THE PROJECT

Over the next 5-7 years, ProCan will analyse 70,000 samples of all types of cancer from all over the world

ProCan is a new facility and international research project located at Children's Medical Research Institute (CMRI) in Sydney Australia. It was established with a $10 million grant from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF). This world-first initiative was developed by Professors Phil Robinson and Roger Reddel at CMRI. 

ProCan will develop a database of information to advance scientific discovery and enhance clinical treatment worldwide. This database will mean doctors can more precisely diagnose cancer and effectively narrow down the best type of currently available treatment to target a patient's individual cancer diagnosis. This is personalised, precision medicine.

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"ProCan will not only advance basic research into new and better cancer treatments but soon it will also help doctors rapidly choose the best existing treatment for their patients." Professor Ian Brown, CEO of ACRF

If you would like to support this project, you can donate here.

The information generated by ProCan will help scientists all over the world studying cancer. What’s more, the library of information created will be a point of reference that can be used now and in the future to aid rapid diagnosis and treatment planning.

The Centre will act in partnership with cancer researchers, clinicians, tumour banks, and technology experts, such as Professor Ruedi Aebersold in Zurich, whose 2015 Nature Medicine paper acted as the 'proof of concept' on which the much larger ProCan project is based.

The ProCan laboratory has now been built and its equipment is all operational, thanks to funding from ACRF and CMRI. Funding from the NSW Government has allowed the research project to commence, and further funding is required for the project to achieve its goals. This will require advanced computer analysis and bioinformatics techniques to compare the protein data with other information available, in order to predict the most effective cancer treatments for each individual.
 
Proteomics is the next step after genomics, and the newest frontier in medical research.

THE PROTEOME

Most people have heard of the Genome – which is the sum total of all of our genes. The Human Genome Project analysed the entire human DNA code in order to gain insights into the changes that cause variation and diseases. The technology for "reading" the genome is now well established, and its application to cancer and other diseases has greatly increased our understanding of why they occur. However, understanding the genome is not enough.

The information in DNA is used by cells to produce proteins. Some proteins help form the structure of cells and others are the miniature machines inside cells that do the work required for maintaining life, such as converting sugar into energy, and for helping a cell to grow and divide to produce more cells. So proteins are vitally important.

The proteome of each type of cell consists of thousands of different types of proteins. Each type of protein behaves differently, working with other proteins in intricate networks.

Proteomics is the study of the proteome, and it depends on rapid analysis of the proteins in our cells and tissues on a large scale - thousands at a time. It uses mass spectrometry, a powerful analytical technique for identifying proteins and measuring the quantity of each type of protein that is present.

Most of the drugs used to treat diseases such as cancer interact with proteins, so cancer proteomics is an important new frontier in cancer research. Knowing what proteins are present in cancers is essential for developing new cancer treatments and for using existing treatments as effectively as possible.

THE FACILITY

New technology called PCT-SWATH mass spectrometry will be used to rapidly and simultaneously measure the precise levels of many thousands of proteins in very small cancer biopsies. Working with leading cancer researchers throughout Australia and around the world, the Centre will analyse about 70,000 samples of all types of cancer, starting with cancers of childhood.

Advanced computer analysis techniques will then be used to compare the protein data with the information that is already available for each cancer, including clinical records such as pathology test results, genetic analyses, genome sequencing, and how that cancer responded to treatment.

This proteogenomics approach to understanding cancer is crucial to speeding up the search for cures, and towards this end, ProCan signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United States' National Cancer Institute as part of Vice President Jo Biden's Cancer Moonshot Initiative.

KEY PARTNERS

Organisations



On December 9th, 2015, The Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) announced one of the largest private grants for medical research equipment in Australian history - $10 million - earmarked for six cutting-edge machines that will establish The ACRF International Centre for the Proteome of Cancer (ProCan) at Children’s Medical Research Institute in Westmead. 

“ACRF is a unique organisation because of its commitment to funding major equipment and bold initiatives. We’re extremely grateful to ACRF and their donors in the community for this opportunity to do something truly unique in cancer research and treatment,” said Professor Phil Robinson.

