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The University of Melbourne has been awarded more than $35M to improve the lives of people suffering Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, knee osteoarthritis and bacterial infections.

A University of Melbourne study has revealed that certain breast cancer genetic variants increase mammographic density, confirming the link between mammographic breast density and breast cancer.

Professor John Hopper of the University’s School of Population Health says women vary greatly in their underlying risk of breast cancer. “These findings provide an insight into possible new pathways into the development of breast cancer.”

“We hope our research on mammographic density will eventually help identify women at higher risk of getting breast cancer. That is still a way off, but for now women should follow national guidelines for screening,” he says.

The findings have come from contributions from researchers in the University’s School of Population Health and Department of Pathology along with key national and international collaborators. The paper was published today in the prestigious international journal Cancer Research.

“Previous twin studies have suggested there is a genetic link between mammographic density and breast cancer. For the first time, we have been able to identify some of the breast cancer genetic variants involved.”

The amount of light areas on a mammogram reveals the mammographic density of a woman’s breast.  Women who have high mammographic density for their age are at an increased risk of breast cancer.

Using mammograms and blood samples from a study of 830 twin pgairs and 600 of their sisters aged between 30 and 80 years recruited via the Australian Twin Registry, researchers investigated 12 genetic variants which are known to be associated with breast cancer.

Dr Jennifer Stone, who led the measurement of mammographic density, says, “We aimed to determine if these genetic variants associated with breast cancer risk also influenced mammographic density. We found at least two variants were linked.”

“To date, three other studies had examined this question but have not provided a convincing answer.”
 
“Finding that several genetic variants associated with breast cancer genes are also associated with mammographic density could help explain some of the biological reasons why women of the same age differ so much in mammographic density,” Professor Hopper says.

“In doing so, it could also help unravel how these genetic variants are associated with breast cancer risk. This is the beginning of a new research focus on how cancers begin and the role mammographic density plays.”

The research was conducted in collaboration with BreastScreen services across the country, the Australian Twin Registry and the Cancer Council Victoria, and supported by the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Cancer Australia, the Victorian Breast Cancer Research Consortium and the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The researchers will now undertake a pooled international study to identify more genetic variants that are linked to mammographic density and breast cancer

Currently, BreastScreen Victoria recommends women aged 50 to 69 years have a screening mammogram every two years.

 

A University of Melbourne study has revealed that certain breast cancer genetic variants increase mammographic density, confirming the link between mammographic breast density and breast cancer.

Victorian life sciences researchers are set to benefit from a partnership between the University of Melbourne and IBM announced today by the Premier of Victoria, the Hon. John Brumby.

Two renowned University of Melbourne medical researchers have received $4m Australia Fellowships awarded by the NHMRC and announced today by Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Mr Mark Butler.

The University of Melbourne congratulates Professor Pat McGorry as the 2010 Australian of the Year.

The University of Melbourne congratulates Professor Pat McGorry as the 2010 Australian of the Year.

Professor McGorry is Professor of Youth Mental Health at the University of Melbourne, Executive Director of Orygen Youth Health (OYH), a world-renowned youth mental health organisation and Director of the National Youth Mental Health Foundation (headspace).

With an emphasis on early intervention and a commitment to educating the community to the early signs of mental illness, Professor McGorry’s extraordinary 27-year contribution has transformed the lives of tens of thousands of young people the world over.

University of Melbourne Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar said the University was delighted that Professor McGorry's outstanding contributions to youth mental health, through research and education, have been recognised at the highest Australian level. 

"Pat McGorry has been a passionate advocate for youth mental health issues for almost three decades.  He has transformed the lives of many young people with early psychosis and has helped to create much-needed awareness of these issues in our community," he says.
 
Professor Bruce Singh, Acting Dean, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences says, the Faculty is thrilled that one of its long standing members has been honoured by the award of Australian of the Year, joining an elite group of distinguished contributors to this country.

“It vindicates the decision of the Faculty to create the first Chair of Youth Mental Health in Australia and to appoint Professor McGorry to it by invitation in 2006,” Professor Singh says.

“The Faculty is very proud that Professor McGorry has utilized his role in the University over many years to be a fearless advocate for the needs of young people with mental health problems and a very effective champion in bringing increased recognition to the area and a substantial increase in government funding for it.

“I am particularly pleased because of the small role I played in bringing him into the University shortly after I took over leadership of the Department of Psychiatry some 20 years ago.”

 

Scientists at The Royal Melbourne Hospital and the University of Melbourne have discovered the cells that cause a common type of childhood leukaemia – T cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (T-ALL). Targeting of these cells may lead to improved treatments for this disease and help prevent relapse.

The team, led by Dr Matthew McCormack and Dr David Curtis of the Rotary Bone Marrow Research Laboratories and the University’s Department of Medicine at The Royal Melbourne Hospital, made the discovery whilst studying mice prone to developing this leukaemia.

The results have been published online today by the prestigious international journal Science.

The team found that with irradiation treatment in animal models, over 99 per cent of cells in the thymus were killed, but these stem cell-like cells persisted and rapidly recovered. This suggests that these cells may survive therapy and be responsible for relapsed disease following treatment.

Currently, children with T-ALL are given extended therapy over two to three years in an attempt to stop a relapse. More targeted therapy on the thymus cells could reduce the length and toxicity of treatment and prevent relapse.

Dr McCormack, a leading international expert on childhood leukaemia, said: “The cellular origins of this leukaemia are not well understood. Our discovery that these cells are similar to normal stem cells explains why they are capable of surviving for long periods. It also explains why they are remarkably resistant to treatment.”

Approximately 50 new cases of T-ALL are diagnosed every year in Australia, two thirds of these in children or adolescents. Adults also contract T-ALL, and the majority succumb to resistant or relapsed disease.


Dr Curtis, a Clinical Haematologist and head of the Leukaemia Research Program at The Royal Melbourne Hospital, said: “The identification of these cells provides an important target for the development and testing of new treatments for patients with T cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.”

The team will now focus on novel treatments capable of killing these cells, which may lead to clinical trials within the next five years.

The research also involved Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine, UK.

The research was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, Cancer Council Victoria, Leukaemia Foundation of Australia and the Fight Cancer Foundation (BMDI).

Scientists at The Royal Melbourne Hospital and the University of Melbourne have discovered the cells that cause a common type of childhood leukaemia - T cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (T-ALL). Targeting of these cells may lead to improved treatments for this disease and help prevent relapse.

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