Tag Archives: cancer

White cell assassins prove kiss of death for cancer

White blood cells have proven to be the serial assassins of the immune system, moving quickly on to their next target once they’re released from a dying cancer cell’s grip.

Misty Jenkins. Credit: L’Oréal Australia/sdpmedia.com.au

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Starch to save young lives

A fibre may help save millions of children in developing countries who die or who are left malnourished from diarrhoea each year.

Resistant starch in the diet may protect millions of children in developing countries from diarrhoea.

Graeme Young, AM, of Flinders University, is leading a global project that will test his theory that resistant starch increases zinc absorption in the body.

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Academy recognition

Photo: Wouter Schellart’s geodynamics research into the activity of the Earth’s mantle, including the Mt Etna volcano, earned him the AAS Anton Hales medal for Earth Sciences. Credit: NASA

The Australian Academy of Science recognised five individuals for their career achievements in 2013.

Intelligent drugs

Dr Georgina Such imagines a miniscule capsule designed like a set of Russian babushka dolls.

Georgina Such is working on smart capsules could change the way we deliver drugs. Credit: L’Oréal Australia/sdpmedia.com.au
Georgina Such is working on smart capsules could change the way we deliver drugs. Credit: L’Oréal Australia/sdpmedia.com.au

The capsule is designed to sneak through the blood stream untouched.

When it finds its target—a cancer cell—it passes into the cell, sheds a layer, finds the part of the cellular machinery it needs to attack, sheds another layer; and then releases its cargo of drugs, destroying the cancer cell and only the cancer cell.

Creating such a capsule may take decades, but Georgina and her colleagues at the University of Melbourne have already developed several materials which have the potential to do the job.

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Supercomputer probes cancer crisis point

The long-term survival chances of patients with breast cancer plummet if the cancer recurs or spreads to other parts of the body in the process known as metastasis.

Breast cancer cells visualised with antibodies recognising E-cadherin (red) or vimentin (green). The cell nuclei are visualised with a DNA-binding stain (blue). Credit: Cletus Pinto & Rhiannon Coulson, St Vincent’s Institute

So the National Breast Cancer Foundation recently funded a five-year, $5 million National Collaborative Research Program to investigate metastasis and discover potential drugs to stop or slow it. The EMPathy Breast Cancer Network program was also charged with finding ways of diagnosing metastasis before it occurs. The research is highly dependent on the latest sequencing technology and demands the massive computer power and sophisticated data handling techniques of modern bioinformatics.
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Starving cancer and other stories

Prostate cancers are made up of hungry, growing cells. Now we’ve discovered how to cut off their food supply thanks to a study published in Cancer Research and supported by Movember. More below. Also Australian science discoveries you may have missed from the past week. Heart cells growing in a test-tube – Melbourne How birds [...]

Curing cancer with radiation – safely

Prostate and other soft-tissue cancers are often treated with radioactive sources implanted or inserted into the body. But monitoring the dose is problematic.

Curing cancer with radiation – safely
Computer simulation of brachytherapy prostate treatment showing radioactive source trajectories through the pelvic region. Credit: Rick Franich
Medical physicists at Melbourne’s RMIT University are developing a technique to monitor the radiation dose more accurately.

In high dose rate brachytherapy, tumours are targeted by radioactive sources temporarily inserted into the body.

“Until now, it has not been possible to check at the time of delivery whether the doses received by the tumour and by surrounding healthy tissue matched the planned levels,” says Dr Rick Franich, Medical Radiation Physics group leader at the University’s Health Innovations Research Institute.
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How a molecular assassin operates

The secrets of a molecular assassin could lead to more effective treatments for cancer and viral diseases, better therapy for autoimmune conditions, and a deeper understanding of the body’s defences enabling the development of more tightly focused immunosuppressive drugs.

How a molecular assassin operates
In this simulation, the perforin molecule (blue) punches a hole through the cell membrane (beige) providing access for toxic enzymes (red). Credit: Mike Kuiper
These are just some of the wide-ranging possibilities arising from research which has revealed the structure and function of the protein perforin, a front-line weapon in the body’s fight against rogue cells.

A pivotal role was played by 2006 Science Minister’s Life Scientist of the Year, molecular biologist Prof James Whisstock and his research team at Monash University. It was research fellow Dr Ruby Law who finally worked out how to grow crystals of perforin. And the team was then able to collaborate with Dr Tom Caradoc-Davies of the micro-crystallography beamline at the nearby Australian Synchrotron to reveal its complete molecular structure.
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Saving our skins

Physicist Dr Amanda Barnard has been using supercomputers to find the balance between sun protection and potential toxicity in a new generation of sunscreens which employ nanoparticles.

Dr Amanda Barnard with one of her nanoparticle simulations Credit: L’Oréal/SDP Photo
Dr Amanda Barnard with one of her nanoparticle simulations Credit: L’Oréal/SDP Photo
The metal oxide nanoparticles which block solar radiation are so small they cannot be seen, so the sunscreen appears transparent. But if the particles are too small, they can produce toxic levels of free radicals.

Amanda, who heads CSIRO’s Virtual Nanoscience Laboratory, has been able to come up with a trade-off—the optimum size of particle to provide maximum UV protection for minimal toxicity while maintaining transparency—by modelling the relevant interactions on a supercomputer.
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The life and death of blood cells

Dr Benjamin Kile of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research in Melbourne has found why the blood cells responsible for clotting—platelets—have a short shelf life at the blood bank.

The life and death of blood cells
Benjamin Kile, winner of the 2010 Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year. Credit: Bearcage Productions
There’s a molecular clock ticking away inside them that triggers their death. He’s also discovered a gene critical for the production of blood stem cells in our bone marrow that happens to be responsible for a range of cancers.

These major discoveries earned Ben the 2010 Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year. Now he is trying to use them to extend the life of blood bank products, and get to the heart of some of the big questions in cancer.
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