News Archive 2012
The factor that could determine future breast cancer treatment
MEDIA RELEASE: 28 Dec 2012Garvan scientists have shown how a ‘transcription factor’ causes breast cancer to develop an aggressive subtype that lacks sensitivity to oestrogen and does not respond to anti-oestrogen therapies such as Tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors. Transcription factors are molecules that switch genes on or off. In this case, the transcription factor known as ‘ELF5’ inhibits sensitivity to oestrogen very early in the life of a breast cancer cell.
Cancer study overturns current thinking about gene activation
MEDIA RELEASE: 14 Dec 2012Garvan scientists show that large regions, or 'domains' of the genome – amounting to roughly 2% – are epigenetically activated in prostate cancer. Regions activated contain many prostate cancer-specific genes, including PSA (prostate specific antigen), the most common prostate cancer marker. The findings have extensive ramifications for cancer diagnosis and treatment, including epigenetic-based gene therapies, as they require the targeting of domains of genes, as opposed to single genes.
A finding that could help Alpha-1 sufferers breathe more easily
MEDIA RELEASE: 13 Dec 2012Garvan researchers in collaboration with colleagues in the US have identified a new mutation in the gene that causes the inherited disease known as Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (Alpha-1), which affects roughly one in 2,500 people of European descent. Alpha-1 can lead to serious lung disease in adults, or liver disease at any age. The finding extends understanding of Alpha-1 at the molecular level, potentially leading to new drug development and better diagnostic tools.
Valuable tool for predicting pain genes in people
MEDIA RELEASE: 07 Dec 2012In collaboration with Austrian colleagues, scientists at Garvan have described a “network map” of genes involved in pain perception, with remarkable similarity from fruit flies to people. The work should help identify new analgesic drugs.
Recipients of the 2013 John Shine Translational Research Fellowship Announced
MEDIA RELEASE: 05 Dec 2012The Garvan Institute of Medical Research and St Vincent’s Hospital are pleased to announce the the 2013 John Shine Translational Research Fellowships, which will support translational research at Garvan, St Vincent’s Hospital and The Kinghorn Cancer Centre. The awardees are Dr Ann McCormack, Associate Professor Jackie Center and Dr Alex Viardot. The fellowship is named in honour of Professor John Shine AO FAA, Executive Director of Garvan from 1990-2011.
A new way of looking at Prader-Willi Syndrome
MEDIA RELEASE: 15 Nov 2012A Garvan study reveals that people with the rare genetic disorder known as Prader-Willi Syndrome may have an impaired autonomic nervous system. This discovery opens up a new way of looking at the insatiable appetite experienced by all sufferers, as well as their very high risk of cardiovascular disease.
A leap forward in the quest to develop an artificial pancreas
MEDIA RELEASE: 13 Nov 2012A Garvan diabetes specialist and Artificial Intelligence expert from the University of Queensland have collaborated to test the prototype of an artificial pancreas. Should a planned clinical study and clinical trial support the excellent ‘simulated’ results obtained so far, this breakthrough could one day change the lives of millions of people.
How infection can trigger autoimmune disease
MEDIA RELEASE: 09 Nov 2012Garvan scientists have confirmed a ‘weak link’ in the immune system – identifying the exact conditions under which an infection can trigger an autoantibody response, a process not clearly understood until now.
Luxi Zhang wins 2012 Castle Harlan Award
05 Nov 2012Luxi Zhang has received the $10,000 USD Castle Harlan Award for being the most outstanding early career PhD student at the Garvan Institute in 2012. Castle Harlan Inc. is a US-based private equity firm that wishes to support the kind of medical research being undertaken at Garvan.
When considering bariatric surgery think about bones
MEDIA RELEASE: 03 Nov 2012Bariatric surgery, which significantly curtails the amount of food a person can eat, is the most effective treatment against obesity. Unfortunately, some types of bariatric surgery may also cause bone loss, and skeletal examination and treatment should be considered part of patient care, before and after procedures say Garvan endocrinologists.
Unmasking the deadly secrets of pancreatic cancer
MEDIA RELEASE: 25 Oct 2012A large-scale study that defines the complexity of underlying mutations responsible for pancreatic cancers in more than 100 patients was published in Nature today. Garvan's Professor Andrew Biankin and Professor Sean Grimmond, from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) at The University of Queensland, co-led an international team that sequenced the genomes of 100 pancreatic tumours and compared them to normal tissue.
Garvan performs well in NHMRC grants round
24 Oct 2012Garvan received $19.6 million in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council grants, announced last Friday by the federal Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek, at the University of Sydney. The Institute performed at least 50% above the national average, receiving 12.5% of funding awarded to NSW as a whole, and 3% of the national total. The minister announced a total of $652 million for 1141 grants in medical research across Australia.
