Monthly Archives: February 2018

New treatment combination brings breast cancer hope

Patient Julie with Medical Oncologist and Study Researcher, Dr Sheau Wen Lok.

Combining two cancer drugs has seen a potential breakthrough for women with metastatic breast cancer.

In a world first, breast cancer researchers at The Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, successfully combined a drug that has shown promise in the treatment of chronic leukaemia with therapy used to treat breast cancer.

The Royal Melbourne Hospital’s and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre’s medical oncologist, Professor Geoff Lindeman, principal investigator of the study, said the combination of the two drugs has given researchers and patients a boost in tackling metastatic breast cancer. Professor Lindeman is also a researcher at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

“The primary aim of the study was to determine the safety and tolerability of Venetoclax in combination with Tamoxifen,” Professor Lindeman said. 

“We tested this combination on the basis of our laboratory findings at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. Venetoclax is a drug that switches off BCL-2, a protein that helps keep cancer cells alive. Our findings suggest that adding Venetoclax to conventional hormone therapy might boost responses.

“Although the study was aimed at determining safety and finding the right dose, we found that 75% of the women involved in the study experienced an overall improvement or derived clinical benefit.

“This result has provided a basis for further studies with Venetoclax, where the hope would be to produce deeper and more durable responses for women affected by breast cancer.”

Professor Lindeman added this was the first time Venetoclax has been used on solid tumours. 

“Venetoclax is not currently approved in breast cancer and further studies will be required to determine its effectiveness,” Professor Lindeman said.

Venetoclax was developed based on a landmark discovery made in Melbourne during the late 1980s by Walter and Eliza Hall Institute scientists, that the BCL-2 promoted cancer cell survival.

“There were 42 women enrolled in the study, which was conducted at The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre over the last three years. 

“The drug was well tolerated, and the majority received the maximum dose with minimal side effects. We have now established a new benchmark dose for future studies.

“We are excited by the findings and what it could mean for patients with incurable hormone receptor positive breast cancer.”

Patient Julie was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer just before her 60th birthday. She enrolled in the study and was given the combined dose of Venetoclax and Tamoxifen.

Patient Julie with Medical Oncologist and Study Researcher, Dr Sheau Wen Lok.

Patient Julie with Medical Oncologist and Study Researcher, Dr Sheau Wen Lok.

The 10cm tumour in Julie’s breast shrank rapidly in response to the treatment.

“My tumour is undetectable at the moment – the doctors said they couldn’t find it,” Julie said.

“I’m hopeful this research will help other women in future.”

This article is sourced from our proud precinct partner, The Royal Melbourne Hospital

Collaborate + Connect + Commercialise

The Melbourne Biomedical Precinct is partnering with industry to help scientists fast track their research and their impact through a series of networking events.

The aim of the events is two-fold: equip scientists with information and skills to translate and commercialise their discoveries and secondly introduce them to people who can make that dream a reality, including investors and industry experts. The events feature a facilitated guest speaker and Q&A presentation, followed by a networking opportunity.

Close to 100 scientists, academics and business development managers from the Precinct attended the first event in late 2017. Dr Glenn Begley, CEO BioCurate, shared with the audience his experience of spending 15 years working in the USA, consulting for biopharma in both start-up and large company environments.

Read more about our next networking event.

Collaborate + Connect + Commercialise Event – Thursday 22 March 4.00-6.00 pm


Collaborate + Connect + Commercialise – Event Thursday 22 March 4.00-6.00 pm

Registrations for the first in the 2018 series of events are now open.

Dr Duncan Holmes, the European Head, Discovery Partnerships with Academia, GalxoSmithKline will showcase GSK’s research and development function, and outline its collaborative approach.

Dr Holmes will also invite academic researchers to learn more about the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 2018 Discovery Fast Track Australian Challenge. The Challenge offers scientists the chance to fast track their research with grants up of to $75,000 and the opportunity to work directly with world leading scientists.

This event is run in partnership with Price Waterhouse Coopers and the Biomedical Network.


Thursday 22 March, 4.00 – 6.00 pm


3.45 pm – Arrival and registration
4.00 pm – Welcome by Gareth Goodier, Executive Chair, Melbourne Biomedical Precinct

Dr Duncan Holmes: European Head, Discovery Partnerships with Academia – GalxoSmithKline 2018 Discovery Fast Track Australian Challenge


5.00-6.00 pm – Networking and refreshments


Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
1G Royal Parade, Parkville VIC 3052


Click here to RSVP at Eventbrite.

If your organisation is interested in partnering with the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct in support of these events please contact the office here


Boost for biomedical precinct

The new Parkville Station, part of the Metro Tunnel Project, will open doors for the acclaimed Melbourne Biomedical Precinct.

Made up of 30 hospitals, medical research institutions, biomedical organisations and universities largely located to the north of the central city, the precinct employs around 34,000 people and educates more than 7000 students annually.

The precinct partners, some in operation for more than 160 years, have been at the forefront of improved outcomes in areas such as infectious diseases and immunology, neurosciences including mental health, cancer, child health and healthy ageing.

Dr Gareth Goodier, Executive Chair of the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct Office, said having a new train station in the heart of the precinct will open up access for patients, visitors, staff and students.

‘The city shaping Metro Tunnel Project offers significant opportunities for the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct, including the potential to accommodate growth and to develop infrastructure and services,’ Gareth said.

‘The station also includes plans for new surrounding public spaces, retail and hospitality.

‘Combined, these will mean the precinct is a more accessible, pedestrian friendly environment and a more attractive place to work and study.’

The Victorian Government has identified medical technologies and pharmaceuticals as one of six priority areas, with potential to create highly-skilled, secure jobs and to drive economic growth.

‘Innovation clusters, districts or precincts within and across industries have become a priority and focus for cities, including Melbourne,’ Gareth said.

‘We also know that a young workforce prefers to congregate and work in vibrant neighbourhoods that are walkable, connected and offer choices in transport, housing and amenities.

‘This provides great opportunity for the precinct and recognises the need for us to work together to create and sustain an attractive and accessible environment for everyone.’

This article originally appeared in the City of Melbourne’s Melbourne Magazine – February 2018.