We do ground-breaking work in areas you might not know about

Our research spans several medical conditions. Image byThisisRngineering RAEng/Unsplash.

While we are best known for our work on cancer, the GMRI team also carries out world-leading work in other fields.

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Students and interns contribute to understanding of diseases

Dr Sabrina Koh and Therese Featherston have both been involved in the GMRI’s summer student programme. Their respective experiences helped shape their career aspirations.

In addition to the GMRI’s staff and a PhD student, we take on summer students and interns every year to undertake research. In this article, we explain our summer student and intern programmes, and talk to 2 past students about their experiences.

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Our manuscripts, our heart

Reflecting on our hard work over the years. Image byLinus Schütz/Pixabay license.

Our manuscripts record the hard work of our researchers, our students and interns, and our supporters over the years. We’ve had 99 manuscripts on our discoveries published in peer-reviewed journals around the world since we moved into our new premises at the end of 2013. Our team has presented papers at over 70 international and national conferences and won a number of prizes and awards. We’ve also secured 9 international patents from our discoveries across the range of diseases we investigate. We wouldn’t be here today without the huge efforts of our people and many supporters along the way.

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Meet our pathologists — Dr Helen Brasch and Dr Bridget Chang-McDonald

Dr Helen Brasch, left, and Dr Bridget Chang-McDonald are the GMRI’s two resident pathologists.

Our pathologists often work behind the scenes, so we want to share more about their important roles in our research. ‘We are very fortunate to have in-house anatomical pathology expertise – among other things, an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the characteristics of the disease tissues we are studying – an envy of many biomedical research institutes’, says Dr Tan. ‘Our pathologists’ contributions are hugely significant and fundamental to our quest for a better solution to unsolved medical problems.’

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Private donor pledging: your opportunity to make a real difference

By supporting our research, you’ll play a part in making a real difference in the lives of people suffering from cancer. Image byLina Trochez/Unsplash.

Our goals as a charity are not small — the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute exists to reduce human suffering and improve lives. You can help us to achieve our aspirations.

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We’ve achieved significant progress in 2019

With another year drawing to a close, we reflect on what the past 12 months have brought to the GMRI and the people we aim to help. We’ve made some exciting discoveries and shared them with scientists and specialists around the world. We’ve had some talented people join our team, and we’re waiting for our new Principal Investigator to arrive. Underscoring these activities is the generous support of our many donors, whose dedication and generosity allow us to keep pushing the boundaries. We couldn’t be more grateful to you all.

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Expression of Components of the Renin-Angiotensin System by the Embryonic Stem Cell-Like Population within Keloid Lesions

Authors: Hugo Humphries, Helen D. Brasch, Bede van Schaijik, Swee T. Tan, Tinte Itinteang

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (2019). Volume 144(2)  pp 372 – 384. Doi:10.1097/PRS.0000000000005867.

https://journals.lww.com/plasreconsurg/Abstract/2019/08000/Expression_of_Components_of_the_Renin_Angiotensin.22.aspx

Keloid disorders are characterised by abundant scar tissue resulting from excessive collagen deposition in the skin, being 15 times more common in dark-skinned people. They appear to be genetically inherited and are associated with wound repair but, unlike hypertrophic scars, which are confined to the area around the wound, keloid lesions extend beyond it.

The Gillies McIndoe Research Institute has now demonstrated that the renin-angiotensin system is present in keloid lesions and in the stem cells of the lesion. This raises the possibility of inhibitors of the renin-angiotensin system, classically associated with cardiovascular homeostasis and electrolyte balance, being potential treatments.

These results provides support and a possible mechanism for the recent observation that enalapril, an ACE inhibitor, and so connected to the renin-angiotensin system, is efficacious in treating keloid disorder.

Characterization of Cancer Stem Cells in Renal Clear Cell Carcinoma

Authors: Reuben Cane, Andrew Kennedy-Smith, Helen D. Brasch, Stephanie Savage, Reginald W. Marsh, Tinte Itinteang, Swee T. Tan 

Journal of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology (2019) Volume 5, pp6 – 17. https://www.ommegaonline.org/articles/publishimages/16710-JSRB-19-RA-2462.pdf

Renal cell carcinoma is the ninth most common cancer, with renal clear cell carcinoma comprising up to 85% of renal cell carcinomas. Obesity, smoking and high blood pressure are well-established risk factors for these cancers.

Surgery is the conventional treatment although there is still a 40% recurrence rate. 30% eventually develop metastases. Advanced disease can be treated with drugs. The five-year survival rate is only 10%.

The GMRI and collaborators have proposed that tumour development and proliferation is driven by cancer stem cells that possess self-renewal and pluripotent properties and are responsible for metastasis and recurrence. Our research has demonstrated that many types of cancer express cancer stem cells.

This study concludes that there are at least two types of cancer stem cells in renal clear cell carcinoma, each expressing several common constituents with some constituents that are unique to a specific population. There is evidence that one of these populations is more mature than the other.

Therefore it has now been demonstrated that this most common type of kidney cancer has cancer stem cells similarly to many other cancers. The implication is that the GMRI’s novel cancer treatment approach may be efficacious.

Therapeutic Targeting of Cancer Stem-Like Cells – The Current State of the Art

The GMRI has just published a review article in Frontiers in Oncology following an invitation to submit an article to the special issue on ‘Therapeutic Targeting of Cancer Stem-Like Cells – The Current State of the Art

https://www.frontiersin.org/research-topics/8187

The article describes the links between cancer stem cells and the renin-angiotensin system, which controls blood pressure and fluid balance, and outlines the evidence that suggests targeting this system might target cancer stem cells.

Lead author Dr Imogen Roth explains in the article, titled ‘Therapeutic Targeting of Cancer Stem Cells via Modulation of the Renin-Angiotensin System’, how the renin-angiotensin system also appears to have a role in stem cell differentiation, and suggests that the renin-angiotensin system might also have a role in cancer stem cell maintenance.

To support this, Dr Roth outlines numerous studies which have shown that the renin-angiotensin system is elevated in cancer, and how common anti-hypertensive medications which target the renin-angiotensin system have been shown to prevent or reduce the development of cancer.

As such, it appears that the roles of the renin-angiotensin system in both stem cell maintenance and tumour development may converge on cancer stem cells, making targeting the renin-angiotensin system a potential cancer therapy.

The article can be viewed at https://doi.org/10.3389/fonc.2019.00745

Our research on the international stage at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ Annual Scientific Congress, May 2019

Dr Swee Tan with the plaques for being the ‘Distinguished Invited Lecturer’ in the plenary session (on the left) and for presenting the ‘Tom Reeve Lecture’ (on the right).

In May, we were honoured to deliver presentations at the 88th Annual Scientific Congress of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, held in Bangkok. Over 1750 delegates attended the Congress from Australia, New Zealand, and around the world. Many of our colleagues inspired us with the discoveries they shared.

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