Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics will launch an Australian-first centre dedicated to deciphering the cancer glyco-code on Friday backed by $2.6 million in funding awarded by the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF).
The ACRF International Centre for Cancer Glycomics will enable the Institute’s researchers to determine changes to the glycomics (carbohydrates/sugars) and their interactions with proteins and lipids (molecules that contain hydrocarbons and make up the building blocks of the structure and function of living cells) in a number of cancers.
“Our research will provide major advances in the early diagnosis of significant cancers, including skin, ovarian and breast cancer,” Institute for Glycomics Director Professor Mark von Itzstein AO said.
“This unique facility, with its diverse and multi-disciplinary team of researchers, will underpin the opportunity to better understand the glyco-code and lead to the translation of novel discoveries and clinical outcomes that will improve the lives of countless cancer sufferers around the world.”
Professor von Itzstein said every cell in a human’s body is decorated with a sugar layer.
“These sugars are anchored to every cell in our body and consequently, they play an important role in cell communication, in other words, how crosstalk happens between different cells in the body,” he said.
“In fact, they’re exquisitely used, unfortunately, by pathogens that cause infectious diseases to attack cells.
“In the context of cancer, what we are delving into is breaking the code of how this carbohydrate language changes in the cancer state.
“Understanding the cancer glyco-code, which plays a major role in tumour development and progression will lead to the development of therapies for cancer which claims the lives of over nine million people globally each year.”
ACRF CEO Kerry Strydom said the centre will take cancer research in a direction not seen with this focus in Australia before.
“We are so pleased to back this hub of brilliant, world-leading experts who will use the specialised equipment and technologies funded to decipher the cancer glyco-code,” Ms Strydom said.
“This improved knowledge could translate to next generation precision diagnostics and therapies, helping people diagnosed with several or even all cancers.”
Advanced mass spectrometry equipment forms the centrepiece of the ACRF International Centre for Cancer Glycomics, including the Orbitrap Eclipse Tribrid MS and the Hyperion Imaging Mass CyTOF.
“These two state-of-the-art instruments will add to and complement the existing resources and capabilities within the facility, enabling the brightest scientific minds in cancer glycomics research to deep mine the cancer glyco-code down to a single cell level,’’ Professor von Itzstein said.
The goal of the ACRF International Centre for Cancer Glycomics is to identify the glyco-language in cellular states that precede malignant transformation in serum, tissue biopsies and in vivo in a clinical scanner of patients at high risk for cancer as well as those with a malignancy.
The team of glycomics experts will work with surgeons, radiologists, scientists, and high-risk cancer clinics to develop early markers in high-risk cohorts and therapeutics based on inhibition of relevant protein targets.
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