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Centenary Institute - Medical Research
Centenary Institute - Medical Research

Successful funding for Centenary researchers

Two Centenary Institute researchers have successfully received funding grants through the Perpetual 2019 IMPACT Philanthropy program.

Prof Warwick Britton, Head of the Centenary Tuberculosis Program received funding for his project ‘Visualising how the immune system controls infection and inflammation.’

By using new imaging techniques, he hopes to be able to visualise how the immune system provokes a chronic inflammatory response in infected tissues during TB and leprosy and during immunotherapy, which can cause damage to the lung.

“Both tuberculosis and leprosy are diseases caused by the person’s immediate system reacting to the causative mycobacteria, damaging the lungs and skin/nerves respectively. Understanding how the immune cells cause this damage will help us prevent the permanent damage from these diseases. The funding from Perpetual Trustees will help us to analyse the interaction between immune cells in biopsy samples from TB and leprosy patients. This will utilise newly developed techniques using multiple antibodies to label the different immune cells in biopsy samples. The studies will be done in collaboration with clinicians in Sydney, Sri Lanka and China,” explained Prof Britton.

Dr Hui Emma Zhang received funding for her project titled, ‘Targeting unique enzyme activities for a novel therapy for liver cancer.’

“This funding will greatly facilitate my research on liver cancer, which is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. This funding will help me set up mouse models that recapitulate human liver cancer and evaluate the potential therapeutic benefit of novel drugs that target proteases in the liver,” says Dr Zhang.

The Perpetual 2019 IMPACT Philanthropy program distributes more than $100m annually from charitable trusts and endowments.

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.

Metaflammation

Metaflammation is a new term that refers to low levels of inflammation throughout the body.

Your body use the essential repair process of inflammation to heal the body. When you have a full blown infection your levels are very high. Metaflammation is different. It is much much lower but constant.

This new aspect of inflammation has come to light, its connection with chronic metabolic diseases, like obesity and diabetes. One of the reasons this link is really important is that we are able to control with small molecule or biological therapeutics some aspects of inflammation and thus this approach might become really useful in treating some diseases that were thought to be diet or environment influenced..and are looking to become a devastating problem in the future.

Centenary Institute scientists are working on many aspects of inflammation, including metaflammation. For more details on our research approaches see here.

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