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Centenary Institute - Medical Research

Prime7 News – featuring Professor Philip Hogg

Professor Philip Hogg, Deputy Director at the Centenary Institute and Head of the ACRF Centenary Cancer Research Centre has been interviewed by Prime7 News on the launch of the ACRF Tumour Metabolism Laboratory – part of the ACRF Centenary Cancer Research Centre.

The laboratory, established by a $2.5M grant from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation to the Centenary Institute (together with additional support from the Cancer Institute NSW and the University of Sydney) is dedicated to the study of tumour cell metabolism, down to a molecular level. This knowledge is then utilised in the development of innovative new cancer diagnostics, treatments and cures.

Click here for the Prime7 news story about Professor Hogg and the laboratory’s exciting work on outsmarting cancer cells.

New cancer laboratory launches

The ACRF Tumour Metabolism Laboratory – part of the ACRF Centenary Cancer Research Centre – has been officially launched with the laboratory sporting the latest in advanced equipment and technology to help support its innovative cancer research. Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally.

The laboratory, established by a $2.5M grant from Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) and in collaboration with the Centenary Institute, is dedicated to the study of tumour cell metabolism, at a molecular level. The team then utilise this knowledge to develop new cancer diagnostics, treatments and cures.

“Cancer cells, like all the cells in our body, require nutrients from our diet to survive and to flourish,” says Professor Philip Hogg, Deputy Director, Centenary Institute and Head, ACRF Centenary Cancer Research Centre.

“While our healthy cells mostly produce energy from these nutrients, cancer cells use them to suit their malignant purpose – which is to divide as rapidly as they can. They aggressively soak up the nutrients in their environment and convert them into the components of new cancer cells – that is DNA, protein and lipids. The focus of this laboratory is to understand how cancer cells change their metabolism. If we can successfully stop the cancer cells from changing their metabolism then we can use this knowledge as a basis for developing exciting new anti-cancer therapies.”

The state-of-the-art equipment available to the researchers at the ACRF Tumour Metabolism Laboratory allows for the precise measurement – down to the nanoscale – of the sugars, proteins and lipids that are consumed by the cancer cells.

“ACRF is delighted to have backed this program which will return significant research findings. Our support, through the provision of equipment for the research has been supplemented by a collaborative funding arrangement with Cancer Institute NSW who have assisted with complementary funding for research personnel. We so value the work that Professor Hogg and his team do to help deliver our supporters’ ambition to Outsmart Cancer,” says Kerry Strydom, CEO, Australian Cancer Research Foundation.

Pictured: Mr Tom Dery AO, Chairman ACRF (left) and Prof Phil Hogg, Head ACRF Centenary Cancer Research Centre (right).

Read the full media release here.

New Centenary Institute laboratory launched

The Centenary Institute has officially launched its newest initiative, ‘The David Richmond Laboratory for Cardiovascular Development: Gene Regulation and Editing’ headed up by Associate Professor Mathias Francois (pictured).

A/Prof Francois and his team will be focused on identifying new and innovative therapeutic approaches targeting vascular disease (any abnormal condition relating to arteries, capillaries, veins and lymphatic vessels). Abnormalities in the growth and development of these vessels are associated with human disorders including cardiovascular illness, solid cancer metastasis and inflammatory diseases.

With many of these diseases and disorders having a genetic cause, the team will be looking to determine the molecular events that direct and influence the construction of the ‘vascular tree’ (the network of blood and lymph vessels throughout the body). The aim will be the identification of molecular targets to which novel therapeutics can be first assessed and then generated.

The main focus of the research program will revolve around the biology of a class of protein known as transcription factors (TFs). These proteins act as molecular switches or as the control panel of the genome to turn on and off genetic pathways which drive vascular development.

Until recently TFs were labelled as “undruggable” but recent technology advances have opened up new research directions to efficiently manipulate these targets pharmacologically. The long term goal is to design new treatments that fine-tune gene expression to improve the management of vascular disorders.

Undertaking a highly strategic methodology to this activity, the new laboratory’s research program will be multi-disciplinary in nature, encompassing developmental biology, disease model systems, complemented by biophysics and genomics approaches.

“I’m extremely excited to be joining such a well-regarded and thriving organisation as the Centenary Institute,” says A/Prof Francois. “The appeal of this institution is in the versatility of the research capabilities provided by such world-class scientists.”

“Working in a new research environment with new colleagues from complementary research fields will mean new ideas and more opportunities to think out of the box. This process is  critical to translate knowledge generated from discovery science to more applied vascular research, which hopefully will lead into meaningful treatments that have the potential to change lives,” he says.

Centenary Institute research boost with NHMRC Investigator Grants

Professor Philip Hansbro, Deputy Director at the Centenary Institute and Professor John Rasko AO, Head of the Centenary Institute’s Gene and Stem Cell Therapy Program have both been awarded prestigious National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Investigator Grants. The Investigator Grants scheme is one of the NHMRC’s new flagship funding arrangements supporting outstanding health and medical researchers.

Professor Philip Hansbro’s funding will support further research into the development of new preventions and treatments for chronic respiratory diseases.

“Respiratory diseases are among the leading causes of all deaths world-wide,” says Professor Hansbro.

“This grant will fund our research into developing a comprehensive ‘molecular map’ for specific respiratory diseases including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), lung cancer and severe asthma. This will increase our knowledge of how these diseases develop and progress, providing us with new opportunities to attempt treatments and cures.”

Professor John Rasko AO, Head of the Centenary Institute’s Gene and Stem Cell Therapy Program and Head of Department, Cell & Molecular Therapies at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital will receive funding for his research focused on driving clinical cell and gene therapy in Australia.

