Media releases

Clinical trial to test potential new combination therapy for aggressive breast cancer

Media call 11 am, Garvan Institute with researchers and the late Rebecca Wilson’s brother, Jim Wilson

Meet in the foyer of the Kinghorn Cancer Centre, 370 Victoria St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010

Researchers are recruiting volunteers for a clinical trial they hope will improve survival rates for an aggressive form of breast cancer that affects about 1,500 women each year in New South Wales.

The trial will test a new strategy in cancer treatment: using a new therapy to target a ‘defence switch’ on cancer cells that alerts cancer to the threat of chemotherapy.

The trial aims to improve survival rates for patients with triple negative breast cancer, a treatment-resistant form of cancer that can quickly adapt against chemotherapy. It will commence in August.

It will be led by Associate Professor Christine Chaffer and Dr Beatriz San Juan from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, and Senior Staff Specialist in medical oncology Dr Rachel Dear of St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney. The trial will be conducted at The Kinghorn Cancer Centre in Darlinghurst.

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Massive X-ray blasts, thousands of black holes revealed; a universe in a computer and more

Next generation astronomers win national recognition

A Sydney student, early-career researchers from Perth and Melbourne, and a fast telescope have received awards for changing our view of our galaxy and the Universe.

The Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA) will honour the five at its Annual Scientific Meeting in Hobart 27 June – 1 July.

“Australian astronomers are among the best in the world, and the breadth of these prestigious awards shows why we lead the world in so many areas. It is a pleasure to recognise these examples of individual brilliance, as well as teamwork, and technical innovation,” says ASA President Professor John Lattanzio.

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DeadlyScience and Merck to bring physics, chemistry, and biology experiments to young Indigenous scientists

Merck, a leading science and technology company, is proud to support DeadlyScience’s new program DeadlyLab to create STEM learning kits for students in remote areas. The kits will explore chemistry, physics, and biology with experiments based in Indigenous science.

DeadlyScience was founded in 2019 by proud Kamilaroi man Corey Tutt OAM, and has delivered more than 20,000 books, 500 telescopes and countless other learning tools to students in remote communities.

Now, Merck and DeadlyScience are partnering with Indigenous communities, Elders, and Indigenous subject-matter experts to create experiments, complete with worksheets and video tutorials, that can be used in school classrooms or at home.

“We work with hundreds of remote schools, who collectively have more than 28,000 students. Over 75% are Indigenous.

“We want to get them engaged with science, help them learn with play and hands-on experience, and show them Indigenous scientists. You can’t be what you can’t see,” says Corey.

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‘Sharkskin’ makes planes faster, smoother, cheaper

A sharkskin-inspired coating on planes will save thousands of dollars per flight and slash carbon emissions, says Aussie start-up, MicroTau.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) today announces a $5.6 million investment in MicroTau’s ‘sharkskin’ technology developed with the help of the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF).

Sharks famously swim smoothly and quietly, helped by their unique skin with thousands of overlapping layers of tiny ‘scales’ or denticles to reduce their drag in the water.

Mimicking this structure on airplanes reduces turbulence, increases flying speed, and cuts fuel emissions and cost. Unfortunately, it is excruciatingly difficult to replicate the microscopic grooves and bumps with traditional manufacturing.

MicroTau have solved this puzzle using specialist laser manufacturing technology to rapidly produce the shark skin pattern in a light-curable material onto large, self-adhesive patches. Today’s funding announcement will allow them to scale-up manufacturing and grow their team of scientists, engineers, and business development specialists.

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Stem-cell models reveal glaucoma secrets  

Australian researchers uncover hidden genetic markers of glaucoma.

Stem cell models of the retina and optical nerve have been used to identify previously unknown genetic markers of glaucoma, in research jointly led by scientists from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, the University of Melbourne, and the Centre for Eye Research Australia. The findings open the door to new treatment for glaucoma, which is the world’s leading cause of permanent blindness.

“We saw how the genetic causes of glaucoma act in single cells, and how they vary in different people. Current treatments can only slow the loss of vision, but this understanding is the first step towards drugs that target individual cell types,” says Professor Joseph Powell, joint lead author at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.

The research, published today in the journal Cell Genomics, comes out of a long-running collaboration between Australian medical research centres to use stem-cell models to uncover the underlying genetic causes of complicated diseases.

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Backyard astronomers win recognition from the professionals

200 supernovae found by six mates – enabling discoveries about the evolution of stars and the ingredients of life

Ex-miner from Broken Hill discovers a massive electrical storm on Saturn and guides NASA mission

Two amateur astronomy projects were awarded the 2022 Page Medal on Saturday 16 April at the National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers held online.

The six friends who make up The Backyard Observatory Supernova Search (BOSS) Team monitor distant galaxies to detect the death throes of massive stars as they explode in brilliant supernovae. The team then alerts professional telescopes to swing into action and study these phenomena at the crucial moment. The sooner those observations begin, the more is learnt about the lead up to the star’s final moments.

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An immune ‘fingerprint’ reveals path for better treatment of autoimmune diseases

Most autoimmune diseases are easy to diagnose but hard to treat. A paper published in Science proposes using your unique immune cell fingerprint to rapidly identify which treatments will work for your autoimmune disease.

‘We analysed the genomic profile of over one million cells from 1,000 people to identify a fingerprint linking genetic markers to diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, type 1 diabetes, spondylitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and Crohn’s disease,’ says Professor Joseph Powell, joint lead author at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. ‘We were able to do this using single cell sequencing, a new technology that allows us to detect subtle changes in individual cells,’ he says.

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Music teaches deaf and hard-of-hearing children to listen

Group music therapy helps hearing-impaired kids understand complex sounds

The improved listening skills boost educational and emotional growth

A 12-week music program is helping deaf and hard-of-hearing children learn to optimise their hearing aids and cochlear implants, by teaching them to better understand the sounds they detect.

The program, developed by Dr Chi Yhun Lo from Macquarie University, helps the children to extract meaningful information, such as separating noise from what they want to hear, a skill that is critical to their education and emotional development.

“Deafness is often seen as a barrier to engagement with music,” says Chi. “On the contrary, music actually is an excellent way to improve the problems associated with hearing loss.”

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Eating plastic makes for smaller mussels

RMIT researcher calls for reducing ‘microplastics’ in bathroom products

Mussels in Port Phillip Bay near Melbourne are ingesting microscopic pieces of plastic used in cosmetics. And it’s affecting their ability to grow and reproduce, an RMIT University eco-toxicologist has found.

The microplastics travel from our bathroom sinks to the ocean, where they are easily confused with algae or seaweeds. Because they cannot tell the difference, the mussels take in the plastic along with their normal diet of algae.

But, says researcher Dr Charlene Trestrail, the plastics affect the action of four of their key digestive enzymes which means the mussels then struggle to break down starch into the simple sugars they need to survive.

“We don’t think the plastic affects mussels directly, but it does reduce their ability to digest the real food in their gut, which means they miss out on energy and nutrients,” says Dr Trestrail.

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Smart glove to train young surgeons

A glove is being trialled at Liverpool Hospital that gives surgical trainees instant and accurate feedback. Researchers say the gloves could also be used by musicians and artists.

Engineers at Western Sydney University have invented a new surgical glove built around low-cost sensors which can record hand movements in fine detail, giving trainee surgeons and their mentors actionable data to evaluate and improve on intricate surgical procedures.

The research team are working closely with surgeons and students at Liverpool Hospital to develop the technology, which will augment rather than replace traditional surgical training.

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