Vale Professor Robert Sutherland FAA AO (1947 – 2012)
15 Oct 2012Professor Rob Sutherland FAA AO, Director of the Cancer Research Program at Garvan for 27 years, inaugural Director of The Kinghorn Cancer Centre and Senior Principal Research Fellow of the National Health and Medical Research Council, died on Wednesday 10th October from pancreatic cancer. Rob will be a great loss to the Institute, and to his many friends and family. He is survived by his wife Cheryl and children Andrew, Sarah, Rebecca and Charles and brother Alistair.
Enhancing prostate cancer prognosis at the micro level
MEDIA RELEASE: 07 Aug 2012It is now widely acknowledged that ‘non-coding’ genes known as microRNAs play a big role in cancer, through their mechanical regulation of other genes. In a three-year study, Garvan researchers have identified one microRNA, in particular, that is strongly associated with prostate cancer prognosis.
Garvan scientist attracts Michael J Fox Foundation funding
MEDIA RELEASE: 06 Aug 2012Associate Professor Antony Cooper will be receiving support from the US-based Michael J Fox Foundation, which funds research to speed progress in developing therapies for Parkinson’s Disease. Dr Cooper has been investigating a gene that appears to play a protective role by reducing the damaging effects of a protein considered central to the onset and progression of Parkinson’s Disease.
Knockout finding reveals large number of genes that affect our bones
MEDIA RELEASE: 03 Aug 2012Garvan's Professor Peter Croucher, along with colleagues from Imperial College London and the UK's Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, have shown that a large percentage of genes are likely to affect bone strength, potentially around 2,000 of the 21,000 genes in our bodies. Out of 100 ‘knockout mice’, the first generated on a ‘pipeline’ set up by the Sanger Institute (as part of a global effort to knockout every gene in the genome one by one) the scientists identified 9 genes that appear to weaken or strengthen bone.
International consensus on 'secondary fracture prevention'
MEDIA RELEASE: 01 Aug 2012An international Task Force examining ‘secondary fracture prevention’, initiated and co-chaired by Garvan's Professor John Eisman, and under the aegis of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR), has published its report in the prestigious Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, now online.
Pancreatic Cancer Research Group wins Cancer Institute NSW award
30 Jul 2012Garvan’s Pancreatic Cancer Research Group, led by Professor Andrew Biankin, recently won the inaugural Cancer Institute NSW ‘Wildfire award’ at CINSW’s annual cancer awards night, held to honour the work of the State's most innovative and dynamic cancer researchers.The Wildfire award recognises a highly-cited publication where the research results have significantly influenced how cancer is treated.
What pituitary tumours may tell us about the biology of other cancers
MEDIA RELEASE: 27 Jul 2012Garvan scientists in collaboration with Kolling Institute of Medical Research colleagues have published findings that suggest a DNA repair gene called MGMT might have a greater role to play in the growth of cancers than previously realised.
Four organisations use epigenetics to beat obesity
25 Jul 2012Scientists from Garvan, CSIRO, The Women’s and Children’s Health Research Institute and the University of South Australia have announced a new research collaboration, which aims to understand the role of epigenetics in the development of obesity and its related diseases such as diabetes. The four-year “EPISCOPE” research project – ‘Early nutrition, the epigenome and the prevention of disease’ – is being supported by the Commonwealth Government's Science and Industry Endowment Fund.
Understanding how a key group of immune cells is born
MEDIA RELEASE: 06 Jul 2012A Garvan scientist, in collaboration with colleagues from Switzerland, has demonstrated for the first time how an important class of immune cells, ‘Follicular dendritic cells’, essential for the development of antibodies, comes into being. The significance of their finding is underlined by its publication in the very prestigious international journal Cell.
Making biologically active yet stable antibodies
MEDIA RELEASE: 28 Jun 2012Garvan scientists have overcome one of the most pressing problems facing the pharmaceutical industry – how to create antibodies that are stable enough to meet stringent requirements necessary for production in large quantities, injection into patients and long-term storage.
Improving life for those who suffer most from Type 1 diabetes
MEDIA RELEASE: 19 Jun 2012A transplant procedure given only to those with Type 1 diabetes who pass out repeatedly from low blood sugar levels, or ‘hypos’, is likely to become much more effective as a result of a discovery made by a group of researchers from Garvan and the Westmead Islet Transplant Program.
Science animators to make biomedicine beautiful
MEDIA RELEASE: 12 Jun 2012Garvan, Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) and CSIRO have jointly received a competitive grant (Inspiring Australia: Unlocking Australia’s Potential) to create scientifically accurate 3D animations that explain key research breakthroughs in a way that inspires and engages the general public.
