3.5 Million For Single-Cell Cancer Research Into Patient Therapies and Resistance

3.5 Million For Single-Cell Cancer Research Into Patient Therapies and Resistance
Staff at the University of Melbourne have knocked a proposed pay cut and changes to voluntary redundancies. (Eriksson Luo/Unsplash)
Marina Zhang
Researchers from the University of Melbourne have received a 3.5 million grant (US$2.51 million) from the Australian Cancer Research Council (ACRF) for the foundation’s new program investigating cancer cells singularly for better patient treatment and causes of treatment resistance.

“This important investment from ACRF will enable us to gain a deeper understanding of how cancers develop at a single-cell level,” said Prof. Andrews Roberts, one of the study’s lead researchers said on March 15.

He said that the funding will lead the team to “breakthroughs” in personalising cancer therapy and improving treatment responses and overcoming treatment resistance.

“Though every year we’re getting a little bit better at treating cancers across the board, slowest progress has been made in the toughest cancer,” Roberts told Channel Seven’s Sunrise program.
Excluding non-melanoma skin cancer, Australia’s most common cancers are prostate cancer, breast cancer, bowel cancer, skin cancer and lung cancers.

These cancers make up around 60 percent of all cancer diagnoses and apart from lung cancer, generally have high survival rates within five years after diagnosis.

However, lung cancer and rarer cancers such as pancreatic, oesophageal cancers are often compromised with lower survival rates due to initial difficulties in treating or diagnosing the disease.

“Every year these [tough] cancers are the ones that don’t respond very well to our current therapies and come back quickly after we’ve finished the treatment, so that’s our focus,” Roberts said.

The professor said that though one may expect that all cancers behave similarly, the reality is that pathology and response to treatments differ across cancers and people.

To examine the differences across different cancers, the team’s ACRF Program for Resolving Cancer Complexity and Therapeutic Resistance was set up with intentions of a multidisciplinary pursuit across different cancers.

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) research team from the University of Melbourne consists of 19 cancer experts specialising each specialising in cancers such as blood, breast, lung, ovarian, pancreatic and skin cancers collaborating to compare and understand the differences between cancers and the implications it has for patient treatments and drug resistance.

Of the $3.5 million (US$2.51 million) granted, 2.2 million (US$1.58 million) was used to provide a multiplexed ion beam imaging microscope (MIBIscope) that can rapidly capture high-resolution imaging needed for this single-cellular research in unprecedented molecular detail.

The microscope is known for its multiplexed imaging that allows simultaneous detection of 40 different markers on a single tissue section and by detecting different markers.

It can therefore classify different cell types and determine the size and location of tumours in relation to other structures in the sample with high accuracy and is the only machine capable of the analysis scale, sensitivity and large sample size proposed in the research program.

Institute director Prof. Doug Hilton AO said the new grant will provide crucial support to the ACRF research program.

“This grant will allow our researchers to tackle some of the most complex problems in cancer research by providing them with the essential tools required to hopefully one day improve the life of every individual diagnosed with cancer.”

The new grant is the sixth ACRF grant awarded to WEHI, for projects totalling $10.5 million (US$7.54 million).

Marina Zhang is a health writer for The Epoch Times, based in New York. She mainly covers stories on COVID-19 and the healthcare system and has a bachelors in biomedicine from The University of Melbourne. Contact her at [email protected].
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