Garvan Breakthrough magazine - Feb 2018

Making news Long-term survivors have ‘built-in immunotherapy’ Pancreatic cancer has a dismal five-year survival of just 6.8 per cent – but a select few live on for years, even decades. In these long-term survivors, the immune system sees the tumour as a kind of infectious disease – prompting it to attack and destroy cancer cells. Over 150 Australian patients contributed clinical and genomic information through the Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative (APGI). Garvan’s Professor Anthony Gill, chair of the APGI, says, “We’re able to go back to the tumours of these patients and to their DNA sequences, years later, and to look in detail at exactly what is different about their tumours.” This resource will continue to help researchers understand pancreatic cancer, with an end goal to improve survival rates. A YEAR OF ADVANCES IN PANCREATIC CANCER A new breast cancer drug could be effective against some forms of pancreatic cancer, including metastatic cancer, Garvan researchers have found. Among 550 tumour biopsies, a cellular pathway known as Cdk4/6 was switched on in two-thirds, driving tumour cells to grow and divide. “We know that the drug palbociclib switches off the Cdk4/6 protein, so we reasoned it might halt the growth of the many pancreatic cancers where this pathway is ‘ON’,” says project leader, Dr Marina Pajic. In preclinical models, the effects were dramatic, and were seen at all stages of pancreatic cancer progression. Biosensor lights up Breast cancer drug could work in pancreatic cancer

Corporate sponsor paves the way for patient transport Garvan is honoured to be supported by Sydney car business Suttons. Two new loan vehicles represent the latest in a longstanding relationship with managing director Laurie Sutton, who is also a philanthropic visionary of The Kinghorn Cancer Centre (TKCC) and The Garvan-Weizmann Centre for Cellular Genomics. Corporate sponsorship is a way in which businesses work with Garvan to change the future of medical research. A challenge that patients face is driving themselves to multiple ongoing appointments. The disability-accessible Honda Odyssey provided by Suttons City Honda will help TKCC provide a transport service to make it easier, more comfortable and less stressful for patients to attend appointments.

TKCC patients will now have a transport service.

Here’s what you CanDo When Rachael Lonergan was diagnosed at age 39 with triple negative breast cancer, she had to undergo surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Her sister was diagnosed around the same time with a rare sarcoma and their family was stretched trying to care for both of them. “Friends and co-workers would ask me what they could do, but I found that awkward, and my pride held me back from accepting the help I really could have used,” Rachael says. After this experience, Rachael came up with the idea for the CanDo app, connecting people going through treatment with those around them who are eager to help and make their treatment as easy as possible. The app helps to eliminate social isolation and allows patients to focus on

Garvan researchers have developed a biosensor mouse that gives a real-time readout of the rapidly changing ‘skeleton’ within cells. The researchers have watched cells respond dynamically to their surrounding environment in living tissues, including

their general wellbeing, reducing the stress and anxiety around getting the ‘little things’ done. Rachael founded CanDo to make dealing with a serious illness easier. CanDo helps to map out action plans, provides updates to a wider network with privacy settings and

within invasive breast and pancreatic cancer. “With the biosensor, we can see what each cell’s minuscule skeleton is doing in a living animal, and how it responds and

A glow-in-the-dark green, blue and yellow tumour in living tissue, fed by red blood vessels.

becomes addicted to its environment as diseases such as pancreatic cancer progress,” says study co-leader Associate Professor Paul Timpson, from Garvan’s Cancer Division. This is the latest in a growing canon of ground-breaking biosensor mice developed by the research team, including one that makes it possible to watch in real time as pancreatic cancer cells prepare to spread beyond the primary tumour. Watch videos about our latest pancreatic cancer research at

ensures that everyone who wants to help can

contribute in a meaningful way. Visit to find out more.

The CanDo app is free from Google Play and Apple’s App Store.

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