Tag Archives: cancer

Turning off toxic T cells in MS clinical trial

Switching off T cells before they begin to damage the nervous system is the basis of an Australian therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS), which is expected to begin clinical trials by the end of 2017.

Developed by researchers at Victoria University in western Melbourne and the University of Patras in Greece, it brings together peptides, or protein fragments, with a biochemical delivery system already shown to be effective in cancer vaccine clinical trials. Continue reading Turning off toxic T cells in MS clinical trial

Improving survival for patients with acute leukaemia

Today, 85 per cent of children with leukaemia can be cured, but the outlook for patients over 60 is bleak. Only 10 per cent survive beyond one year as their cancer adapts to weather the storm of standard chemotherapy treatments. Associate Professor Steven Lane wants to change that outlook.

Steven and his team at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute have developed a method to rapidly profile the genetics of different leukaemia types—of which there are hundreds—and model them in the lab.

This allows them to work with many leukaemia types simultaneously, providing a cheaper, faster and more accurate model of the leukaemia. Continue reading Improving survival for patients with acute leukaemia

Expanding treatments for the ‘Australian’ cancer

The chances of surviving melanoma are getting better every year. But some cancers still become ‘resistant’ to treatment, and others don’t respond at all.

Helen and her colleagues are searching for clues on how people will respond to treatment. Credit: Carolyn Seri for Melanoma Institute Australia Report
Helen and her colleagues are searching for clues on how people will respond to treatment. Credit: Carolyn Seri for Melanoma Institute Australia Report

A collection of over 10,000 blood and 4,900 tissue samples from the biobank at the Melanoma Institute Australia is being used to hunt for clues to predict which patients won’t be responsive to treatment from day one. The researchers, from Macquarie University, are also looking for the basis of developed resistance by the cancer.

Continue reading Expanding treatments for the ‘Australian’ cancer

Helping patients cope with cancer

Pairing psychology with cancer treatment has a profound impact on the wellbeing of patients, Associate Professor Maria Kangas and her team at the Centre for Emotional Health have found.

CBT helps give patients the skills to cope with the challenges of cancer diagnosis. Credit: Chris Stacey
CBT helps give patients the skills to cope with the challenges of cancer diagnosis. Credit: Chris Stacey

In a recent clinical trial, head and neck cancer patients were offered weekly cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) sessions concurrent to their radiation therapy appointments.

After just seven sessions, patients reported a significant decline in cancer-related anxiety and/or depression. And after a year, 67 per cent were no longer experiencing any anxiety or depression and were doing better than the control group who had received regular counselling, but not CBT.

Continue reading Helping patients cope with cancer

Smartphone testing for Zika virus

Prototypes of a portable test for Zika virus and a range of other diseases, using just a microchip plugged into a smartphone, may be available by the end of 2016.

Patients will soon be able to test themselves for diseases like Zika virus or breast cancer from the comfort of their own home. Credit: Siro Perez, Molecular Warehouse Ltd.
Patients will soon be able to test themselves for diseases like Zika virus or breast cancer from the comfort of their own home.
Credit: Siro Perez, Molecular Warehouse Ltd.

Zika – a rapidly-spreading, mosquito-borne disease – doesn’t always show symptoms and currently has no treatment or vaccine.

The new test could be performed from the comfort of the patient’s own home according to Professor Kirill Alexandrov from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) at The University of Queensland.

Continue reading Smartphone testing for Zika virus

Building an emotionally healthy community

A unique national centre is working to build an emotionally healthy community through science and practice.

From four-year-olds with anxiety, to 90-years-olds with depression, the Centre for Emotional Health at Macquarie University takes a ‘lifespan approach’ to mental health.

They’ve spent the past 20 years studying, developing, testing and rolling out mental health programs – which are now available in eight languages and 15 countries including Denmark, the UK and Norway.

Continue reading Building an emotionally healthy community

Filtering the blood to keep cancer in check

A new diagnostic system used to detect cancer cells in small blood samples could next be turned towards filtering a patient’s entire system to remove those dangerous cells – like a dialysis machine for cancer – says an Australian researcher who helped develop the system.

The technique was developed for cancer diagnosis, and is capable of detecting (and removing) a tiny handful of cancer-spreading cells from amongst the billions of healthy cells in a small blood sample.

The revolutionary system, which works to diagnose cancer at a tenth of the cost of competing technologies, is now in clinical trials in the US, UK, Singapore and Australia, and is in the process of being commercialised by Clearbridge BioMedics PteLtd in Singapore.

Continue reading Filtering the blood to keep cancer in check

Which prostate cancers can be left alone?

Only 10 per cent of prostate cancers are lethal, but which ones? Australian researchers have tracked the mutations that drive the cancer to spread through the body, and eventually become lethal.

Bioinformaticians can use Circos plots to visualise how cancer genomes differ from healthy ones. Credit: Peter Casamento
Bioinformaticians can use Circos plots to visualise how cancer genomes differ from healthy ones. Credit: Peter Casamento

The research shows they can be detected in the original tumour and even in blood samples. Testing the DNA of prostate cancer cells may help clinicians in the future identify which cancers need to be urgently removed and which ones might simply be monitored.

“Some advanced cancer cells evolve the ability to break away from their original location, travel through the bloodstream and create secondary tumours in another part of the body,” explains Clare Sloggett, Bioinformatician and Research Fellow at the Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative (VLSCI). “Cells in this state of metastasis are the most deadly.”

Continue reading Which prostate cancers can be left alone?

Predicting change, brains, trains and mental health

State Awards

“Trait-based ecology” enables Macquarie University’s Mark Westoby to explain patterns of species occurrence and abundance and to understand the impacts of climate change and changing patterns of land use. He received the $55,000 NSW Scientist of the Year.

Nanocapsules for drugs delivery: Frank Caruso is making miniature capsules that could better deliver drugs for cancer, AIDS and cardiovascular diseases. He won one of the 2014 Victoria Prizes for Science & Innovation worth $50,000.

Continue reading Predicting change, brains, trains and mental health

Australian Academy of Science Early-career Awards

Julie Arblaster’s climate research is helping to explain the climate of the Australian region, particularly the ozone hole, El Niño, the monsoon, and Australian rainfall variability.

David Warton is driving data analysis in ecology, making it a more predictive science. His tools are influencing statistics across science and industry.

Christian Turney has pioneered new ways of combining climate models with records of past climate change spanning from hundreds to thousands of years.

Maria Seton has redefined the way we reconstruct the movement of continental plates and contributed to studies on the effect ocean basin changes have had on global long-term sea level and ocean chemistry. Continue reading Australian Academy of Science Early-career Awards