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Professor John O'Toole discusses the purposes and the current progress of the National Curriculum.

Professor O'Toole is the Chair of Arts Education at the University of Melbourne, and lead author of the arts subject area of the National Curriculum.


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.


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).

The University of Melbourne's strong number of offers are evidence of an increased demand for the University's new generation degrees, says Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar.

"This represents a resounding endorsement of the new-gen degrees, and the Melbourne Model of which they form a part.  Students clearly welcome the focus the new degrees place on disciplinary depth and intellectual breadth, as well the outstanding pathways to professional graduate study, research training opportunities, or employment."

Just over 5700 students will receive an offer of a Commonwealth Supported Place at the University of Melbourne when first round offers are released this evening.

For full details about the University's offers, please go to the media release here:

Have you received an offer and want to share your excitment? Head to the University of Melbourne's official Facebook page

As first round offers are sent out to students Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Sue Elliott says she is excited about the the number of offers the University of Melbourne has made through its Access program.

"The University of Melbourne is absolutely committed to attracting students with the best possible potential to achieve...This year we've increased the diversity of our intake of students, and 25% of our offers have gone to students who come in through the Access program, which recognises that there are inequalities in education."

"We are very much looking forward to increasing the numbers of students from rural & regional backgrounds, low socio-economic backgrounds and a whole range of other backgrounds."

Just over 5700 students will receive an offer of a Commonwealth Supported Place at the University of Melbourne when first round offers are released this evening.

For full details about the University's offers, please go to the media release here:

Have you received an offer and want to share your excitment? Head to the University of Melbourne's official Facebook page

Increased numbers of students applying for the University of Melbourne's Bachelor of Science shows that students believe science is important to the future of our society, according to the Dean of the Faculty, Professor Robert Saint.

"The dramatically increased demand for Science at the University of Melbourne tells us...that students are recognising the importance of science to the future of our society, and that they recognise the quality of science education and research going on at the University of Melbourne."

Just over 5700 students will receive an offer of a Commonwealth Supported Place at the University of Melbourne when first round offers are released this afternoon.

For full details about the University's offers, please go to the media release here:

Have you received an offer and want to share your excitment? Head to the University of Melbourne's official Facebook page

The University of Melbourne’s Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society (IBES) today announced its membership in a new research consortium - the Green Touch™ Initiative - which brings together leading Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry players and researchers to fundamentally re-invent the network and reduce ICT energy consumption up to a factor of 1000.

 A team of researchers in IBES is investigating ways to reduce the energy consumption of the internet.  Like researchers in a number of other organisations, IBES has made progress in understanding how network energy consumption can be reduced.

Finding a comprehensive solution to the problem of growing energy consumption in the Internet will require strong collaboration and cooperation between researchers from different backgrounds and from different organizations.

“The Green Touch Initiative provides us with the best opportunity to make real and significant progress on this key research challenge,” said Professor Rod Tucker, Director of the Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society. 

“IBES is delighted to be part of the Green Touch Initiative, and stand with other members of the consortium on the threshold of a new era in information technology and telecommunications.   Outcomes from the Green Touch Initiative will be critical to the future of the entire industry.”

About the Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society
The Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society (IBES) is a cross-disciplinary research institute at the University of Melbourne dedicated to technologies products, services, and innovations that maximize the benefit of broadband technologies to society. The Institute’s activities cover a wide range of fields including advanced broadband technologies, energy-efficient networking and cloud computing, online engagement, content creation and delivery, delivery of remote health services and education, business and service transformation, social networking, and entertainment. For more information about IBES, please visit:

About the Green Touch Initiative

Green Touch Initiative, a consortium of leading industry players, research institutions and non-governmental organizations to define the challenge, identify solutions and develop solutions with the goal to deliver the architecture, specifications, roadmap, and demonstrations of key components needed to reduce ICT energy consumption per user by a factor of 1,000 from current levels within five years. For more information about the Green Touch Initiative, please visit:

For media inquiries contact Emma O’Neill on 8344 7220 or 0432 758 734.

Every time a mobile phone call is made or received, the handset user inevitably absorbs radiation. According to Dr Malka N Halgamuge from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Engineering, the effects of this on our health won’t provide specific answers for at least another decade so its best to take precautions with useage.

“The level of radiation emitted from your phone depends on a phone’s specific absorption rate (SAR) and this can vary with the brand of phone you buy," she says.

According to Dr Halgamuge, while most well known brands in the market have a low SAR reading, that doesn’t mean you’re safe to talk for as long as you like.

“While mobile phones have saved more lives than they may have harmed, using mobile phones for several hours a day could be a problem; as mobile phone radiation affects the temporal lobe (behind the ear) it could affect memory function in developing brains,” she says.

In 2007 Dr Halgamuge worked with the Department of Neurosurgery at Lund University Hospital in Sweden to investigate the biological effects on rats of radio frequencies emitted from mobile phones.

“The main thing we looked at was the leakage of albumin – a protein in the blood that is toxic to the brain – through the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) which protects the brain,” she says.

“We found that albumin leakage increased when rats were exposed to radio frequency from the phone, and after exposure to extremely low frequency from the phone battery.”

Rats used in the study were aged between 12 and 26 weeks, a stage in development regarded as similar when comparing blood-brain barriers to that of teenagers. Dr Halgamuge says considering this, there is good reason to be alarmed that mobile phones could have the same effects on humans.

“While our findings are alarming, our research only looked at short-term exposure and there is a possibility that neurons would repair themselves as time goes on so perhaps the problem is reversible,” she says.

The most extensive research project into the health effects of mobile phone use is currently being conducted under the direction of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The results of Project Interphone, which involves scientists from 13 countries, are due to be published later this year. Until then, Dr Halgamuge suggests the tips in the panel to the left as a precautionary approach.