ARE 2001

Australian scientist recognised for discovery paving the way for innovative cancer treatments

A major clinical trial, due to commence in 2002, to explore the potential for an entirely new mechanism to stop tumour growth has its genesis in an Australian discovery. By discovering and reporting on the process of angiogenesis, Australian researcher Professor Philip Hogg has opened what could be likened to a new "freeway" for treatment development.

In recognition of his pioneering research on angiogenesis, Professor Hogg, from the University of New South Wales, has been awarded the inaugural GlaxoSmithKline Australia Award for Research Excellence (formerly known as the Glaxo Wellcome Australia Medal).

The Discovery: Angiogenesis - A Protein That Controls Tumour Growth

Made by cells themselves, and working on either the inside of the cell or secreted to work on the outside of the cell surface, proteins ultimately dictate how tissues and organs work and thus the health and well being of individuals. Professor Hogg's research has its origins in his study of a particular type of molecular bond found in proteins called a disulfide bond. Disulfide bonds are formed when proteins are made and, until Professor Hogg's research, it had been thought they simply held the protein together and are otherwise inert.

Professor Hogg challenged this thinking and subsequently demonstrated that disulfide bonds in some proteins are not only fluid but can also rearrange and this rearrangement is critical to how these proteins work. Professor Hogg published the first example of this phenomenon in a secreted protein in the prestigious international journal Nature. The Nature article described an enzyme secreted by tumour cells that manipulates disulfide bonds in a protein that controls tumour growth. In doing so, Professor Hogg opened an entirely new route for research into how to stop the growth of tumours.

From there, Professor Hogg also discovered that the receptor protein for the HIV virus on immune cells, and a blood protein central to thrombus (or clot) formation, are likewise controlled by changes in their disulfide bonds. Again opening new avenues for further research.

Implications: New Treatment Developments

This research not only has real implications for our understanding of how the body is manipulated by such conditions as cancer, HIV/AIDS and unwanted thrombosis, but importantly it opens up new opportunities to develop effective therapies or treatments," said Professor Hogg.

"When you consider that these three conditions are responsible for most deaths in Australia - indeed the world - the potential of this development becomes clearer."

"To get something that might stop the progression of cancer and HIV is truly amazing - and it all came from one of those hunches that we followed in the lab. It was very exciting," he concluded.

The discovery of this process led Professor Hogg to design a small synthetic compound that inhibits tumour blood vessel formation and tumour growth. Showing promise as an anti-cancer agent, the compound, (known as GSAO or glutathionarsenoxide), will be used in clinical trials in Australia and the United Kingdom next year.

The Recognition: An Australian Accolade

Speaking at the GlaxoSmithKline Australia Award for Research Excellence presentation dinner in Sydney on Thursday 8th November, Mr Peter Wills, Chairman of the Australian Research Council, said he was delighted to be able to present the Award to Professor Hogg.

Professor Hogg's work may well lead to breakthroughs in the development of new treatments for cancer, HIV/AIDS and thrombosis - diseases which collectively affect millions of people worldwide, including thousands of Australians," said Mr Wills.

"May I offer my congratulations and extend my best wishes for the continuing success of this and further research conducted by Professor Hogg and his team."

The GlaxoSmithKline Australia Award for Research Excellence (previously known as the Glaxo Wellcome Australia Medal which was inaugurated in 1980) is awarded annually in recognition of distinguished discoveries in scientific and medical research that lead to important demonstrated or potential benefit to human health. A requirement of the Award is that the majority of the research is undertaken in Australia. Recipients of the Award receive an honorarium of $30,000 to acknowledge their discovery and contribution to science and to help further their work. Today, the Award is regarded as one of the most prestigious within the Australian research community.

Commenting on the Award, Mr Daniel Tassé, Managing Director, GlaxoSmithKline Australia, said the company is committed to supporting innovation, research and development for the wellbeing and economic benefit of all Australians. He noted that GlaxoSmithKline is a leading investor in research and development in this country.

Developing Australia's knowledge base and supporting our scientists is critical to our future as a country offering world class research and science capabilities.

We have collaborations with over 40 local institutions, hospitals and organisations and thereby contribute to the work of hundreds of scientists and clinical staff through discovery projects and clinical trials. The GlaxoSmithKline Australia Award for Research Excellence rewards Australian scientists by recognising their contribution to science and investing in their work.

There is no doubt the groundbreaking work of Professor Hogg has contributed substantially to our understanding of how proteins work. I congratulate him on winning this prestigious award," Mr Tassé said.

GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world's leading research based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies, is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.