World-leading imaging technology reveals insights into cancer treatment for children with Down Syndrome

World-leading imaging technology reveals insights into cancer treatment for children with Down Syndrome.

The National Imaging Facility (NIF) continues to enable imaging science to unlock major health challenges with break-through research coming out of the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI).

Leading-edge research conducted at the NIF’s South Australian Node has provided critical insight into the development of cancer in children with Down Syndrome.

Scientists from SAHMRI have identified an epigenetic regulator, HMGN1, on chromosome 21 that cooperates with a high-risk gene fusion to give rise to acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) in paediatric patients with Down Syndrome.

Children with Down Syndrome are 20 times more prone to developing leukaemia, and are more susceptible to experiencing additional side effects from chemotherapy. In addition to these statistics, 60% of children with Down Syndrome ALL harbour this high-risk gene fusion, and all have high expression of chromosome 21 genes.

SAHMRI’s findings suggest HMGN1 is a potential target for a precision treatment approach in Down Syndrome ALL. The outcomes from this study present an opportunity to reduce exposure in patients to the toxic side effects of chemotherapy and improve survival outcomes for children with Down Syndrome ALL.

NIF Node Co-Director, Dr Chris Christou praised the work of the SAHMRI team, including Prof Deborah L White and Dr Elyse Page and congratulated them on the findings which present potentially life-saving data.

“These dedicated and highly-skilled scientists have demonstrated the critical role imaging has in responding to major health challenges,” Dr Christou said.

“I congratulate them on this vital discovery and look forward to updates on their continued work progressing their research to improve the lives of children with Down Syndrome.”

You can read a detailed post about the study here.

For more information, contact Wick Lakshantha, Imaging Scientist and National Imaging Facility Fellow, SAHMRI.

#ImagingTheFuture Week: Unlocking solutions to major health challenges

#ImagingTheFuture Week: Unlocking solutions to major health challenges


Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s (CZI) Imaging the Future Week puts a spotlight on the significance of imaging science in biomedicine, and the importance of building a vibrant imaging community across the world to tackle these challenges at scale.

Imaging science and the highly skilled researchers behind it are vital to addressing global health challenges, and driving innovation in disease management, prevention, and cure.

The National Imaging Facility (NIF) invests in state-of-the-art equipment and partners with world-class experts to process and interpret data and apply imaging to solve challenging health problems.

CEO Prof Wojtek Goscinski said he was proud of the NIF’s partnerships which enable the translation of discoveries through to real world applications to improve the health of the population.

“Advanced imaging techniques make it possible to deepen our understanding of health and disease in the human body through visualisation,” Prof Goscinski said.

“Imaging already plays a critical role in healthcare, and the acceleration of its advancements in biomedicine are positioning us, and our colleagues world-wide to continue this work well into the future.”

“We are supportive of the efforts of CZI and I’m excited for NIF to work alongside them and our other international imaging colleagues, building a cutting-edge imaging community at the forefront of global imaging research,” Prof Goscinski said.

You can find out more about Imaging the Future Week here.

Keep scrolling to check out some of the impressive imaging work from a few of the Australian National Imaging Facility’s Nodes.

Time-of-flight angiography of the human brain using 7 Tesla MRI – courtesy of the Centre for Advanced Imaging, University of Queensland

Human Tooth CT scan – courtesy of Diana Patalwala, University of Western Australia

Angiogram scanned on the Siemens 3T Skyra magnet – courtesy of the Large Animal Research and Imaging Facility, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute

Tractography template image of a sham rat – courtesy of David Wright, The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health

Imaging critical to brain cancer treatment

Imaging critical to brain cancer treatment: Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute to collaborate with Telix in ground-breaking new study

National Imaging Facility (NIF) Node partner, the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI) will work with globally recognised biopharmaceutical company Telix to evaluate the use of a novel radiotracer (O-(2-[18F]fluoroethyl)-L-tyrosine or 18F-FET) to image patients with glioblastoma (GBM), a type of brain cancer, with positron emission tomography (PET) (FET-PET).

The collaboration between ONJCRI and Telix will enable a synergistic approach to improving the lives of people with GBM, which is the most common primary brain cancer in adults.

The ONJCRI is a global leader in the development of immunotherapies, targeted therapeutics, and personalised cancer medicine, while Telix is focused on the development of clinical-stage products that address significant unmet medical need in oncology and rare diseases.

The FET-PET in Glioblastoma (FIG) study will recruit up to 210 recently diagnosed adult GBM patients at 10 sites around Australia, aiming to definitively establish the role of FET-PET in the management of patients with GBM. The FIG Study is funded by the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), the Australian Brain Cancer Mission (ABCM), and the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation, and also involves the Trans-Tasman Radiation Oncology Group (TROG) and the Australasian Radiopharmaceutical Trials Network (ARTnet). 

