Healthscope, Australia’s largest provider of integrated healthcare will fund a PhD scholarship at Griffith University for research into melanoma.

Director of Griffith’s Institute for Glycomics, Professor Mark von Itzstein said the generous donation by the operator of Gold Coast’s Allamanda Private Hospital would allow the hunt for improved drug treatments to be intensified.

“We are delighted by this partnership in world-leading drug discovery research,” Professor von Itzstein said.

“It will enable us to accelerate our efforts in the discovery of new drug candidates for the treatment of melanoma,” he said.

Targeting melanoma cells

The Healthscope / Institute for Glycomics co-funded program will involve the development of new drugs especially created to target melanoma cells. This ‘designer’ approach was successful in the discovery of the world’s first flu drug Relenza. Professor von Itzstein led the research group responsible for that drug, which has been approved for the treatment of influenza worldwide.

The melanoma program will also involve the screening of patient tissue samples to identify new drug targets.

‘Melanoma samples will be collected from consenting Allamanda cancer patients,” Professor von Itzstein said.

“The Institute will appoint a tissue bankcurator who will develop celllines from these samples for testing, to see if we can find a weakness in the melanoma cell which could make it more vulnerable to treatment,” he said.

“We will draw on the Institute’s unique screening library of 350 mammalianglycans in this search for new ‘carbohydrate specific’ drug targets.”

Healthscope plays a vital role in health and wellbeing by providing private hospital, medical centre and pathology services in every State and Territory of Australia, as well as overseas.

Research partnership

Allamanda Private Hospital general manager, David Harper said he was excited by the partnership.

“Griffith University produces the doctors and nurses of tomorrow and, by funding research, we can ensure they not only educate new medical staff, but continue to play an active role in important medical developments,” said Mr Harper.

“The Gold Coast is home to world renowned medical researchers who have made influential discoveries and we want to help them continue this crucial work.

“With Healthscope’s Gold Coast Private Hospital set to become a major part of the Griffith Health and Knowledge Precinct, we also want to be an active partner in this area, not only providing healthcare but contributing to the future of medicine.”

Professor von Itzstein agreed the research partnership holds great possibilities.

“Forging this research relationship in advance of Healthscope’s new Gold Coast Private Hospital, co-located alongside Griffith University and the Institute for Glycomics, means that private hospital clinicians can directly contribute to discovering new treatments for cancers such as melanoma, and the potential for taking these discoveries into early-stage human clinical trials,” Professor von Itzstein said.

“We are very excited by this extraordinary partnership.”