“Harnessing the power of our body’s own cells and genetic therapies, we are witnessing a medical revolution in curing serious diseases including hereditary bleeding and anaemia as well as specific forms of cancer. This new federal funding will facilitate our internationally acclaimed basic and clinical research Program designed to improve the health of Australians”, says Professor Rasko.

Read the full media release here.

Centenary scientists recognised for their world-class cancer research

Pictured: Dr Justin Wong and Mr Kurtis Budden (who accepted on behalf of Professor Phil Hansbro) at the Awards Ceremony, March 14, 2019.

Cancer Council NSW has awarded funding to 13 ground-breaking cancer research projects including two to the Centenary Institute – Dr Justin Wong, Head of our Epigenetics and RNA Biology Program for his research ‘Understanding the mechanisms that cause acute myeloid leukaemia’ and Professor Phil Hansbro, Director of the Centenary UTS Centre for Inflammation for his project ‘Could our gut bacteria play a role in lung cancer?’

“We are extremely proud to announce another round of extraordinary projects in 2019. We are confident these projects will provide incredible value to cancer patients and continue to push our progress towards a cancer free future,” said Dr Jane Hobson, Research Grants Manager at Cancer Council NSW.

Funds have been awarded to projects deemed through peer review to be of the highest scientific merit; and through consumer review to be of the most value to the community supporting Cancer Council.

Read the full Cancer Council NSW media release

Learn more about the work of Professor Phil Hansbro and Dr Justin Wong.

Improved insight into tumour growth

The Centenary Institute has collaborated with fellow medical research institute, the Hudson Institute in Victoria, to develop a novel model system for accurately monitoring tumour stage and immune cells involvement.

Head of Centenary’s Liver Enzymes in Metabolism and Inflammation Program, Professor Mark Gorrell, was involved in the research project.

Ovarian cancer develops slowly and the immune system is crucial in controlling the tumour. In this particular study, the researchers modified ovarian cancer cells so they glowed in a way that can be seen in live laboratory mice models – enabling counts of tumour cells and immune cell subsets when each tumour is removed.

This system has allowed the researchers to learn new information on tumour growth, as well as discover which immune cells are in the tumour.

The researchers plan to apply the model to other cancers, including liver cancer.

Read the full study online in scientific journal Cancers.

Learn more about how Professor Gorrell’s team at Centenary is working to help develop a new liver disease test.

New knowledge about a potential pathway for cancer therapies

Centenary Institute scientists have discovered dozens of new likely targets for a particular enzyme (FAP) that is within most tumours; paving the way for the future development of safer and more effective cancer therapies, including liver, lung, skin, colorectal and pancreatic cancers.

Instead of affecting and interacting with just collagen, the researchers have used new technologies to identify 37 molecules which FAP likely modifies.

Co-lead author, Dr Hui Emma Zhang from the Centenary Institute, says this study not only reaffirms the value of FAP in cancer research, but it also provides new avenues through which scientists can target tumour growth.

“Given FAP is fairly unique to damaged cells when compared to healthy cells, the findings from our research will enhance the initial identification and imaging of tumours, as well as provide a safer and more targeted pathway through which anti-cancer therapies can be delivered,” says Dr Zhang.

See the full media release.

Read Identification of Novel Natural Substrates of Fibroblast Activation Protein-alpha by Differential Degradomics and Proteomics in Molecular and Cellular Proteomics.

Pictured: A human liver tumour (large pale cells) surrounding a peninsular of stromal cells (dense blue), with FAP molecules stained dark brown.

A new hope for those at risk of world’s third-deadliest cancer

Centenary Institute scientists have successfully created a more realistic model of primary liver cancer; placing medical researchers in a much better position to develop more effective treatments for the third-most common cause of cancer death worldwide.

“Our novel model has progressed two key areas: fast-tracking the time it takes to conduct modelling, while more closely replicating liver cancer drivers that occur in humans,” says PhD student James Henderson, lead author on the study.

“This places researchers in a much better position to develop effective therapies in future to treat liver cancer in the early stages; reducing the burden on Australia’s health-care system and improving patient outcomes.”

Read the full media release and the published paper

Inflammation Fact Sheet

Think you know about inflammation? Think again. Redness, swelling, muscle aches…that’s not even the half of it. Chronic inflammation is a key driver of diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and autoimmune diseases. Read more.

Cellular Inflammation: The Secret Killer

We now know that inflammation plays a crucial role in our immune system however research has shown that it plays a role at a cellular level in the development of disease.

We concentrate our research on inflammation mechanism. It underlies a number of prevalent acute and chronic conditions, as well it drives the initiation and progression of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Inflammation research: why it matters

Diabetes

A third of all diabetics will suffer from vision loss and potential blindness during their lifetime. This condition is caused by inflammation in the retina blood vessels.

Centenary’s Impact 

We have developed an exciting new drug which has the potential to mend the damaged blood vessels and prevent loss of sight.

Read more about our diabetes work here.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia and the second leading cause of death in Australia. Evidence is mounting that inflammation plays a key role.

Centenary’s Impact 

We are investigating new ways to target and treat debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, by focusing our research on inflammation in the brain.

Read more about our Alzheimer’s disease work here.

Respiratory Diseases

Two of the top five killers of Australians are diseases of the lungs and airways. Inflammation appears to play a major role.

Centenary’s Impact 

We are identifying new ways to tackle inflammation by developing comprehensive ‘molecular maps’ for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, lung cancer and asthma. 

Read more about our Asthma work here.

Inflammation Research Foundation – Cellular Inflammation: The Secret Killer (Article).

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