Eskitis Institute and China join forces against cancer

Professor Ronald Quinn AM, Director of the Eskitis Institute
Professor Ronald Quinn AM, Director of the Eskitis Institute

Griffith University’s Eskitis Institute and the Sun Yat-sen University’s Laboratory of Cancer and Stem Cell Biology have formed a joint research facility.

Director of the Eskitis Institute, Professor Ron Quinn AM, travelled to China for the official opening of the GU-SYSU Joint Laboratory for Drug Discovery.

The academic collaboration will foster new research into the chemical biology of cancer stem cells and the development of drugs based on naturally occurring compounds.

Professor Quinn said he was looking forward to working with Professor Yan Zhang and her team.

“Through this collaboration we will see the expansion of the use of our Nature Bank collections and the potential to discover new drugs to combat cancer,” Professor Quinn said.

Griffith’s Nature Bank is a unique drug discovery resource based on natural products found in Australia, China and Papua New Guinea. It comprises more than 45,000 samples of plants and marine invertebrates, 200,000 semi-purified fractions, 3,250 pure compounds and over 400 naturally-occurring fragments.

A key focus of this joint research effort will be targeting oral cancer; one of the most common forms of cancer in China and which afflicts largely young people

“Cancer stem cells (CSC) are suspected to be the cause of cancer relapse in patients who have been undergone chemotherapy or other treatments,” Professor Quinn said.

“These CSC can lie quasi-dormant in patients during treatment and remerge as a source of tumour cells later on if a patient relapses.

“Typically these second generation cancer cells are more aggressive and resistant to anti-cancer drugs.

Professor Zhang has already successfully developed techniques to grow oral cancer cells in 3D tissue culture in the laboratory. It will now be possible to test compounds from the Eskitis Institute’s Nature Bank on these cells to in the hope of being able to develop powerful new anti-cancer therapies.

Close ties between Sun Yat-sen University and teaching hospitals will provide the opportunity for efficient progress for research outcomes.

“The synergy between the Eskitis Institute at Griffith and Sun Yat-sen Universities allows a pipeline from drug discovery, to cell testing and animal validation with the power to commercialise outcomes and move them to the bedside,” Professor Yan Zhang said.

There will also be the opportunity for student and researcher exchanges between the two universities.