Monday, 3 April 2017

Chemotherapy-free approach looks optimistic for older Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia patients

Professor Stephen Opat
An international clinical trial for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL), including collaborators at Monash University, has examined a ‘chemotherapy-free’ drug combination in older patients for the first time.

Monash Health and Monash University researchers were the major Australian contributors to the international study, the results of which were published last week in Blood.

Director of Monash Haematology Professor Stephen Opat said it was the first time that a combination of two highly effective alternatives to chemotherapy were analysed in typical older patients with CLL who have other health concerns.

“Patients were given an antibody (obinutuzumab) directed against lymphoma cells and a drug (Venetoclax) that was developed here in Melbourne at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research,” said study co-author Professor Opat.

 “The study showed the two therapies could be combined fairly safely and that at the end of the treatment (using a very sensitive molecular test), 11 out of 12 assessable patients had no evidence of disease in the bloodstream.”

The paper is a first look at the combination therapy, although the full study results won’t be available for many months.

“This study is very important because while CLL is very treatable, only a minority of patients would achieve this level or disease eradication—and they are usually younger patients receiving more aggressive chemotherapy,” said Professor Opat.

“Elimination of low levels of CLL has been associated with longer periods of disease control with some patients never needing to be retreated.”

CLL is the most common leukaemia adults, with a lifetime risk of 0.5-1%.

Supplementing preterm infants with omega-3 fats of no benefit

Dr Kenneth Tan
A collaborative research project including researchers from Monash University questions the benefits of omega-3 fats in premature infants.

Led by the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital the study, ‘N3RO’, the largest of its type, was a collaboration between 13 major hospitals in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore and involved over 1200 babies born more than 11 weeks early.

Published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study was designed to test if supplementation with high-dose omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which has anti-inflammatory activity, would reduce the incidence of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (also known as chronic lung disease).

The reason for N3RO
Most babies born very preterm need extra oxygen and help with their breathing. This can result in inflammation of the lungs causing chronic lung disease and poor long-term health outcomes.
Very preterm babies are also born with low DHA levels that continue to fall after birth. The outcomes of previous studies suggested that chronic lung disease could be reduced if the amount of DHA in their diet was increased to that which the baby would have received from the placenta if they weren’t born several months too early; this is more than 3 times the amount of DHA in breast milk or premature baby formula.

The team set out to determine if extra DHA was needed. Very preterm infants were given either a supplement providing extra DHA, or a control supplement without DHA, from birth until around the time they were due to go home.

N3RO showed that DHA supplementation did not reduce the risk of chronic lung disease, but marginally increased the risk. DHA treatment also did not alter the incidence of any of the other common complications seen in this fragile population.

Unexpected results
Dr Carmel Collins from SAHMRI’s Healthy Mothers, Babies and Children theme, said that before the N3RO study, DHA was thought to be beneficial for very premature babies with no harmful effects.

“This has led to increasing amounts of DHA being included in products for premature babies. Our results suggest that additional supplementation of DHA is unnecessary and reinforces the need to thoroughly test all nutritional interventions designed for babies,” Dr Collins said.

Dr Kenneth Tan, consultant neonatal paediatrician at Monash Children’s Hospital and senior lecturer at Monash University, said that the results of the N3RO study are important.

“We have learned a lot and now have definitive information to help guide health professionals in their nutritional management of very premature infants,” Dr Tan said.

“The N3RO results reinforce that we need to be careful about the amounts of all nutrients, including DHA. More is not necessarily better.”

73 infants at Monash Newborn, Monash Medical Centre participated in the study.

Introducing Precision chemotherapy in pancreatic cancer: a phase 2 study of Panitumumab in KRAS wild-type pancreatic cancer

Dr Daniel Croagh
Monash Health hepatobiliary surgeon and interventional endoscopist Dr Daniel Croagh was awarded a Monash Partners Comprehensive Cancer Centre (MPCCC) grant worth $184,000 for his research into precision chemotherapy in pancreatic cancer.

Dr Croagh's project proposes that by using genomic sequencing of routinely obtained pancreatic cancer biopsies, it will be possible to select a small group of pancreatic cancer patients (KRAS wild-type) who potentially stand to gain substantial benefit from treatment with an EGRF inhibitor (panitumumab).

“There is a desperate need for better systemic treatments for pancreatic cancer and we are thrilled to be able to continue this research with the help of MPCCC,” said Dr Daniel Croagh.

