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 Jun 4, 2019

Community support boosts research technology

For researchers at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI), it is critical that they have access to the latest cutting-edge equipment in order to undertake their groundbreaking research.

Without certain pieces of technology, it can be difficult for them to carry out their work with the specific attention to detail that cancer research demands. This equipment is often very expensive however, so generous donations to the ONJCRI are therefore crucial in order to acquire this technology.

Three women who work at Scotch College recently set up a fundraising event in memory of loved ones lost to cancer. They raised $37,000 at their Girls Night Out event, all of which was donated to the ONJCRI. Now, the funds have been used to buy a cryostat; a vital piece of equipment for researchers in the Translational Breast Cancer Program.

The cryostat is a versatile instrument that allows researchers to cut ultrafine slices of frozen biological tissue, allowing researchers to examine samples in minute detail whilst preserving their quality.

Dr Normand Pouliot, head of the Matrix Microenvironment and Metastasis Laboratory, is working to identify biomarkers (such as particular proteins, DNA and RNA) that could help clinicians predict which patients are likely to see their disease recur or who could benefit from certain treatments.

“The presence of these biomarkers is commonly validated in ‘archival’ tumour tissues preserved in wax. However, tissues that are preserved in wax for long-term storage require treatment with harsh chemicals that affect the integrity of protein, DNA and RNA,” says Dr Pouliot.

“This often makes detection of these molecules very difficult and unreliable. The cryostat overcomes these limitations because it allows us to prepare slices of freshly frozen tissues without the use of these harsh chemicals and therefore enables us to detect biomarkers more easily and reliably.”

Being able to utilise the cryostat has provided a massive boost to Dr Pouliot’s research, and has also transformed the work of many of his ONJCRI colleagues.

“As research becomes more and more dependent on expensive technologies and equipment, every institute struggles to find funds to satisfy the demands to perform cutting-edge research. Community engagement is so important to us and these fundraising efforts are essential to our work. We really can’t thank our donors enough,” Dr Pouliot says.

The resounding success of the Girls Night Out fundraiser has spurred the organisers on to collaborate with the ONJCRI in hosting an event every two years.

Find out more about:
How you can support the ONJCRI
Dr Normand Pouliot
Matrix Microenvironment and Metastasis Laboratory