Our research and key clinical collaborators put us at the cutting edge of cancer glycomics

The Australian Cancer Glycomics Facility comprises:

  • new priority areas of cancer biology
  • cancer-focused synthetic medicinal chemistry and protein crystallography
  • state-of-the-art equipment and technical support.

Together with our key clinical collaborators Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Hannover Medical School and the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, we have existing programs in melanoma and other metastatic cancers, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia and Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, to create the world’s largest critical mass in cancer glycomics.

Our researchers have made significant breakthroughs specifically focusing on Childhood Leukaemia, Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and Melanoma. Our aim now is to create the world's largest critical mass in cancer glycomics.

PROFESSOR

Mark von Itzstein

Childhood leukaemia

Childhood cancer is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Australia has one of the highest rates of childhood cancer with more than 600 children diagnosed with cancer each year. Childhood cancers are generally different to adult cancers, requiring specific approaches to treatment.

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is the most common form of cancer in children but it also affects adults. Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is characterised by an overproduction of immature white blood cells, called lymphoblasts or leukaemic blasts. These cells crowd the bone marrow, preventing it from making normal blood cells. They can also spill out into the blood stream and circulate around the body. Due to their immaturity, these cells are unable to function properly to prevent or fight infection. Inadequate numbers of red cells and platelets being made by the marrow cause anaemia, and easy bleeding and bruising. Each year in Australia more than 300 people are diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. The incidence of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is on the rise and despite substantial advances in treatment during the past four decades the rate of long-term survival has reached a plateau. Approximately 20 percent of children and 45 percent of adults in developed countries eventually succumb to this terrible disease. In part, this is due to some cancer cells becoming resistant to currently available therapies. Thus management of drug-resistant acute lymphoblastic leukaemia remains a significant challenge and new drugs are desperately needed. Through our collaboration with the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Hannover Medical School, we are determining the role of carbohydrates on the surface of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia cells so ultimately we can use that knowledge to develop new approaches to cure acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Childhood lymphomas are the third largest cause of cancer in children. Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is the term used to describe a broad range of blood cancers. The majority of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is caused by B-cell malignancies.

Melanoma

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. There are three main types of skin cancer that are named after the cells that are affected: squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Melanoma develops from the melanocytes (pigment cells). Melanoma is one of the least common skin cancers. However, it is one of the most serious types because it is more likely to spread to other parts of the body, especially if not detected early.

Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of melanoma in the world.

Over 3,100 people are estimated to be diagnosed with melanoma in Queensland every year.

One in 13 Queenslanders will be diagnosed with melanoma before age 85.

Our cancer research teams have made significant breakthroughs over the past two years. These breakthroughs have provided us with a foundation upon which we are building an exciting research program for the discovery of much-needed drugs to treat melanoma.

Want to know more?

Get in touch with the Institute for Glycomics