Work Proposed for 2005

The diagnostic testing work will continue and ideally it is hoped that a person dedicated to this role could be employed to perform these tests under Dr. Algar’s supervision. This would free up Dr. Algar’s time to focus again on research and to complete the study of methyltransferases in Beckwith Wiedemann Syndrome and its associated tumors.

Specific new areas of research that Dr. Algar would like to develop include:

1. Investigation of the use of siRNAs for targeting chromosomal and genetic changes in solid tumors and leukaemias.
siRNAs are small interfering RNAs that can specifically silence the expression of the genes they are targeted to. The power of these molecules to modify gene expression and the fact that the gene silencing signal can move from cell to cell, makes them a tremendously exciting tool not only for basic scientific studies but also for clinical applications. It is possible for siRNA molecules to be designed to target the chromosomal translocations that affect and define certain tumor types. Thus these molecules could be designed to target tumor cells and have the potential to knock out the cancer causing genes in these cells. This approach will first be developed and tested on tumor cell lines carrying defined chromosomal changes, and then later extended to animal models of cancer. Preliminary studies demonstrating proof of principle will be necessary in cancer cell lines before funding is sought from bodies such as the NHMRC.

2. Automation of PCR-based assays for molecular tests.
It is hoped that in 2005 all PCR tests done in the Molecular Oncology Laboratory will be done using real-time PCR. In the long-term this will reduce the running costs in the laboratory and shorten the time spent in performing the tests, enabling a greater amount of time to be devoted to research.

Dr. Elizabeth Algar.