The NIF’s LaTrobe University – ONJCRI Node Director, and Clinical Trial Co-Chair, Prof Andrew Scott AM said the study would utilise imaging to bring critical new treatment opportunities to light and have potentially life-saving impacts.

“Imaging is integral to effective diagnosis, staging and determination of the treatment pathway for all cancers, but is vitally important in GBM which is very aggressive and can be difficult to treat,” Professor Scott said.

“This ground-breaking study will use 18F-FET, a new PET tracer which can show us if tumour cells are active. This is a more functional imaging technique compared to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the current standard imaging tool, and could potentially provide a powerful imaging biomarker for the management of brain cancer and improve survival rates.”

National Imaging Facility CEO, Prof Wojtek Goscinski said the collaboration was an exciting opportunity to see the life-changing impacts that cutting-edge imaging capabilities can have on people living with debilitating illnesses.

“Medical imaging plays a critical role in the diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of life-threatening diseases like GBM,” Prof Goscinski said.

“It is excellent to see Australian-led research use imaging with the aim to improve the treatment of patients with GBM and save lives.

“It’s exciting for NIF’s LaTrobe University – ONJCRI node to be involved in an industry partnership that has the potential to expand the country’s economic growth, and position Australia as a global leader in cancer research,” he said.

You can read more about the announcement here.

Ape-y ending for sick Orangutan at the National Imaging Facility SA Node

Ape-y ending for sick Orangutan at the National Imaging Facility SA Node

Image credit: Adrian Mann

Puspa, the 46-year-old female Sumatran Orangutan from Adelaide Zoo was taken to the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute Preclinical, Imaging and Research Laboratories (SAHMRI PIRL) for CT imaging last year to investigate the cause of a sudden change in behaviour and suspected pain in her lower abdomen.

Diagnostic imaging plays a critical role in healthcare in human- and animal- patients, enabling the best evidence for decision making, and coordinating the most effective treatment options.

Sumatran Orangutans are critically endangered, and a patient like Puspa can’t tell us what’s wrong. Having access to a CT scanner within the SAHMRI Large Animal Research and Imaging Facility (LARIF) is extremely valuable for diagnosis and treatment, protecting the species.

The expert team *swung into action* to find the CT scan revealed a number of gallstones, along with inflammation of the bile duct and gallbladder – and determined the best course of action for Puspa’s wellbeing to be surgical removal.

Due to the unique nature of the operation, the veterinary team consulted with human medical experts from Flinders Medical Centre and the Royal Adelaide Hospital to determine the best procedure to remove all the gallstones and gallbladder based on the CT findings.

The uniquely diverse medical team removed nine large gallstones and a gallbladder that was definitely past its prime(ate).

We’re ape-solutely delighted to report that since surgery, Puspa is back to her usual self, but hasn’t been up to any monkey business, leaving her stitches alone. She’s eating well, has been out and about and is climbing.

For more information, contact: Georgia Williams, Research Radiographer and National Imaging Facility Fellow, SAHMRI.

If you’re a fan of gore(illa) (sorry) you can watch the video of Puspa’s surgery below.

You can *hang out* with Puspa at Adelaide Zoo.

Open Access paper an opportunity for coordinated global response to major scientific challenges

Open Access paper an opportunity for coordinated global response to major scientific challenges

International cutting-edge bioimaging facilities network, Global BioImaging, has published a paper highlighting the value of open access imaging core facilities for researchers, imaging scientists, industry and funders.

Open access imaging core facilities underpin a wide range of positive outcomes for society. They empower excellent research to address global challenges, encourage innovative cross-disciplinary collaborations, and enable re-usability of imaging data for new research.

The National Imaging Facility (NIF) and Microscopy Australia are the Australian members of Global BioImaging’s network of imaging infrastructures and communities and are continually working to strengthen national contributions to the global scientific community.

As contributors to the paper, National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS)-funded facilities, NIF and Microscopy Australia, are working to further coordination and integration of national investments in research infrastructure.

Microscopy Australia CEO, Prof. Julie Cairney said the paper recognised Australia as a leader in the global landscape but underlined the opportunities that open access imaging infrastructure enables internationally.

“The paper recognises scientific, technical and data challenges as universal rather than restricted by geographical boundaries,” Prof Cairney said.

“Investment in open access imaging infrastructure enables researchers to respond in a collaborative and coordinated manner to critical issues such as the current health, climate change, sustainable agriculture and environmental protection challenges and provide benefits on a global scale.”

