Tag Archives: cancer

One step closer to understanding cancer-fighting immune cells

Researchers discover that protective immune cells are not created equally 

Susan Christo, The Peter Doherty Institute & The University of Melbourne

Personalised treatment of cancers has moved one step closer, thanks to University of Melbourne researcher Dr Susan Christo.

Increasingly, cancers are being treated using an approach called immunotherapy – which uses a patient’s own immune cells to fight the disease.

Continue reading One step closer to understanding cancer-fighting immune cells

Researchers use sound to deliver drugs

Soundwaves. Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay.

Researchers use sound to deliver drugs

A technique adapted from telecommunications promises more effective cancer treatments.

Dr Shwathy Ramesan from RMIT

Drugs can be delivered into individual cells by using soundwaves, Melbourne researchers have discovered.

Adapting a technique used in the telecommunications industry for decades, Dr Shwathy Ramesan from RMIT, and colleagues, used the mechanical force of sound to push against cell walls and deliver drugs more effectively than treatments currently in use.

The new technique aids in silencing genes responsible for some diseases, including cancer, by switching them on or off.

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How deep is your sleep?

Reading brain activity for better anaesthesia

More than 40 million people have major surgery in China each year. For every one of them the nature of consciousness is a very practical concern. Too low a dose of anaesthetic could see you wake up during the operation. Too high a dose could have long term health consequences.

Currently, the best monitoring devices can only monitor a suite of secondary indicators of consciousness. A Guangdong company has partnered with the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) with the aim of making anaesthesia easier and safer. They’re creating an intelligent device to directly measure the depth of unconsciousness and adjust the anaesthetic dose in real time.

Continue reading How deep is your sleep?

Big data for life

Australian and European researchers are finding the secrets of cancer and the immune system hiding in the numbers.

From his lab at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), Irish-born researcher David Lynn is combining computational and big data analysis with experimental approaches to unpicking biological networks at the molecular level. Continue reading Big data for life

Cancer, maths and evolution

Shifting the cancer battleground

 A new French-Australian joint cancer laboratory is forging a new way to study cancer by joining experts from different fields including mathematics, cell biology, evolutionary biology, and behavioural ecology.

Cancer is not only a major cause of human death worldwide, but also a disease that affects all multicellular organisms. Despite this, oncology and other biological sciences such as ecology and evolution have developed in relative isolation, according to Dr Beata Ujvari from the Roles of Cancer in Ecology and Evolution International Associated Laboratory at Deakin University. 

“We know that there is a clear reciprocal interaction between malignant cells and their hosts, with malignant cells evolving in response to the organism’s defence mechanisms,” Beata says.

“Cancer also directly and indirectly impacts the physiology, immunology and behaviour of organisms. But very little is actually known of the evolutionary impact of these complex relationships. We are changing that with this type of research, which has rarely been explored before,” Beata says.

The goal is to transform the understanding of cancer, its origin, how to halt its progression, and to prevent therapeutic failures. At the same time, the role of cancer in ecosystem functioning is something that ecologists need to consider.

Researchers say that cancer’s impact on ecosystems could be significant. It can influence an individual’s competitive and dispersal abilities, susceptibility to pathogens and vulnerability to predation. In some cases, such as the facial tumour disease that afflicts Tasmanian devils, it can heavily impact a species.

The joint laboratory is a collaboration between: Dr Frederic Thomas of the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Cancer Research at the National Scientific Research Centre (CNRS) in France; Deakin University; and the University of Tasmania, Australia. In Australia, the team has partnered with the Tasmanian Government’s Save the Tasmanian Devil Program and Zoos Victoria.

Banner image : Cancer can have a significant impact on species – such as the Tasmanian devil – and even whole ecosystems. Credit: JJ Harrison

The hunt for shapeshifting cancer cells

For a long time, doctors and patients have dreamed of precision oncology, a process that allows specific, effective treatments for individual tumours.

In the past, the complex nature of tumours has made this impossible.

“Within a tumour, there are many different cell populations, each doing different things and behaving in different ways. Most cells will be killed by chemotherapy, but some are not,” says Associate Professor Frederic Hollande of The University of Melbourne.

Continue reading The hunt for shapeshifting cancer cells

Using nanoparticles to better target cancer tumours

Dr Andrew Care from the Department of Molecular Sciences has been awarded a 2018 Early Career Fellowship from the Cancer Institute NSW.

Andrew’s fellowship will fund research looking at how biological nanoparticles can be used to better deliver anti-cancer drugs to destroy tumours.

Andrew and his team are re-engineering protein-based nanoparticles that are normally found in microorganisms, like bacteria. These re-engineered nanoparticles will be capable of carrying anti-cancer drugs to tumours inside the body. Continue reading Using nanoparticles to better target cancer tumours

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

Immune boost for cancer patients with HIV

Cancer is the leading cause of death among people with HIV and yet cancer treatment can be risky as their immune system is already compromised.

Now, a new class of drugs developed at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales is providing hope—demonstrating it is effective in treating the cancer and strengthening the immune response to that cancer.

Continue reading Immune boost for cancer patients with HIV