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Scientists hopeful to potential cancer vaccines

Photo: Sugar cells new frontier to attack cancer
The Australian Centre for Cancer Glycomics has been launched at Griffith University, with scientists hopeful it will lead to potential cancer vaccines.

Australian scientists are leading the world in a new and unique approach to fighting some of the most common cancers with the launch of the Australian Centre for Cancer Glycomics at Griffith University.

The new field of research involves targeting sugar molecules, known as glycans, found on the outside of cancer cells.

Glycans allow cells to talk to each other and are essential to human life, just like the human genome.

It's hoped this approach will not only lead to completely new drug treatments but vaccines to protect against and prevent the disease, says institute director and chemical biologist Professor Mark von Itzstein.
"Cancer cells can also display unique to cancers glyco signatures, which can then become vaccine candidates and there are a number of examples of those already occurring," Prof von Itzstein said.

The Australian-developed flu drug Relenza already takes advantage of glycans to stop the flu virus.

Up to 90,000 patient samples at a time are now being collected and sent to the institute to be analysed.

Working with oncologists and physicians, the researchers and scientists are studying various types of cancers including ovarian, breast, prostate and leukaemia.

"It's early days yet but already we are starting to see some very positive outcomes in identifying unique signature patterns of sugars that appear on these types of cancers," said Prof von Itzstein.

"This is a multi-disciplinary centre and I know it will deliver major outcomes in cancer research," he said.

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