“Our 30th Anniversary Grant for $10 million is something ACRF is very proud of,” said Professor Ian Brown, CEO of ACRF. “We knew this amount of money could make a real difference, stimulate new ideas and bring us closer to our goal which is to end cancer.”

“ACRF challenged the Australian cancer research community to propose projects that were bold and that would have a very significant impact on cancer prevention, detection and treatment. The response was tremendous with six very impressive projects submitted.”

Our international judges were impressed both by the quality and vision of the applications and the high standard of Australian research. CMRI was chosen after lengthy discussion to be the best of the best.

“ACRF stands behind ProCan because we believe it will not only advance basic research into new and better cancer treatments but soon it will also help doctors rapidly choose the best existing treatment for their patients,” said Professor Brown.

Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) funds cutting-edge Australian research for all types of cancer. It provides funding for research infrastructure, technologies and equipment – resources that speed up discoveries in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The ACRF’s Medical Research Advisory Committee is comprised of some of Australia’s most respected cancer scientists (including Professor Ian Frazer AC, co-creator of the cervical cancer vaccine), who assess applications for ACRF funding according to world-class standards. For more information on the Foundation, please visit www.acrf.com.au


In addition to a $100,000 award from CINSW alongside the ACRF Anniversary grant, Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI) has been awarded additional funding from the NSW Government for The ACRF International Centre for the Proteome of Cancer (ProCan™). It is part of a $6 million State commitment to ‘proteogenomics’, a field of research with enormous potential for tackling health issues, such as cancer.

“We’re very grateful for the funding from the NSW Government, which will make it possible for ProCan to participate more fully in the international efforts against cancer, especially in children and young adults,” said Professor Roger Reddel, Director of CMRI and co-leader of ProCan.


“Proteomics is the new era in cancer research and ProCan will provide scientists the world over access to comprehensive cancer protein data to improve treatments, develop new therapies and allow for earlier diagnosis of cancers,” Chief Cancer Officer and CEO of the Cancer Institute Professor David Currow said. 
 
Professor Currow also said, “NSW is at the forefront of cancer research and the team at the Children’s Medical Research Institute will be fast-tracking our understanding of how cancers behave by unlocking this deeper level of cancer data."
 
NSW Cancer patients will reap the benefits of ProCan, with their cancer proteins analysed alongside pathology results, genetic tests and previous treatment responses to provide precision-targeted therapies specifically for them.
  
“As a member of the Kids Cancer Alliance Translational Cancer Research Centre, the Cancer Institute NSW is proud to support the Children’s Medical Research Institute as it embarks on ProCan. Understanding cancer proteins can lead us to new approaches to stop their growth, reduce their size or even cure them altogether,” Professor Currow said.  
 
Health Minister Jillian Skinner congratulated CMRI and the ACRF on the new project.
 
“ProCan is the latest example of how NSW has become a destination of choice for cancer research, which in turn benefits people in our state living with cancer as they access the latest cancer therapies and clinical trials,” Mrs Skinner said. 


On February 4, 2016, SCIEX, a global leader in life science analytical technologies announced their formal partnership with Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI) to equip The Australian Cancer Research Foundation International Centre for the Proteome of Cancer (ProCan) facility with the solutions and tools required for the advancement of their large-scale proteomic profiling studies. These studies will profile thousands of tumour samples per year, enable discoveries around the causes of cancer, provide guidance of cancer treatment options, and work to produce standard operating procedures for other facilities around the world.
 
The agreement provides ProCan with the high sample throughput required for the industrialisation of proteomics via a large suite of SCIEX TripleTOF® 6600 mass spectrometers and NanoLC 400 HPLCs, to create one of the world’s largest scale implementations of the SCIEX next-generation proteomics solution, featuring SWATH® Acquisition and OneOmics cloud computing.  Additionally ProCan will benefit from SCIEX’s exclusive collaborators, Pressure Biosciences and Beckman Coulter, using Pressure Cycling Technology and liquid handling workstations for increased protein quantitation and reproducibility.
   