Taking a muscular approach towards diabetes and other diseases
MEDIA RELEASE: 28 May 2012Garvan scientists have identified a gene that helps build muscle, a finding that could help unlock therapies for Type 2 diabetes and diseases such as muscular dystrophy, where muscles are weakened or atrophied.
Chairman outlines key Health and Medical Research issues at Garvan AGM
15 May 2012Chairman of Garvan, Mr Bill Ferris AC, welcomed The Hon Jillian Skinner (Minister for Health and Minister for Medical Research), as well as incoming Executive Director Professor John Mattick, at this year's Annual General Meeting, held on 1 May, 2012. In his address he outlined what he sees emerging as 10 key issues / questions for resolution in the two Health and Medical Research reviews that are currently taking place - one at State, the other at Federal level.
Weight loss reduces artery stiffness in Type 2 diabetes
MEDIA RELEASE: 02 May 2012A Garvan study shows that losing 6 kg reduces artery stiffness by 20% in obese people with Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes carries a six-fold greater risk of heart disease due to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Cardiovascular disease is the commonest cause of death in people with diabetes – accounting for 68% of all deaths.
Potential gene therapy for patients with rare disease
MEDIA RELEASE: 11 Apr 2012Australian scientists have discovered that a biological phenomenon known as ‘somatic reversion’, when an abnormal gene spontaneously becomes normal again, explains why some patients with a rare genetic disorder live much longer than they should. The finding provides hope for future gene therapy treatments.
Rotary awards Garvan epigeneticist in 2012
28 Mar 2012Garvan’s Professor Susan Clark has received a Rotary Award for Vocational Excellence in recognition of her major contributions to the field of ‘epigenetics’. Epigenetics is a branch of research that seeks to understand changes that occur in the function of genes without a change in the genome sequence.
Mathematicians solving today’s problems of ‘systems biology’
MEDIA RELEASE: 21 Mar 2012The current challenge for systems biology, or the study of whole body processes, is how to measure the changes that take place, moment by moment, among roughly 12,000 proteins in a cell when that cell is exposed to a stimulus – such as the hormone insulin. Bioinformaticians have now created clever software that allows exactly this kind of processing.
Potential to adjust the volume control on our immune response
MEDIA RELEASE: 16 Mar 2012Garvan scientists have shown for the first time that people need a specific gene for a critical component of the immune system to function properly. By amplifying or blocking the function of this gene, they suggest, we might be better able to fight immunodeficient states, cancers and autoimmune diseases in the future.
Creating “death-defying” insulin-producing islets for transplantation
MEDIA RELEASE: 13 Mar 2012Garvan scientists have identified one way of making a frustratingly tricky transplant – of insulin-producing ‘islets of Langerhans’ into patients with Type 1 diabetes – more successful. Part of the Commonwealth-funded Australian Islet Transplant Consortium formed in 2006, the Garvan team has found that islets are severely handicapped from the outset. Before they ever reach their mark, they are full of inflammatory molecules, much like stressed or damaged tissue.
Professor John Mattick wins prestigious HUGO Chen Award
MEDIA RELEASE: 12 Mar 2012Professor John Mattick AO FAA FRCPA, Garvan's Executive Director, will be presented with the Chen Award 2012 for Distinguished Academic Achievement in Human Genetic and Genomic Research, by the Human Genome Organisation (HUGO) on Wednesday evening - after he has delivered the President's Oration.
Understanding why some obese people stay sensitive to insulin
MEDIA RELEASE: 01 Feb 2012Obesity, especially central obesity, is associated with insulin resistance, which precedes diabetes, sometimes by more than a decade. However, it’s not only a question of body weight or fat distribution, because some obese people remain insulin-sensitive, with insulin working as well in their bodies as in someone lean.
Potential for earlier diagnosis of ovarian cancer
MEDIA RELEASE: 24 Jan 2012Garvan scientists have identified biochemical changes that commonly occur in the DNA of women with ovarian cancer, which may help diagnose the cancer at an earlier stage in the future. The study used whole genome DNA profiling methods - locating six potential 'biomarkers', one of them a novel gene.
Fighting illnesses that accompany the latest anti-psychotic drugs
MEDIA RELEASE: 11 Jan 2012Anti-psychotic drugs for treating serious mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, are effective and often life-saving but come with unwelcome side effects. They dramatically increase weight as well as the incidence of metabolic disorders such as raised blood fats and Type 2 diabetes, say Sydney-based specialists. The rapid decline in physical health is so clinically significant, and of such concern, that the specialists put together a physical health protection algorithm last year.