Ten-Fold Increase in Research Capacity Enabled by ACRF Supporters

In 2015, Australian Cancer Research Foundation awarded a $2 million grant to the Australian Synchrotron for a detector that analyses the shape and function of proteins on the Institute’s Micro Crystallography (MX2) beamline. Thanks to this funding, this process is now delivered in a fraction of the time it took previously – a ten-fold increase in capacity, crucial to accelerating cancer drug development. This has been made possible by the generosity of our ACRF community.

The Australian Synchrotron houses two beamlines with complementary capabilities, MX1 and MX2.  

MX1 facilitates high-density throughput screening.MX2,with its upgraded ACRF Detector, is ideal for weakly-diffracting hard-to-crystallise proteins, viruses, protein assemblies and nucleic acids – as well as smaller molecules such as inorganic catalysts and organic drug molecules. 

In 2020, the ACRF Detector collected 46,683,192 diffraction images, associated with 56,045 datasets across 208 distinct group experiments, leading to advances in the understanding and potential treatment of cancers. 

These advances included the first building block of a drug to target acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and a discovery that will pave the way for developing improved therapies for a range of cancers. 

  • Targeting AML: Researchers at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, using the ACRF Detector at the Synchrotron found a way to target AML, an aggressive and often incurable cancer. The protein HBO1 is essential for the survival of leukemic stem cells, likely to be the main cause for resistance to current AML treatments. 
    The research team undertook a series of experiments to discover the part of the HBO1 protein that was critical for its function in stem cells and then developed a small molecule – the first building block of a drug – that could suppress the activity of HBO1 in AML cells. 
  • A model for the development of new cancer treatments: A study by Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute researchers highlights the synergy between an antibody fragment that acts as a bridge helping to link together two key immune cell receptors. It also takes advantage of their interaction, enabling the body to enhance its immune response to cancer. This discovery will serve as a model for the potential development of new, improved therapies against a broad range of cancers. 

In 2020, 204 peer-reviewed journal publications were produced, containing data from the MX1 and MX2 beamlines, with a substantial proportion of these (~50%) published in high-impact journals. 

Significantly, 152 of 480 protein structure deposits into the Worldwide Protein Bank were specifically from research undertaken using the ACRF Detector. 

Research undertaken using the ACRF Detector continues to inform and assist cancer research as it expands the store of knowledge on protein structures, biomolecular processes and structural determination methods. 

Thank you to all our generous supporters who continue to make progress like this possible. Together we can make a world without cancer a reality.