Echuca resident Kevin L’Huillier has personally contributed $25,000 to a new research project from Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre to help women fight breast cancer.By Jess Craig
Echuca man Kevin L’Huillier is hoping a new research program from Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre will help district women fight breast cancer.
He has recently returned from a trip to Melbourne where he met Dr Nicole Haynes, a young researcher on the verge of translating her laboratory work to the clinic.
Mr L’Huillier’s support of the project comes following his generous personal contribution of $25,000 over five years to the research project.
‘‘I lost my partner Jan Bradley to lung cancer in 2012 and we had talked about the different sorts of charities and organisations that would benefit from support,’’ he said.
‘‘If we can save one person from going through what Jan and so many others have gone through, then it is money well spent.
‘‘I think research is the only way to ensure better outcomes for more people with cancer and what Dr Haynes is doing at Peter Mac is fascinating.’’
In her work, Dr Haynes is combining immunotherapies with the delivery of radiation therapy to improve breast cancer treatment, working with radiation oncologists in Peter Mac’s Breast Service to translate this ‘double attack’ on breast cancer into a clinical trial.
‘‘In basic terms, Dr Haynes is trying to find ways to help the body’s immune system recognise cancer cells and better equip us to fight cancer,’’ Mr L’Huillier said.
‘‘To see the work being undertaken in the lab was really interesting.’’
Dr Haynes uses cutting-edge equipment and pre-clinical models to analyse how breast cancer cells and immune cells in breast tumours respond to radiation therapy.
‘‘Although we thought radiation would eliminate immune cells, as it does cancer cells, we found some immune cell subsets were actually resilient to radiation, making them ideal targets for simultaneous immunotherapy to boost their anti-cancer properties as radiation is delivered,’’ Dr Haynes said.
‘‘Now we’re working to design a double attack on the tumour, in which radiation and the immunotherapy will be used together to hopefully generate longer-term immunity in these cancers.’’
If the research was successful, it could be applied to fight other types of cancers, Mr L’Huillier said.
‘‘I’m told they’ve had some positive results from the trial and that they’re looking at trialling it against melanoma,’’ he said.
Mr L’Huillier said he wanted to make the donation to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre because of its link to treatment facilities in Bendigo.
‘‘Jan was a patient in Bendigo for her treatment and I know there are many people in Echuca who travel to Bendigo,’’ he said.
‘‘The trial aspect of this research will include patients who are receiving treatment in Bendigo. That could mean there are people in Echuca who benefit directly from it.’’
Dr Haynes also plans to use the money donated by Mr L’Huillier to conduct wider immune-based analysis to identify important immune signatures, which will help to identify women who are most likely to benefit from the ‘double attack’ approach.
To donate to cancer research at Peter Mac, visit www.petermac.org
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