Grants to treat alcohol-use disorder and transform cancer diagnosis

Sydney researchers have received two National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Synergy Grants worth $10 million.

Two University of Sydney research teams have been awarded NHMRC Synergy Grants to lead projects that will develop treatments for alcohol-use disorder and transform diagnosis of breast and lung cancer.

The Synergy Grants, announced today by the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, support outstanding multidisciplinary teams of investigators to work together to answer major questions that cannot be answered by a single investigator.

Professor Robyn Ward , Executive Dean of the  Faculty of Medicine and Health , congratulated the researchers.

"The success in securing two synergy grants speaks to the innovative and collaborative nature of the projects.

"Both teams are tackling significant health problems, with the focus on improving long-term outcomes for patients and their families."

Linking clinical and basic science discovery to find new treatments for alcohol use disorder

Professor  Paul Haber  and Associate Professor Kirsten Morley from the Faculty of Medicine and Health are chief investigators on a project which will deliver new approaches to treat alcohol use disorder, including how to tailor treatment to individual patient characteristics.

"More than a million Australians meet criteria for an alcohol use disorder, making it a leading cause of injury, chronic disease and mortality," said Professor Haber.

"During the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve also seen increased consumption of alcohol and hospital admissions from alcohol problems.

"Current treatment options have limited effectiveness and there haven’t been any new medication discoveries for 20 years."

"This program will allow us to improve the treatment options for this common and disabling disorder by building a large collaborative research network to bridge the gaps between discovery sciences and the clinic," said Associate Professor Morley.

"We will identify mechanisms and predictors of efficacy to inform future drug discovery and develop a personalised medicine approach that will improve the lives of many Australians."

IMPACT: IMplementation of x-ray PhAse-Contrast Tomography to transform cancer diagnosis

Professor  Patrick Brennan , Professor Sarah Lewis and Dr Amir Tavakoli Taba from the Faculty of Medicine and Health are chief investigators on a program that will transform diagnosis of breast and lung cancer by establishing a path to clinical implementation of a novel low-dose, high-quality, 3D imaging technique.

"Propagation-based phase-contrast computed tomography (PB-CT) can improve the imaging signal 10-fold, leading to a considerable improvement in image quality and a substantial reduction in the X-ray dose, compared to conventional X-ray imaging techniques," said Professor Brennan.

"Successful clinical translation of PB-CT requires a multidisciplinary team of experts in academia and beyond. This Synergy Grant allows us to bring together the right people to deliver a world-first PB-CT imaging facility. 

"The program could revolutionise breast and lung cancer diagnosis worldwide and position Australia as an international hub of scientific, clinical and industrial excellence in X-ray phase-contrast imaging.

"Through vastly improved cancer diagnosis and reduced risk and discomfort, PB-CT has the potential to significantly reduce cancer mortality and morbidity."

Award-winning Sydney start-up DetectED-X has directed its breast cancer diagnosis tool at the coronavirus, drawing on pandemic cases globally with support from healthcare and industry leaders to ramp up COVID-19 detection.

University of Sydney researchers have received $61 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to improve the health of Australians.

The University of Sydney has led the development of the updated federal Guidelines for the Treatment of Alcohol Problems, publicised in the MJA yesterday, which sits alongside the NHMRC alcohol consumption guidelines.


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