Young researchers fight cancer

  • How does melanoma move and spread?
  • How do our genes cause leukaemia?
  • And is shooting the messenger an effective treatment for melanoma?
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Dr Kimberly Beaumont (centre) was one of our researchers awarded a grant.

Three researchers from the Centenary Institute and the University of Sydney have just been awarded an Early Career Fellowship by the Cancer Institute NSW to find the answers to these questions.

When dealing with the deadly form of skin cancer known as melanoma, shooting the messenger for once may turn out to be an effective strategy.

Rab27a is a protein that ferries compounds about cells, but is also inhibited by statins – more commonly known for their use as cholesterol lowering drugs.

So Kimberley will also be checking out their potential for the prevention or treatment of melanoma.

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The Hon. Jillian Skinner, MP, was present to announce the grants.

In earlier work, Kimberley and her colleagues showed that melanoma cells produced high levels of Rab27a, and that it was essential to the development of tumours and the spread of the cancer. Statins are known to inhibit the functioning of Rab27a and, through their widespread use in heart disease, to be relatively safe.

She will employ several innovative methods including 3D spherical clusters of melanoma cells and microscopy techniques which allow researchers to track the cell division cycle in the cells of tumours on living mice.

Dr Beaumont is one of three Centenary researchers who were awarded Cancer Institute NSW fellowships, funded by the NSW Government and each worth about $200,000 a year over three years.

Centenary’s other early career fellows awarded in 2014 are:

Dr Maté Biro of the Immune Imaging Program, who is investigating how melanoma cells move to spread throughout the body.

Dr Justin Wong of the Gene & Stem Therapy Research Laboratory, who is looking at the details of a genetic cause for acute myeloid leukaemia.

Centenary’s Executive Director, Professor Mathew Vadas AO could not be prouder of these early career researchers.

“These young researchers are so passionate about their work, and it’s great to see their efforts being rewarded by the NSW Government, Cancer Institute NSW and other funding bodies,” he says.

Dr Beaumont and Dr Biro also recently won Early Career Researcher awards from the Cure Cancer Australia Foundation.

Kimberley was also part of a successful bid to the Cancer Council NSW for a grant to test the effectiveness in treating melanoma for a drug that targets the membranous region of cells known as the endoplasmic reticulum.

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