“Large-scale proteomics studies have great potential to improve our understanding of cancer at the molecular level, but are subject to significant variability caused in sample preparation, data acquisition and interpretation.” said Chris Radloff, Global Vice President and General Manager of the LC-MS Business at SCIEX. “Through our partnership with CMRI and the designation of ProCan as a SCIEX Centre of Innovation in Precision Medicine, SCIEX solutions reduce that variability and enable higher sample throughput, which will help to accelerate cancer research and precision medicine at large.”
 
“Collaborating with SCIEX will enable ProCan to accomplish our vision of one day, delivering a proteomics report on every clinician's desk,” said Professor Phil Robinson, Head of the Cell Signalling Unit at CMRI and co-developer of ProCan with Professor Roger Reddel, Head of CMRI's Cancer Research Unit.  The unique industrial proteomics platform we are developing will unlock the potential of our discoveries and empower us to perform the translation research needed to rapidly identify the cause of each individual cancer, advancing scientific discovery and allowing a more accurate prediction of the best cancer treatments for individual patients.”
 
SCIEX has designated ProCan as a “SCIEX Centre of Innovation in Precision Medicine" and will include SCIEX scientists working in partnership with researchers from CMRI to develop and trial new omics workflows in a real-world setting.
 
Learn more about SCIEX Proteomics Solutions
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The USA established a collaboration between its Cancer Moonshot Program and ProCan, as well as NSW State Government and other NSW organisations, in a Memorandum of Understanding designed to accelerate research into cancer.

As stated in a White House fact sheet: “The purpose of these MOUs is to facilitate scientific and programmatic collaborations between research agencies and institutions in the United States and Australia for basic and clinical proteogenomic studies and their translation to care.”


Read the White House Fact Sheet
 


1 in 20 children is born with a birth defect or genetic disease and over 500 Australian children are diagnosed with cancer every year. By supporting CMRI, you partner with us in tackling the leading causes of death in children: birth defects, genetic diseases and cancer. CMRI believes that together we can beat childhood diseases and create a healthier future for every child.

CMRI collaborates with scientists all over the world to push research forward. It also provides important resources for scientists in Australia, such as CellBank, and is a founding member of the Westmead Research Hub, part of the largest health and medical research precinct in the southern hemisphere.

This year, CMRI is launching a revolutionary new facility, ProCan™, which will change how cancer is diagnosed and treated. One day, it will enable a personalised diagnosis that tells a patient's doctor exactly which treatments are likely to work for their individual cancer.

Your support enables us to continue this important work, to recruit the best researchers from around the world, build the best infrastructure, purchase essential high-tech equipment and facilities, and to fund research student scholarships that foster bright young minds and fresh ideas—all of which will help us find cures for childhood diseases faster.

Learn more at www.cmri.org.au

Scientists

Co-leader of ProCan - Professor Phillip Robinson

Prof Phil Robinson BSc (Hons) PhD NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow, Professor of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney; Professor of Chemistry, The University of Newcastle.

Prof Robinson is also Head of the Cell Signalling Unit at Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI) and an NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow. Professor Robinson’s career began after completing a PhD in Medical Biochemistry at The University of Newcastle.

After an NIH Fellowship and a postdoctoral position at the University of Cincinnati, USA, he returned to Australia as an Australian Postdoctoral Fellow and a QEII Fellow and then developed a research team in Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital. Professor Robinson joined CMRI as a result of the leadership and vision of Professor Rowe (CMRI Director 1980-2006) in building an exciting environment for conducting basic research with a focus on childhood problems and an environment providing the freedom to pursue large, long-term projects.

Professor Robinson has received a number of awards during his career including the AW Campbell Award for Excellence in Neuroscience from the Australian Neuroscience Society and the Amersham Pharmacia Biotechnology Medal from the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Professor Robinson was chair of the Fellowships Committee of the NHMRC for three years and is also a member of the Research Committee and the Training and Awards Committee. He is on the editorial board of a number of journals, including the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Professor Robinson and his team have made major contributions to understanding aspects of regulating nerve cell communication, principally the process of endocytosis and the protein dynamin, which along with other nerve terminal proteins, remains the focus of the research. 

