescribed to people living with dementia in aged care. This project aims to trial the use of a ’knowledge broker’ to implement new evidence-based recommendations to improve the safe and effective use of psychotropic medications in people living with dementia and in aged care.

These grants are part of the Federal Government’s $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund, which is a long-term, sustainable investment in Australian health and medical research helping to improve lives, build the economy and contribute to the sustainability of the health system.


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