NIF CEO, Prof Wojtek Goscinski said the document provides valuable insight into beneficial aspects of a coordinated approach to utilising imaging technologies to reach global goals.

“Open access imaging core facilities have the potential to open doors to addressing deeply embedded so­cio-economic challenges, the sharing of good practices, and knowledge,” Prof Goscinski said.

“This paper provides a unique opportunity for international discussion and cooperation to investigate prospects to strengthen cutting-edge imaging capability and research capacity on a global scale, with possible outcomes to better standards of living across the board.”

Click here to read Global BioImaging’s paper “Added Value of Open Access Imaging Core Facilities”

JOB ALERT: Help us find our new Partnership Manager

NIF to strengthen Australia’s collaborative research capability with dedicated Partnership Manager Applications close 23 January 2022, 11:00PM AEST

The National Imaging Facility (NIF) is recruiting a Partnership Manager, who will be integral to making cutting-edge imaging capabilities accessible to Australian researchers.

Complex problems cannot be easily solved by a single discipline, and often the research with the greatest impact is derived from collaboration – so our new Partnership Manager will be vital to driving collaboration and innovation to place Australia at the cutting edge of research.

The Partnership Manager will build an Australia-wide community of stakeholders across universities, medical research institutes, government and industry to support the NIF’s world class research infrastructure.

The brand-new role will enable the NIF to expand and strengthen its research network, providing capabilities that underpin nationally significant and impactful research, which translates to products and benefits for the Australian public.

Our Partnership Manager will be poised to effectively engage the NIF’s ecosystem of expertise, infrastructure and services to support researchers, and lead to greater translation of research into impactful products to benefit Australians.

We are looking for a candidate with excellent business development skills, including experience in identifying and developing major collaborations and partnerships.

Our Partnership Manager will play a critical role in strengthening stakeholder relations, fostering and nurturing partnerships, and contributing to the strategic and operational objectives of Australia’s national imaging capability to meet complex domestic and global challenges.

The NIF provides state-of-the-art facilities and services located throughout Australia that support critical leading-edge innovation and research, but NIF’s capability is much more than these instruments and equipment. The NIF network is privileged to comprise of a range of highly skilled experts across 13 Nodes, enabling projects that have the potential to improve Australia’s standard of living and strengthen its economic standing.

Read more and apply to become our new Partnership Manager.

Message from the CEO: 2021 in review and thank you

Dear colleagues 

As we wrap up our activities in 2021, I wanted to take the opportunity to look back at some of our key achievements over the past year, acknowledge the impactful work of our cutting-edge network of teams across Australia and thank you for your contribution to NIF. 

The National Imaging Facility (NIF) provides state-of-the-art facilities and services that support critical leading-edge innovation and research, but our capability is much more than these instruments and equipment. The NIF network is privileged to comprise of a range of highly skilled experts across our Nodes, enabling projects that have the potential to improve Australia’s standard of living and strengthen our economic standing. As a network, we provide capabilities that underpin nationally significant and impactful research, which translates to products and benefits for the Australian public.  

The NIF network grew this year with new partners, La Trobe University and the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, Macquarie University, and the University of Newcastle and the Hunter Medical Research Institute, joining to expand vital opportunities for synergy within NIF’s research capabilities. 

Over the past year, NIF facilities have: performed preclinical testing of a ground-breaking and simple to use ‘field ventilator’, helped underpin the development of the first disease modifying therapy for AD approved by the FDA, congratulated the team behind one of TIME Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2021, Synchron’s Stentrode which was tested on one of our 7T instruments, and we partnered with Global BioImaging to deliver a series of webinars exploring applications of biomedical imaging in health and disease.  

Thank you to the NIF Board and its Chair, Prof Margaret Harding, Partner Advisory Committee, Scientific Advisory Committee and Fellows for your essential support and contribution to making cutting-edge imaging capabilities accessible to Australian researchers. Your commitment and expertise are vital to enabling Australian imaging science to unlock solutions to major challenges emerging on a global scale. Special thanks to the team at NIF Central, particularly Saba and Bec for their outstanding work during a challenging year, and a warm welcome to Alex. In the new year, we look forward to welcoming new members of the NIF Central team.  

Finally, I’d like to extend my thanks to you all for welcoming me to the NIF in June this year. It has been a privilege to step into the role of Chief Executive Officer. Over the past year, NIF has evolved through some significant changes, and we have all continued to adapt our work to continue at the forefront of research and service delivery in parallel with the ongoing effects of the global pandemic. Planning is underway for the next stages of growth and development for the NIF, particularly as we respond to the exposure draft of the 2021 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap, enabling Australia to maintain its research excellence, increase innovation and address emerging research challenges. As we look to the future, I am confident the work our dedicated teams throughout the country are undertaking now is positioning the NIF in excellent stead for 2022. 

