Research Institute: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research
Amount granted: $1 million
Year granted: 2001
The principal purpose of this grant was to purchase x-ray crystallography equipment to be housed in the newly established facility within the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI). This equipment permits the application of structural biology and drug discovery to the new knowledge and the development of improved treatments for cancer.
In essence, x-ray crystallography allows photographs to be taken of the 3-dimensional structure of proteins that are magnified 100 million times their real size. When such a detailed picture of the protein is available, it is possible to understand how that protein performs its complex chemical tasks in the body. Because many cancers are caused by malfunctioning proteins, this new knowledge can often be applied to the discovery of new medicines that correct the malfunction.
Some cancers are caused by a failure in the molecular machinery of programmed cell death (apoptosis). In man, two opposing molecular families determine a cell’s fate, survival or death. It has been widely believed that all of the members of the ‘survival family’ are able to form molecular interactions with all of the members of the ‘death family’. We are undertaking an exhaustive analysis of these interactions using equipment purchased from the ACRF grant and find that, in contrast to the expected promiscuous cross-reactivity, some of the molecular interactions are highly selective. These findings are important because they suggest that it might be possible to selectively target drugs to particular members of the survival family and, consequently, to cause the death of cancer cells selectively.
What your donations have achieved
Cervical cancer vaccine
We gave initial seed funding to Professor Ian Frazer’s research into the cervical cancer (HPV). Over 150 million doses of vaccine have been delivered worldwide to date.
The pill that melts away cancer
Our long term support of cancer research at WEHI has led to a treatment that melts away certain advanced forms of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. It has been approved for clinical use in the US, European Union and Australia and is being trialled for other types of cancer.
Personalised cancer diagnosis
In 2015, we awarded $10 million seed funding to an ambitious cancer proteome project that aims to provide each cancer patient a personalised treatment plan within 36 hours. This will improve treatment outcomes and help avoid unnecessary treatments.
Zero childhood cancer
We are one of the founding partners of the initiative that will tackle the most serious cases of infant, childhood and adolescent cancer in Australia. It is a key step towards the program vision of one day helping to cure 100% of children with cancer.