An ambitious new “Super Science” four-year research project, funded by a $2.54 million donation from a private charitable Trust, has been launched between Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse cancer centre to fight cancer on a new frontier.

This collaboration brings together one of Australia’s largest academic cancer centres treating thousands of patients annually, with world-leading researchers from the Institute for Glycomics at the cutting edge of a new frontier in the fight against cancer — glycomics.

Through the partnership, tissue samples and comprehensive clinical metadata will be collected from Lifehouse’s cancer patients and sent to the Institute’s Gold Coast research facility for analysis using new cutting edge technology.

This major research collaboration will help find a cure for diseases such as breast, prostate, head and neck, and lung cancers and was announced last night at the Institute for Glycomics’ Annual Gala Dinner on the Gold Coast in Queensland.

Institute Director Professor Mark von Itzstein said the program will allow researchers to identify new targets for early cancer diagnosis and enable novel cancer vaccine and drug discovery.

“This ambitious, big science initiative will generate an unprecedentedly rich knowledge base with the potential to transform the way we understand and treat the most insidious and poorly addressed cancers,” he said.

“Together, we seek to map the cancer glycome by characterising the changes that occur in the sugar molecules on the surface of cancer cells.

“Our ultimate goal is to establish a pathway to translate novel cancer biomarker discoveries into drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tools to improve the clinical outcomes of patients attending Lifehouse and beyond.”

The Institute for Glycomics drug discovery programs have already yielded major discoveries for metastatic cancers such as melanoma and blood cancers such as childhood leukaemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Lifehouse Director of Research Associate Professor Lisa Horvath said: “We’re really excited that this approach can now be expanded to finding new drugs to cure breast, prostate, head and neck, and lung cancers suffered by so many of our patients.

“This research will help us to unlock the way that cells signal to each other and therefore grow and mutate. Patients who come to us from New South Wales and across Australia will be able to contribute to research that is leading the world.

“Glycomics is a significant new direction for cancer research. The knowledge gained from glycomics will be as important for the discovery of new drugs, as that discovered in the field of genomics and proteomics during the last 30 years.

“This donation will significantly enhance the translational research capacity at Lifehouse through expanded biobanks and research databases that we run in conjunction with Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. It also enables Lifehouse clinical researchers to partner with Griffith’s glycomics scientists to identify innovative approaches to cancer treatment.”