The NIF office will shut down from 22 December to 10 January. With the reopening of the State borders, I look forward to the opportunity to spend more time meeting in person in 2022. My warmest wishes for an enjoyable and safe Christmas break, and I look forward to working with you all next year.  

Thank you for your contributions to NIF.  

Wojtek Goscinski
Chief Executive Officer

NIF’s capabilities grow with new Nodes

The National Imaging Facility’s (NIF) capabilities are expanding with three leading research institutions joining the national network, La Trobe University’s school of Cancer Medicine, the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI), Macquarie University, and the University of Newcastle and the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) Imaging Centre.

The new nodes will further diversify NIF’s network to include research capability and training in rural and remote communities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities and cutting-edge molecular imaging for treating cancer and cognitive decline. The NIF network will grow from 10 national nodes to 13 across Australia and will strengthen research expertise in dementia, brain concussion imaging, cancer biology, neurodegenerative diseases, molecular imaging probes for cancer, and drug development.

NIF’s first regional node, located in Newcastle is a joint partnership with the HMRI Imaging Centre and the University of Newcastle, and will provide direct links with regional and rural communities, facilitated through the University’s established regional research engagement programs, improving health research outcomes in remote and vulnerable populations and support Aboriginal communities whose health priorities include deafness, renal disease, and neurodegenerative disorders.

“The HMRI Imaging Centre is delighted to be joining NIF. We deliver important translational imaging research for the wider Hunter region and bridge the gap between urban, regional and rural communities. The facility is an international leader in human foetal imaging and spectroscopy and supports flagship translational projects in cancer, dementia, psychosis, inflammatory diseases and cardiorespiratory disease” said Professor Michael Breakspear, Node Co-director from the University of Newcastle and the HMRI Imaging Centre.

Associate Professor Saad Ramadan, Node Co-director from the University of Newcastle and the HMRI Imaging Centre, said the centre facilitates fundamental discovery research and technical developments in sequence optimization and implementation and its partnership with the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Local Health District (HNELHD) and NSW Regional Health Partners. The facility supports multiple institutional, community and industrial partners including Corvia Medical Inc. and Australian Cardiovascular Alliance (ACvA).

The new Macquarie University Node provides national access to pre-clinical medical and research imaging capabilities within MQ Health and has a full biomedical imaging suite including (x-ray, CT, MRI, PET) located within Macquarie University Hospital (MUH); and magnetoencephalography (MEG) and related electrophysiological recording technologies located within the Australian Hearing Hub. The new NIF node has the only paediatric MEG facility in Australia and is one of only two in the country.

Macquarie University’s Professor of Radiology, John Magnussen said the facility supports studies of children who have developmental disorders and has integrated radiology and molecular imaging facilities that allows for time critical clinical research to inform and improve patient recovery from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

“This environment allows access to high-quality imaging techniques and datasets with relevant clinical information and supports dementia brain imaging that will inform a national framework for concussion imaging and capacity for pharma-sponsored clinical trials. There are more than 100 actives trials, which give broad access to the community and researchers and we are thrilled to be part of NIF providing open access to imaging expertise,” Professor Magnussen said.

La Trobe’s University’s School of Cancer Medicine, ONJCRI is at the frontier of cancer medicine, with over 200 ongoing clinical trials, providing patients with access to experimental and breakthrough treatments including immunotherapies, targeted therapies and personalised medicine.

The new La Trobe-ONJCRI node will provide an integrated molecular imaging program that extends from laboratory research, including biology, chemistry, biotechnology, through to novel probe radiochemistry and validation in animal imaging (PET and MRI) prior to human trials.

Professor Andrew Scott AM, Director of the La Trobe-ONJCRI node said “We are excited to be joining NIF. This exciting partnership and the installation of a preclinical PET/3T MRI scanner in a dedicated imaging suite within our facility will enable ongoing and enhanced basic and translational research to be performed, linked to our world-class radiochemistry and human PET facilities on site. With the increased capacity we look forward to further collaborations with academia, Pharma and Biotech to facilitate research, drug development and clinical studies”.

NIF’s Chief Executive Officer, Professor Wojtek James Goscinski said NIF is excited to welcome three outstanding facilities to our network which will provide Australian researchers with access to a range of unique instruments across three new sites, and Australia’s network of applied imaging expertise, with this addition, National Imaging Facility capabilities span 14 sites.

