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Bringing research to life Living Proof

The unusual case of Ronald Garland can be likened to “being struck by lightning twice”, according to PA neurosurgeon and foundation grant recipient Dr Sarah Olson. But thanks to past medical research, he lived to tell the tale …

Ronald’s a most unusual and unfortunate case. It’s extremely rare to have two distinct, completely unrelated tumours in such quick succession. It’s a bit like being struck by lightning twice.”

Without extensive research conducted around the world over many years—in diagnosis, treatment and prevention—Ronald may not be here today to tell his

Just five years ago, Ronald Garland was fighting fit. Literally. Ronald is a black/white belt in Ju-Jitsu, having practised martial arts for more than 20 years. Maintaining fitness, self awareness and self discipline were part of his daily regime. Then a few years ago, his partner Robyn noticed his breathing was frequently interrupted while he slept. Ronald saw his GP and was treated for sleep apnoea. A few months later Ronald started getting bad headaches and feeling dizzy. The symptoms worsened. After several months, there was no improvement so Ronald’s GP requested a CT scan. It revealed a brain tumour the size of a golf ball. Ronald was referred to PA neurosurgeon Dr Sarah Olson, who scheduled immediate surgery—a particularly delicate procedure as the tumour was located on the brain stem. Subsequent analysis revealed the tumour to be of a rare type. Due to the location on the brain stem, not all of the tumour could be removed.

For conditions like Ronald’s, early

extraordinary story.

detection is the key. Ongoing

Ronald made a good recovery after brain surgery. The headaches remained though and Ronald assumed that they were something that he had to live with as a side effect from the brain surgery. Eight months later, he was slowly getting back to work. Then he developed lower back pain and tingling in the spine. Based on Ronald’s recent history, a full MRI of the spine was conducted. Another tumour was revealed, this time entwined around the lower spinal cord and nerves going to the legs and bowel and bladder function. Once again, Dr Olson scheduled immediate surgery. Once again, the operation was a delicate procedure. 90% of the tumour was successfully removed. Since the spinal surgery both Ronald’s brain and spine have been treated with radiotherapy. To Dr Olson’s amazement, subsequent analysis revealed Ronald’s spinal tumour to be unrelated to his brain tumour. “They were of a completely different kind” Dr Olson says “and both quite rare, making

research and raising awareness will make all the difference. Once again, Ronald is making a good recovery. Thanks no doubt to his excellent physical and mental fitness and past medical research he is doing exceptionally well and essentially back to normal health. “In many ways, I am very grateful that research into rare tumours like mine has made information available to neurosurgeons” Ronald says. “The treatment that I have received may not have been possible even ten years ago. When we were trying to understand my problem, Dr Olson was able to consult with experts who were familiar with my rare tumours. We benefited from what knowledge was on hand. And hopefully my case will also contribute to that knowledge in the future.”

Medical research benefits all of us. Ronald Garland is living proof.

Foundation Timeline continued ... (this issue 2002 - 2006) 2002



Diamantina Insitute for Cancer, Immunology & Metabolic Medicine opens at the PA

Australia’s first ever heart, lung and liver transplantation

Successful conclusion of cervical cancer vaccine trials - 100% efficacy against HPV virus

In this issue New TRI Building | Gene silencing breakthrough | Philosophy of giving


2, 2009

Gene silencing breakthrough at PA to switch off cancer cells Researchers based at the PA are one step closer to turning off cancer causing genes in tumour cells. This latest development headed up by Associate Prof. Nigel McMillan of the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute, could lessen the need for aggressive and evasive cancer treatments like surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Gene silencing refers to a technique called RNA interference (RNAi), a system within living cells that helps to control which genes are active and how active they are. The ramifications of this technology has the potential to silence and decrease the activity of cancer cells within healthy tissue cells.

Sherry Wu UQ PhD, packaging gene silencing technology

However, until now the application of RNAi into the human immune system has been in doubt because of its delivery problem. “We know gene silencing works well in a test tube, but we’re working on how to deliver it inside the body without it breaking down” says Sherry Wu UQ PhD.

The team have produced a lipid-rich carrier for the RNAi through the use of a liposome, a tiny bubble made from the same material as a cell membrane. This lipid rich cell can be filled with the gene silencing drugs and travel safely throughout the body with the potential to switch off cancer genes at the sight of tumours, as well as fight other diseases by switching off the gene that causes them. The packaging method developed jointly by Sherry and Dr Lisa Putral shows great promise in bringing this technology to clinics. “We are excited about these findings and we are currently investigating the feasibility of combining this gene-silencing technology with low dose chemotherapeutic agents in cancer treatment”, says Assoc iate Prof. McMillan. The latest breakthrough is yet another exciting discovery to come out of the PA. Its future applications could change the way we treat cancer, viral and metabolic diseases.

PA worker and supporter On the philosophy of giving As some of us “turn the clock” at fifty or so, we become more philosophical, and think about others around us. We consider giving back to our communities and families. Some of us even become a little more philanthropic, in wanting to improve our world and leave some traces of our efforts. I feel really good about giving to the PA Foundation. Yes, Prof. Frazer’s Gardisil vaccine for cervical cancer is a very prominent example of the results of research, but there are dozens of similar researchers devoting a large part of their lives, staring down microscopes or sorting smelly test tubes for years. They are following their part of the scientific puzzle in understanding illness and subsequently developing treatments.

and later generations, but complete strangers as well as those they love. There could be few more noble pursuits. I haven’t the skills or knowledge to do the same - perhaps in another life? But I can very easily support their work in a practical way. My small contribution, which costs me very, very little - (and tax deductibility makes it even less!) - is an easy substitute for my direct participation in this humanitarian work.

next generation.

