Research leads to better outcomes

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Mater Researcher wins prestigious funding grants

Mater Researcher Associate Professor Kristen Radford won three prestigious funding grants for her work in 2015— $683 667 from the United States Department of Defense, $388 127 in Worldwide Cancer Research Funding  and $382 077 from the National Health and Medical Research Council—which will be used to help support the development new cancer vaccines.

“Our overarching aim is to develop a new vaccine for cancers. The vaccine we are making is aimed to very specifically activate only the cancer fighting dendritic cells, with the advantage that it does not require remo val of patients’ blood.

“We predict this will be a more practical, specific and effective vaccine that will be suitable to treat many cancer patients," Professor Radford said.

Ten of the best

Mater and UQ Researchers Professor Sue Kildea, Dr Yu Gao, and Professor Sue Kruske, have been recognised as part of a team of researchers highlighted in the National Health and Medical Research Council publication, ‘Ten of the Best’.

The publication highlights outstanding Australian research projects that are directly contributing to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of health issues facing Australians.

The research project, carried out in the Northern Territory, aimed to improve maternal and infant healthcare and outcomes for Indigenous Australian mothers and babies living in remote communities. As a result of the project, researchers, health system leaders and communities work together to implement a new evidence-based model to  build the Aboriginal workforce and ensure culturally responsive continuity of midwifery care throughout pregnancy, birth and the post-birth period.

New drug attacks cancerous ovarian cells

A new antibody drug that attacks cancerous ovarian cells and limits the serious side-effects of traditional treatments has been developed by a team of researchers led by Mater Research Institute-University of Queensland’s (MRI-UQ) Associate Professor John Hooper.

The research indicates cancerous ovarian cells produce a specific protein that could be targeted by the new drug.

“While normal ovaries don’t produce this protein, the tumours of about 90 per cent of patients do.

“This means we can attack cancerous cells while having little impact on the normal ovarian cells,” Associate Professor Hooper said.

While the study is still in its  early stages, the next phase of the research, funded by the Cancer Council Queensland, will use patient samples to study how effective the antibody can be against ovarian cancer.

MRI-UQ is an alliance between Mater Research and The University of Queensland, two leading institutions working together to achieve the best possible research discoveries in health and medicine.

Risk of stillbirth twice as high for disadvantaged women

Women from lower socio-economic families face twice the risk of delivering a stillborn baby than their wealthier counterparts, according to an international study led by a Mater Research Institute-University of Queensland (MRI-UQ).

The international study of stillbirth rates in high-income countries, led by MRI-UQ’s Associate Professor Vicki Flenady, found that the equity gap between rich and poor is contributing to thousands of preventable deaths. Associate Professor Flenady said many stillbirths in disadvantaged families could be  prevented.

“We know that disadvantaged women are less likely to receive adequate antenatal care, yet this is vital to allow the early identification of factors which might contribute to a baby being stillborn.

“Improved education, alleviation of poverty, and improved access to healthcare that is timely and culturally appropriate are critical for preventing stillbirth deaths in disadvantaged families,” Associate Professor Flenady said.

The study found that high-income countries could reduce the rate of stillbirths by introducing national audits for perinatal death and by funding more research to improve understanding of the causes of stillbirths.

“Our research showed that while stillbirth is more prevalent in low- and middle-income countries, it is still a major health burden in high income countries across the world.”

Australia’s stillbirth rates are significantly higher than the best-performing developed countries, including the Netherlands, which has reduced its rates since 2000.

The study was part of The Lancet’s Ending Preventable Stillbirths series, which estimates 98 per cent of the world’s 2.6 million stillbirths each year occur in low- and middle-income countries. The series found most stillbirths were preventable, with many attributable to infections during pregnancy, non-communicable diseases, and obstetric complications.