“I’d like to welcome the three nodes and their international imaging research leaders to the NIF network – their extensive and diverse research capability and expertise will improve Australians’ access to better healthcare, foster socio-economic equity for rural and remote communities and inform our global imaging communities on world-class research in dementia, brain and concussion imaging, cancer biology and drug development”.

National Imaging Facility is funded by the Australian Government, under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), State Governments, and its partners.

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Neuro Imaging to examine high rates of dementia in older Aboriginal Australians

Early life stress (ELS) has been linked to abnormalities in brain structure and function and may contribute to increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia later in life. ELS has also been associated with the high prevalence of dementia observed in older Aboriginal Australians.

A study at NIF’s UNSW Node, NeuRA Imaging is engaging the Australian Aboriginal community to investigate structural and pathological brain changes that underlie in high rates of dementia and cognitive decline in older Aboriginal Australians.

This will be the first study that investigates neuroimaging in cognitive impairment in older Aboriginal Australians and will inform dementia prevention, diagnosis and policy. It will also contribute to the wider literature on vascular risk in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease and associated biomedical and social risk factors.

After extensive community engagement with partnering Aboriginal communities including La Perouse, NSW, the initial consultation stage of NeuRA’s Koori Growing Old Well Study indicated that neuroimaging should be included in future dementia studies (Lavrencic et al., 2020, Int Psychogeriatr). Led by NeuRA’s, researchers including Dr Kylie Radford, Professor Tony Broe AM and Dr Louise Lavrencic, the Koori Growing Old Well Study included a community planning survey, pilot MRI study and guidance from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Steering Committee.

“NIF’s capabilities are allowing this study to investigate underlying brain changes and pathology in ageing and dementia in partnership with Aboriginal communities. The study will give greater detail and is using sophisticated and novel MRI techniques. By having the facility in-house at NeuRA it also means we can ensure a culturally safe and welcoming environment for our participants. With a rapidly ageing population and high rates of dementia, we hope that this ground breaking study will shed light on important ways to promote healthy brain ageing with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” said Dr Kylie Radford, Senior Research Scientist and Group Leader, Neuroscience Research Australia.

The neuroimaging sub-study is a prospective, cross-sectional non-interventional study where participants will first complete a comprehensive interview and diagnostic assessment as part of the Koori Growing Old Well study. Consenting participants (200) aged 55+ will undergo MR scans with an expected study completion by 2023.

The outcome analyses will include identifying associations between cognitive impairment and hippocampal atrophy/volume and vascular indices on MR. Vascular pathology will be examined for cases of possible or probable Alzheimer’s disease compared to a cognitively intact control group. Correlations between MR measures and early life stress, adult risk and protective factors, cognitive function, and clinically diagnosed cognitive impairment will be investigated.

Better detection and treatment of dementia

Biogen’s Aducanumab (Aduhelm) is the first disease modifying therapy for AD approved by the The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). NIF’s positron emission tomography (PET) imaging facilities at the University of Melbourne, HIRF and the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) supported the Australian trial recruitment of the Biogen Phase 3 trial by screening potentially suitable participants with amyloid PET scans in collaboration with the Australian Imaging Biomarkers and Lifestyle Study of Ageing at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health and Austin Health.

To prescribe the treatment for prodromal and early clinical AD it will be necessary to use imaging both PET and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)/blood biomarkers to ensure that subjects being treated have AD and that side effects from Aduhelm are properly managed.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia making up 70% of all dementia. There are about 300,000 Australians currently living with the disease, with the average disease duration of 10 years equating to 30,000 new cases each year. These numbers are predicted to triple by 2050.

The degeneration within the brain begins two to three decades before overt symptoms, highlighting early detection is critical. NIF’s University of Melbourne Node and the Herston Imaging Research Facility (HIRF) have been involved in several dementia trials, studying different aspects of the disease including early biomarker detection, combining state of the art multimodality imaging, genetics and neuropsychology. NIF is working to assess novel radiotracers as a diagnostic tool for early detection of AD and the development of a national network of radiotracers for dementia screening in collaboration with QTRaCE and the Australia Dementia Network (ADNeT). This research aids the success of new preventative medicines, both through repurposing an existing drug and novel drug development and improves classification of AD subtypes, which impact treatment profiles.

NIF has played a major role in helping Australia to maintain its leadership in imaging applied to the dementias, particularly in AD. This has occurred at multiple sites around the country since 2012. The advent of disease modifying therapies for AD will cause an increase in demand for services and it will be crucial for new innovative and cost effective methods of service delivery in our increasingly ageing population.


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