Cancer under the spotlight

Cancer under the spotlight

02 Nov 2009

New ways of understanding cancer will be a significant focus of the newly established A$97.9 million La Trobe Institute of Molecular Science (LIMS).


Today cell death researchers from Australia and New Zealand came together to discuss the latest research on cancer and cell death at the inaugural LIMS Cell Death and Cancer Symposium, opened by Federal Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr.

Professor Nick Hoogenraad, head of biochemistry at La Trobe University and driving force behind the development of LIMS, told delegates today researchers at the Institute were working on three major thrusts in cancer research—how cancers spread, the role played by apoptosis or programmed cell death, and how to boost the effectiveness of existing drugs.

Professor David Vaux, one of the pioneers of the study of apoptosis, and colleague Dr John Silke, together with Australia Research Council (ARC) Future Fellows Dr Hamsa Puthalakath, and Dr Christine Hawkins are investigating aspects of the mechanism of programmed cell death, with a view to applying their understanding to cancer treatment.

Another ARC Future Fellow, Dr Suzanne Cutts is studying how a well known anti-cancer compound functions at a molecular level so that she can increase its efficiency and reduce side-effects. Two other senior researchers, Dr Mark Hulett and Dr Peter Lock are probing how cancer cells spread throughout the body, the process known as metastasis.

LIMS will also be the central point for research programs to do with protein structure and function, genetics, medical chemistry, and parasitology among other things.

Laboratories investigating molecular recycling and molecules of the past will be led by a further two ARC Future Fellows, Dr Kaye Truscott and Dr Colin Smith.

Five of La Trobe University’s seven Future Fellows will be housed in LIMS once it opens in 2012.

Professor Hoogenraad said the Institute was established with the aim of increasing employment opportunities for early to mid-career researchers, as was the ARC’s Future Fellows program.

‘They need to learn how to run their own laboratories, train doctoral students and manage research budgets, said Professor Hoogenraad.

Media contact:
Tim Thwaites
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