Tracking cancer at a thousand cells a second

Centenary InstituteThe Cancer Institute NSW has pitched in half a million dollars towards operating a biochemical tracking machine which will form the centrepiece of one of Sydney’s newest research centres.

The Ramaciotti Centre for Human Systems Biology, opening in 2014, will be home to Australia’s first CyTOF (cytometry by time of flight) mass spectrometer which can follow up to 100 different cellular processes simultaneously in a thousand cells each second.

This cellular approach to understanding human diseases will be the focus of the Centre, and cancer will be a major theme, according to one of the founders Prof Barbara Fazekas de St Groth from the Centenary Institute.

“We already have proposals from researchers who plan to use the Centre to explore:

  • how individual human melanoma cells change as they migrate away from a tumour;
  • how cells become cancerous in response to UV radiation, and potential new drugs to treat them; and
  • the differences between the individual cells in a breast cancer tumour.”

But that’s not all. Prof Fazekas is determined to ensure that the equipment and expertise of the new Centre is freely available to the wider NSW research community. They already have the support of many of the state’s research organisations including the University of New South Wales, Anzac Institute, Garvan Institute, Westmead Millennium Institute, Royal Prince Alfred, Concord and Westmead Hospitals.

Prof Fazekas and her colleagues expect that their work will also lead to potential drug targets for improved approaches to the treatment of allergies, as well as to a better understanding of the role of regulatory T cells in disease, organ transplants and vaccines.

The Centre, a joint venture between the Centenary Institute and The University of Sydney is being established with a $1 million Ramaciotti Biomedical Research Award received earlier this year.

The $500,000 grant from the Cancer Institute NSW was one of 11 grants for cancer research totalling $.3.5 million announced by NSW Health Minister Julian Skinner last month.

For more about the grants:

And more about Ramaciotti Centre for Human Systems biology here: