Researchers expose how ‘James Bond’ cells are made to boost our immune system against cancer.

Our determination to understand how our bodies operate continues to reveal fascinating intricacies.

New research published in the journal of Nature Immunology exemplifies this. In the study, researchers from the ACRF funded Walter and Eliza Hall Institute reveal how immune cell ‘spies’ are created.

These dendritic cells, or ‘James Bond’ cells gather information on disease-causing agents to aid our bodies in fighting them.

“Dendritic cells are the intelligence-gathering cells that educate the immune system,” said Dr Naik from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

“They tell the infection-fighting T cells and NK cells what a virus, bacterium, fungus or cancer looks like so they know what they’re looking for when fighting disease”.

Prior to this discovery, it was thought that dendritic cells shared one ‘parent’. But researchers have found that we actually have an army of unique ‘parent’ cells that decide whether or not to multiply or generate new dendritic cells to help identify and fight disease.

What this new knowledge provides us with are clues on how the immune system could be manipulated to better fight disease. In examining and understanding at a molecular level how our body naturally fights diseases, we can then single out the cells that are doing the right thing and suppress any ‘James Bond’ cells that are aiming at the wrong target.

This discovery could not have been achieved without cutting-edge technology that allows scientists to single out individual immune cells, rather than try to examine thousands at once.

“We and others have been following this family tree from one daughter cell to the next to discover how each cell type is created and how the parent cell ‘decides’ if it should make more of itself or create the next cell type. By dissecting the heritage of these cells, we can find new targets to tackle a range of conditions including infectious diseases, cancers and immune disorders, and even make vaccines more effective,” says Dr Shalin Naik.

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute has received $5.5 million in grants from the ACRF which has funded technology to progress research in lymphoma, breast, lung and genomics.

The original article was published the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research website. To read the original article, please click here.

New melanoma treatment triggers 20-fold improvement

Cancer treatment, skin cancer, melanoma, cancer research, cancer scientists, discoveries,

Studies conducted by cancer scientists at The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute (UQDI) have found a new experimental drug called Anisina significantly increases the effectiveness of existing therapies used to treat melanoma.

Around 12,500 Australians are diagnosed each year with malignant melanoma and it is responsible for over 1,500 deaths. It is a notoriously difficult cancer to treat, due to the number of mutations that make the cancerous cells difficult to target.

Errors in the ‘BRAF’ gene have been identified as among the most prominent mutations, and two drugs that target ‘BRAF’ (vemurafenib and dabrafenib) have been developed and approved for use in recent years.

However no targeted therapy exists for the 50% of melanoma patients whose tumors do not have this most prominent mutation. As a result, developing a new drug that is effective across all mutations has become a focus in current cancer research.

Cancer scientists have found that when Anisina is partnered with existing drugs it helps destroy two key parts of the cancer cell’s skeleton, resulting in a 20-fold increase in the anti-cancer effect of the other drugs. This benefits all melanoma patients fighting cancer as the new drug targets melanoma cells regardless of their mutational status.

Nikolas Haass MD PhD conducted the research studies along with Brian Gabrielli PhD.

Dr. Haass said, “These findings from the preliminary screen with Anisina are exciting. Finding a compound that is equally effective against a wide panel of melanoma cell types irrespective of the genetic background has been a long-held goal.”

Justine Stehn PhD, Novogen Anti-Tropomyosin Program Director, said, ” The idea that we now have a means of making melanoma cells respond to potent anticancer drugs is an exciting development for patients with melanoma.”

Plans are now underway to bring Anisine into the clinic by early 2016.

The ACRF is proud to have provided $6.2 million to support the work of UQDI’s world-class researchers in recent years.

This information was originally published by Novogen website and can be found here.

Childhood neuroblastoma treatment enhanced with high blood pressure ‘beta-blockers’

An ‘old’ drug which is normally used to treat high blood pressure in adults could bring new hope to children with Neuroblastoma, researchers from the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia have discovered.

Neuroblastoma is a cancer that develops from nerve cells left over from a baby’s development in the womb, predominantly affecting very young children – between 0 and 5 years old.

But researchers conducting pre-clinical trials at CCIA (a world-class facility that the ACRF is proud to have funded via a $3.1m grant) have combined standard chemotherapy with beta-blockers to successfully enhance the effectiveness of the chemotherapy – paving the way towards better treatment outcomes, and decreased treatment doses for these young children. Their study has been published in the prestigious British Journal of Cancer. Continue reading “Childhood neuroblastoma treatment enhanced with high blood pressure ‘beta-blockers’”

Fitting out St Vincent’s cutting-edge ACRF Rational Drug Discovery Centre

current cancer researchAustralia’s first laser scanner cytometer, to be housed at St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne, is set to cut years off drug development and cancer treatment trials.

The $700,000 machine was purchased as part of the fit-out of the Institute’s ACRF Rational Drug Discovery Centre, a facility made possible thanks to a $2 million ACRF grant, awarded at the end of 2011.

Stem cell researcher Associate Prof Louise Purton (pictured)  has said the scanner will allow researchers to study “anything we want to know about a cell – this should be able to answer it.”

“This is the way the cancer field is moving forward into finding a cure, by understanding why that cancer is forming and designing drugs that specifically target those cancer cells, as opposed to the other cells around it.”

The scanner not only allows researchers to better profile, test and monitor cancer cells – it also will reduce the impact on animals at trial-level. Continue reading “Fitting out St Vincent’s cutting-edge ACRF Rational Drug Discovery Centre”

Targeted breast cancer treatment prolongs life and reduces side effects!

A new treatment is being heralded as a ‘smart-bomb’ for breast cancer following very promising studies in a Phase III clinical trial based in the US.

Researchers at the Duke Cancer Institutes administered a new drug ‘T-DM1’ to almost 1000 women with the specific breast cancer type ‘HER-2 positive’, and found it prevented patients’ advanced tumours from progressing while delivering fewer side effects compared to conventional treatments.

“As a clinician who takes care of breast cancer patients, it’s important to have a treatment that is both effective and well tolerated,” said director of the Breast Cancer Clinical Program at the Duke Cancer Institute, Kimberley Blackwell.

“This is a drug that brings us another step closer to treating cancer without the side effects of chemotherapy.”

HER-2 breast cancer is distinguished by high levels of a protein known as ‘human epidermal growth factor’ which promotes cancer cell growth. It accounts for about 20% of invasive breast cancers. Continue reading “Targeted breast cancer treatment prolongs life and reduces side effects!”