Announcing the 2020 Innovation Grant recipients

Thanks to the support of our community during 2020, we are awarding $565,036 in funding for new clinical research projects this year through the Innovation Grant.

The Innovation Grant is a unique opportunity for original scientific ideas with the potential to change clinical practice to receive funding. Grants are awarded each year, with a record three grants awarded this year.

“Our community have raised over $1.2 million dollars in the past five years for the Innovation Grant and we’re very proud of that fundraising. We’re also very proud of the standard of scientific applications that we received,” says Doctor Lorraine Chantrill, Chair of the GI Cancer Institute.

2020 Innovation Grant recipients

Professor Niall Tebbutt and Professor John Mariadason

Project: A phase II trial evaluating EGFR inhibition with HDAC inhibition in refractory colorectal cancer

“The idea is to “re-purpose” a drug called valproate to treat patients with advanced colon cancer. While Valproate has been used to treat epilepsy and mood disorders for several decades, our recent laboratory findings have shown that this drug also has anti-cancer activity.

“Over 5000 Australians die from colorectal cancer each year including an increasing number of younger people. This trial will investigate a potential new treatment which is urgently needed for these patients. This research simply would not be possible without the commitment and generosity of those in the community who have dedicated their time and money to this important cause.” – Professor John Mariadason

Professor David Goldstein

Project: A translational substudy of the MASTERPLAN trial, Understanding the effect of chemotherapy on microbial composition of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) patients

“There is some evidence that altering or indeed restoring bacterial composition may positively influence the benefits of treatment. If we can show a link between outcomes in the MASTERPLAN trial and the effects on bacteria, then we can move towards intervention trials.

“Supporting novel approaches in their initial stages is so important in this financially constrained time. By having this initial funding we can develop our concept with sufficient data to become competitive for external definitive funding.” – Professor David Goldstein

Doctor Ben Lawrence

Project: A translational sub-study of the CONTROL NETS trial

“Currently, PRRT is the best treatment for people for people with Neuroendocrine Cancer. We have run a clinical trial (called CONTROL NETs) to see if we can make PRRT more effective, by adding chemotherapy. Some people will benefit from adding chemotherapy, but some will not. We think we know how to pick who will benefit, and the Innovation Grant lets us to find out if we are right. We will look at a marker called MGMT inside the cancer to see if it predicts when chemotherapy is useful.

“I know that solving cancer and improving cancer outcomes is a massive priority for our community. It’s amazing to me how Australians generously contribute to AGITG to improve the lives of people with cancer now and in the future. They know that the only way to really change cancer outcomes is through high-quality research. And as a researcher, I am humbled to be entrusted with that responsibility and we take it very seriously.” – Doctor Ben Lawrence


Associate Professor Jeanne Tie received the highest ranking for her application, but this project has since been awarded a grant from Cancer Council Victoria. Her project, RESOLUTE, was awarded the Best New Concept Award at our 2020 Annual Scientific Meeting.