Maurice Millsom

My children and grandkids might well directly benefit from things such as a melanoma vaccine, or any of the research developments. For me donating to the Foundation is such an easy, practical way to address some of the urgings of the heart that people feel as they mature.

Maurice Millsom, PA Workplace Giver I’d bet none of them are doing research for the money. Their research and developments, which they may or may not realise in their lifetimes, will benefit not only theirs

Research & the

The PA Foundation would like to thank Maurice and all the PA Workplace Givers for their ongoing support of research.

“No one can predict which research will lead to wonder cures or how long it may take, but to me that only makes supporting all the research efforts more attractive because it is not necessarily for my own benefit.”




Prof. Alan Mackay - Sims named Queenslander of the Year in recognition of his groundbreaking world first stem cell transplant

World first clinical trial for new and successful approaches to melanoma treatment

Australia’s first keyhole spinal tumour removal revolutionises spinal surgury

PA to become home of Australia’s flagship medical research facility

The new Translational Research Institute (TRI) The PA is to become the home of the new world class Translational Research Institute (TRI) set for construction in late 2009 and will house more than 800 researchers

The TRI will be a major catalyst for Queensland industry and ingenuity, combining medical research, clinical trials, health care and pharmaceutical manufacturing. A key contributor to the TRI development, the Foundation’s board director and The University of Queensland’s Prof. Ian Frazer said that the facility will combine some of Queensland’s leading research groups to form an institute which will be a “one stop shop” for health research and health care, enabling the development of discoveries through to clinical trials and drug manufacture. The TRI will be an Australian first and only one of a handful in the world. The great thing about the facility is that it will allow research to be “effectively and efficiently undertaken by clustering people with relevant skill sets in a single location, and in facilities constructed with all the necessary infrastructure for undertaking evaluation

Translating research from the lab

of therapeutics in a preclinical and clinical setting” says Prof. Frazer. The “cluster” of people making up the institute will be a combination of health, science and education institutes including the PA Hospital, The University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology and the Mater Medical Research Institute. The seven-storey building, designed by Wilson Architects + Donovan Hill, will contain four floors of laboratory research space plus dedicated space for research support facilities, teaching and administration. A GMP bio-pharmaceutical manufacturing facility will also be constructed adjacent to the main TRI building. The location of the facility means leading health research will be easily transferable to patients currently undergoing treatment at the hospital.

to the patient The TRI is a major step forward in growing Australia’s research capacity and will show how collaboration will expand medical research through efficient use of research funding. The far reaching consequences of this facility will not only mean further discoveries and development of our vaccines and drugs but the capacity to produce these drugs to the market stage and deliver significant social and economic benefits to Australia.

“The TRI will enable us to more effectively translate laboratory success into benefits for patients, and will help Australians gain economic as well as health benefits when our researchers invent drugs of global importance,” Prof. Ian Frazer




Foundation commences funding world-first skin cancer trial by Sandro Porceddu

The research profile of the PA reachednew heights with the release of the Cervical Cancer Vaccine

Prof. Ian Frazer named Australian of the Year

Issue 2 Quiz!

Intro: the people behind the research Ms Sherry Wu

Our researchers rack their brains ... Now it’s your turn!

PhD student UQ Diamantina Institute

1 What is the TRI? a] Transitional Research Insititute b] Translational Research Institute c] Transnational Research Investigation d] Treatment Research Industry

What made you decide to work in this field? As a practising pharmacist I realised that our current cancer treatments are far from ideal. I was hoping that by doing research in this field, I could help contribute towards finding better treatments for cancer patients.

2 What does RNAi refer to? a] cancer inducing genes b] radio nuclear acid interference c] gene silencing d] radical nuclea intervention 3 What year did the trials for cervical cancer vaccine conclude? a] 1989 b] 2003 c] 2006 d] 2007 4 What was Prof. Alan Mackay-Sims named Queenslander of the year for? a] world-first heart/lung/liver transplant b] first clinical trial for melanoma WIN treatment

What is the goal of your research? We have developed a molecule which can turn off the cancer-causing genes in cancer cells while leaving normal healthy cells alone, now we are working on designing a suitable delivery carrier for these molecules so that they

can be delivered safely and efficiently into cancer cells in the body. How has funding from the Foundation helped your research project? Funding support from the Foundation has allowed us to do various pilot studies. The data/results generated from those studies were crucial in order for us to apply for funding from other government agencies. What is on your research wish list? To continue to enjoy what I am doing, knowing this effort will actually mean something at the end. What are you most proud of? The fact that I sticked with the project even when things were looking impossible (thanks to my supervisor!). I am also proud of my family who have been supportive of my research career and have to constantly put up with all my late nights in the lab.

Save the date ...... Saturday 26 September


3240 235

a car !!

c] first keyhole spinal tumour removal d] world first stem cell transplant

5 Prof. Nigel McMillan and his team have developed a liposome to carry a] chemotherapy drugs b] insulin drugs c] gene silencing drugs d] anti-bacterial drugs Quiz answers Issue 2 - 1. b, 2. c, 3. c. 4, d, 5. c



Be a part of the race that turns the Brisbane River into a flotilla of yellow bobbing ducks as they flock to the water to take part in the race against cancer.

The Great Brisbane Duck Race is back and this year not only can you WIN a Sci-Fleet Toyota Yaris but you will be part of an Australian record attempt in the biggest duck race of the nation!

Pre season weather has been optimal for duck training in the lead up to the event so expect your duck to be in top shape for the big race! Entries open in July and this year we expect participants to be flocking in so don’t waddle or you might just miss out!

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09 Issue 2  
09 Issue 2