Centre for Cancer Biology researchers have won four NHMRC Project Grants.  

Dr Michael Samuel winning funding for two projects. 

Dr Samuel’s first project will investigate how a protein known as ROCK promotes cancer tumours. 

“The spread of cancers from primary to secondary sites is responsible most cancer-related deaths,” Dr Samuel says. 

“As cancers grow and spread, their internal structure is modified. Immune cells in the cancer begin to behave differently to the same types of cells in normal tissues, promoting its spread. 

“We have discovered that many of these changes are regulated by a protein called ROCK. In this project grant, we will study how ROCK controls such a wide range of tumour promoting processes.”

Dr Samuel’s second project will look at wound healing. He says wounds that remain unhealed can require surgery and limb amputations, leading to disability and premature death and costing the health system $3 billion a year.

“We have found that wound healing can be accelerated more than two-fold by the inhibition of a protein, called 14-3-3zeta, and seek to find out how this occurs so that it may be used for therapy,” he says.

Other CCB researchers who received funding were Associate Professor Claudine Bonder and CCB co-director Professor Sharad Kumar.

Associate Professor Claudine Bonder received funding to investigate a novel lifeline to treat Type 1 diabetes, for which the only treatment involves the transplantation of pancreatic islets.

“Unfortunately many of the transplanted islet cells die quickly due to an inadequate supply of blood,” she says.

“In this project, we will investigate a novel cell surface protein for its role in islet and blood vessel survival and function. We’ll use nanotechnology to provide the protein to the islet cells during transplantation for increased survival and function. Ultimately, we hope this work may cure patients with diabetes.” 

CCB co-director Professor Sharad Kumar received funding to investigate Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), a life-threatening disorder affecting more than 12 million people worldwide.

“This project is based on our discovery of a new gene that controls PKD,” Prof Kumar says.

“Using kidney specific gene knockout, biomedical and cellular approaches, we will now address how this gene controls PKD. The results from this study will lead to better understanding of the underlying mechanisms that cause PKD, thus providing possible new targets for therapeutic interventions.”