In a partnership with Professor Adam McCluskey at the University of Newcastle (UoN), the teams have developed the first pharmacological approach to controlling endocytosis, which will be a useful experimental tool and may also prove clinically useful. In 2009, Professor McCluskey and Professor Robinson established Australia’s first Centre for Kinomics, called the Australian Cancer Research Foundation Chemical Proteomics Centre for Kinomics, supported by Ramaciotti at CMRI and UoN.

Co-leader of ProCan - Professor Roger Reddel

Prof Roger Reddel BSc (Med) MBBS PhD FRACP FAA is Director of Children's Medical Research Institute (CMRI), and the Sir Lorimer Dods Professor, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney. He also heads CMRI's Cancer Research Unit, and directs CellBank Australia. He obtained his medical degrees from the University of Sydney, trained in medical oncology at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, and is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. Roger completed a PhD in cancer cell biology at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in the University of Sydney's Department of Cancer Medicine, and received an NHMRC CJ Martin Fellowship and a Fulbright Fellowship to undertake postdoctoral research at the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.

He returned to Sydney to establish a laboratory at CMRI, attracted by the Institute's culture of fostering high quality basic research, and with the support of Cancer Council NSW's Bicentennial Fellowship. He has continued to receive major support from the Cancer Council, including being awarded the Carcinogenesis Fellowship for ten years, and Program Grants for five years. His team is also supported by Cancer Institute NSW, the Judith Hyam Memorial Trust Fund for Cancer Research, Rotary Club of Sydney, and the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.

Professor Reddel's research is focused on the molecular genetics of immortalisation, the process that allows cancer cells to divide an unlimited number of times. He and his group are best known for their work on telomerase, the enzyme on which 85% of cancers depend for their unlimited growth, and for discovering Alternative Lengthening of Telomeres (ALT) upon which the remaining ~10% depend. The goal of this work is to understand the immortalisation process in sufficient detail to make it possible to design treatments that specifically limit cancer cell proliferation. The aim of this research is to develop new forms of cancer treatment that prevent cancer cell growth by blocking immortalisation. Professor Reddel was awarded the Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence in Biomedical Research in 2007, was elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 2010, and in 2011 received the NSW Premier's Award for Outstanding Cancer Researcher of the Year.

Professor Reddel is a director of Cure Cancer Australia Foundation. He serves on editorial boards of a number of international cancer research journals, and on national and international scientific advisory panels.

ProCan Technology Expert - Professor  Ruedi Aebersold

Prof. Ruedi Aebersold is one of the pioneers in the field of proteomics. He is known for developing a series of methods that have found wide application in analytical protein chemistry and proteomics like a new class of reagents termed Isotope Coded Affinity Tag (ICAT) reagents used in quantitative mass spectrometry. Prof. Dr. Aebersold and his team of researchers use the protein profiles determined by this method to differentiate cells in different states, such as noncancerous versus cancerous cells, and to systematically study how cells respond to external stimuli. These "snapshot" profiles indicate which cells contain abnormal levels of certain proteins. This is expected to lead to new diagnostic markers for disease and to a more complete understanding of the biochemical processes that control and constitute cell physiology.

Prof. Aebersold serves on the Scientific Advisory Committees of numerous academic and private sector research organizations and is a member of several editorial boards in the fields of protein science, genomics, and proteomics.

Prof. Aebersold is a native of Switzerland and obtained his Ph.D. in Cellular Biology at the Biocenter of the University of Basel in 1983. Since that time, he is a faculty member of the Universities of Washington and British Columbia, until 2000, when he co-founded the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle. In 2004, he accepted a position as full professor at the Institute of Biotechnology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich , where in January 2005, his research group became the first integral part of the newly founded Institute of Molecular Systems Biology.