Pain and diarrhoea are some of the devastating side-effects of cancer treatment.

Hannah Wardill

Hannah Wardill

New research from the University of Adelaide has now shown that this is a result of an exaggerated immune response; and could be overcome by targeting the immune system.

“I identified that a gut receptor called TLR4 drives the heightened immune response,” says researcher Hannah Wardill.

“Deletion of TLR4 in mice provides protection, lowering the severity and duration of diarrhoea and reducing chemotherapy-induced pain.”

The results support existing evidence linking gut health with nerve function and sensation, and are consistent with the experiences of many who’ve been through cancer treatment.

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Jerry Zhou

Cancer cell ‘fingerprints’ may spell the end to one-size-fits-all therapy as patients are given information to personalise their treatment, says a Sydney scientist.

Jerry Zhou, a PhD candidate, and a team at the Cancer Proteomics Laboratory, University of Sydney, took molecular fingerprints of cancer cells, which allowed them to predict a cancer’s progress and match patients with the best possible therapy.

“Traditionally, all cancers have been labelled as a mindless mass of growing cells and the therapies reflect this one-size-fits-all approach,” says Jerry.

“We are now just beginning to understand their complexity. Cancers are consistently changing and evolving, which means for therapies to work, we need to be one step ahead of the cancer,” he says.

The evolution of cancers is assisted by changes in proteins on their surface. These proteins do the cancer’s dirty work by allowing the cancer to elude the body’s own defences or absorb more nutrients for rapid growth.

To predict what cancers are going to do next, Jerry used an Australian patented cell-capture biochip to take protein fingerprints from over 100 cancer patients around NSW. These cancer fingerprints revealed the aggressiveness of the cancer and helped to predict a patient’s survival.

“By knowing how a cancer will act, we can match the correct therapy with the right patient to get the best results. Protein fingerprinting is providing us with the information needed to personalise cancer therapy,” Jerry says.

NSW State Finalist: Jerry Zhou, The University of Sydney

Madleen Busse

At a time when antibiotic resistance is high, a promising new class of antibiotics has been developed to fight the bacteria that causes gastrointestinal ulcers and cancers.

Madleen Busse and a team of Monash University researchers have designed novel bismuth compounds that are more powerful than the drugs used to treat Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), raising the possibility of faster and safer treatment for patients.

“We are one step closer to having a novel powerful antibiotic against H. pylori,” says Madleen Busse, who conducted the research as part of her PhD at Monash University.

“These compounds are 250 times more effective against H. pylori compared to the commercially available bismuth drugs,” she says.

Madleen, together with one of her supervisor’s collaborators, Professor Richard Ferrero of the Monash Institute of Medical Research, found that bismuth sulfonate compounds killed H pylori in vitro.  Her Monash University supervisor, Professor Phil Andrews, and his research team are now looking to conduct phase pre-clinical trials.

“All the research teams are very excited to see the research proceeding onto the next level to test the most promising antibiotics developed in the laboratory,” Madleen says.

H pylori has become increasingly resistant to antibiotics over the past 15 years, with patients having to undertake multiple therapies and higher doses of medication.  These triple and quadruple therapies often involve colloidal bismuth subcitrate.

Victoria State Finalist: Madleen Busse, Monash University