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Harry Perkins Institute Chair of Melanoma Discovery Professor Jonas Nilsson
HBF will partner with two of the state’s best-known medical research organisations to fund projects with the potential to make global health discoveries.
Australia’s second-largest not-for-profit health insurer has awarded $100,000 a year for three years to each of the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research (Harry Perkins Institute) and Telethon Kids Institute (the Institute) for separate initiatives.
Australia and New Zealand have the world’s highest incidence of the deadly skin cancer, melanoma.
Melanoma is estimated to become the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia in 2022.
At the Harry Perkins Institute, the Chair of Melanoma Discovery, Professor Jonas Nilsson is one of the world’s leading experts in melanoma research, having come to Australia from Gothenburg, Sweden. His team focuses on improving outcomes for melanoma patients.
He said current immunotherapy treatment, in which an individual’s own immune system is harnessed to attack the cancer cells, benefits around half of all melanoma patients.
“Fifty per cent of patients can now get very, very long responses or even cures,” he said.
“But if you flip to the other side of the coin, what about the rest of the patients? What can we do for them? That is where our research is going.”
Professor Nilsson and his team are working towards getting approval in WA to start using a treatment called cell-therapy, where immune cells are taken from the patient, ‘super-charged’ outside a patient’s body, and then reintroduced in enormous numbers to help the patient fight the disease.
This treatment requires biobanking patient tumours and designing personalised cell treatments for individual patients. HBF funding will enable critical steps in the development of this promising treatment.
Father-of-two Jake Hammer with the Flourishing in Fatherhood project co-leads Professor Desiree Silva and Professor Bu Yeap
The Flourishing in Fatherhood project will address the dearth of knowledge about men and how their health during a partner’s pregnancy and following the birth of their child impacts on their child’s development. While antenatal programs help pregnant mothers live healthily to enhance pregnancy outcomes, expectant fathers are often treated as secondary to fertility, birthing and parenting processes.
Professor Bu Yeap, a professor at UWA’s Medical School and a consultant endocrinologist, leads the project with Professor Desiree Silva, Co-Director of The ORIGINS Project (a collaboration between Telethon Kids Institute and Joondalup Health Campus which examines how the early environment influences the risk of a broad range of chronic conditions).
The ORIGINS Project follows families who birth at Joondalup Health Campus, from the child’s time in the womb to when they turn five. More than 8,000 children and their families are enrolled in ORIGINS.
“A number of studies have shown that fathers provide important influences on child development in ways that are unique and independent to those of mothers,” Professor Yeap said.
“However, there is little research into the health of expectant fathers, their post-natal health trajectories, and the impacts of this on fathering and children. Understandably, existing research has often focused on the birthing mother.”
The Flourishing in Fatherhood project will recruit 600 fathers, about half of whom have already participated in ORIGINS, and research findings will guide health policy, develop targeted interventions and improve support for expectant fathers.
Previous ORIGINS research made startling discoveries about the health of men after the birth of their child, identifying substantial cardiometabolic and mental health risks.
The effect of early referral of expectant fathers with identified issues on their longer-term health is unknown, meaning the ability to help them to flourish before and after the birth and improve outcomes for their families is limited.
“Whether these conditions improve or deteriorate following the birth of their child, how frequently new issues arise, and to what extent these are detrimental to the wellbeing of partners and development of their children is unclear,” Professor Yeap added.
Kristi Annear, who manages HBF’s Community Engagement Program, said the partnerships would make an ongoing, tangible difference to the health of Australians from all walks of life.
“Improving health in our community can take many forms and we want to ensure that our partnerships make a difference in particular areas of need,” she said.
“It’s exciting to think about the potential that these two projects have.”
HBF Media Contact: Lauren Underhill, HBF Corporate Affairs,
0438 925 050 / CorporateAffairs@hbf.com.au
HBF was founded more than 80 years ago in Perth and has provided private health insurance to generations of Western Australians. HBF has expanded to become Australia's second largest not-for-profit health fund, providing hospital and ancillary insurance to approximately 1.1 million members nationwide. HBF is also becoming a more active participant in health services through the recent acquisition of physiotherapy business Life Ready, ongoing expansion of HBF Dental, its partnership with TerryWhite Chemmart outside of WA, and an ongoing alliance with Pharmacy 777 in WA. HBF is committed to actively connecting with and supporting the communities in which it operates as a trusted member-based organisation. Visit hbf.com.au
About the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research
The Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research is WA’s largest medical research institute primarily investigating diseases affecting adults. With over 250 researchers located on three hospital campuses, the Perkins is uniquely positioned to fast track the development of new discoveries and treatments. By collaborating with doctors, world-class researchers, scientists and clinicians, the Perkins takes discoveries from the laboratory bench top to the bedside. The Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research is proudly West Australian, providing career opportunities to our best and brightest graduates and bringing to the State world-class researchers. As a registered charity, the Harry Perkins Institute relies on grants and donations to fund its medical research. Visit www.perkins.org.au
About The ORIGINS Project and Telethon Kids Institute
The ORIGINS Project is a decade-long collaboration between Telethon Kids Institute and Joondalup Health Campus. Through the study of early environments, maternal physical health and genetics, involving 10,000 children and their families, ORIGINS aims to uncover when and why chronic conditions, such as asthma, obesity, allergies and poor mental health, develop. Real-time feedback provided to participant families along the way also allows for early intervention if health or developmental issues are identified.
The Telethon Kids Institute is one of the largest and most successful medical research institutes in Australia, creating a bold blueprint that brings together community, researchers, practitioners, policy makers and funders, who share our vision to improve the health and wellbeing of children through excellence in research. The Institute is headed by leading paediatrician and infectious diseases expert Professor Jonathan Carapetis, with Founding Director Professor Fiona Stanley now Patron. Visit https://originsproject.telethonkids.org.au/
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