Personalised medicine for cancer patients using next generation sequencing

Dr Luciano Martelotto
Congratulations Dr Luciano Martelotto, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Medicine who was awarded a $116,000 MPCCC Research Grant.

Dr Martelotto's project will develop and implement a comprehensive, sensitive and rapid gene sequencing diagnostic test to allow physicians to quickly find out whether a patient’s cancer carries clinically important mutations. 

Critically this tumour genetic profile will enable cancer specialists to personalise treatment by matching individual patients with therapies from which they are most likely to benefit.

“Our research will facilitate improved access to clinical trials for cancer patients treated at MPCCC and beyond and we are very excited to have this opportunity,” Dr Luciano Martelotto said.

Dr Martelotto's co-investigators on this project include Associate Professor Jake Shortt and Associate Professor Arun Azad from the Department of Medicine, School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health.

31st Fetal and Neonatal Conference - Ritchie Centre Success

Nadia Bellofiore
Members of the Ritchie Centre attended the 31st Fetal and Neonatal Workshop of Australia and New Zealand in Canberra last week. The workshop encouraged students and ECRs to discuss new ideas and present their work in an informal multidisciplinary forum. Organised by Monash University, the workshop brought together  senior and junior researchers from across Australia and New Zealand.

This year 11 of the 31 presentations were from the Ritchie Centre and all of our students and ECRs gave fantastic presentations - with many presenting for the first time at a conference. Erin McGillick was joint winner of the ECR best presentation award, Nadia Bellofiore won the late PhD student presentation and Mikee Inocencio and Lara Rijkmans were joint winners of the early PhD award. Congratulations to everyone for an exciting and scientifically stimulating meeting!

Invitation to MMO Concert - 8 April

The Monash Medical Orchestra warmly invites you to its first Concert of the year, our annual autumn chamber concert, The Chamber of Music! 

5pm,Saturday April 8th, Armadale Uniting Church, 86A Kooyong Rd, Armadale. 

This evening will feature a variety of group and solo pieces, which the talented members of the MMO have prepared for your enjoyment. Tickets are priced at $15 each, and may be purchased online here <>   or at the door.

As has been the tradition for the MMO, we continue to offer small chamber groups for events. If you are looking for some live chamber music for an occasion, please contact us at

A personal safety reminder to staff and students parking along Dooga St.

On Friday 31st March just after 5pm a staff member was verbally abused and threatened by a man in Dooga St, Clayton on the way to her car.

The Monash staff member was able to drive off without further incident and the police were informed.

Please ensure you take reasonable precautions when walking to and from your car, to be alert and if possible walk with a friend or colleague.

Movie ticket and Coles voucher winners: Neda So and Quinton Luong

Neda So in Oxford
Congratulations Neda So who won two free movie tickets, having completed our eNews survey.  Neda is currently a BMedSc(Hons) student undertaking her research project at the University of Oxford, and she keeps in touch with SCS via our eNews.

Neda is continuing a research project commenced in 2016 by fellow student Viveka Nainani, studying infant presentations to A&E, and the clinical implications of post-immunisation fevers.  Neda said she looks forward to redeeming her movie voucher when she returns to Melbourne in October for her BMedSc(Hons) oral presentation.

In more free voucher news, Honours student Quinton Luong received a $20 Coles voucher, having been selected from all the honours students who completed our survey about why they chose to do their research project at MHTP.   Quinton is evaluating SGI-110 in T-cell Non-Hodgkin lymphoma under the supervision of Associate Professor Jake Shortt.

Apply for Single Cell Genomics Grant Program Application before 28th April 2017

MHTP Medical Genomics Facility, in partnership with Fluidigm and Millennium science, are pleased to offer a $10,000 AUD Single Cell Genomics Grant Program. 

This grant program will provide all the Fluidigm reagents and consumables to to capture single cells using the Fluidigm C1 Single cell Autoprep system and perform targeted gene expression analysis of 96 gene targets in 96 samples using the Biomark HD system. 

And better yet, the 96 Gene targets can be chosen from the Single Cell Genomics library of over 5,000 taqman assays in human and mouse. The collection of taqman assays can be used for a wide spectrum of research such as Immunology, Cancer genetics, Cardiovascular Endocrinology, Stem Cell biology, Reproduction and Developmental biology etc. 

A scientific review panel will decide the winning project by Friday, 5th May 2017.

Interested? Please follow the link in the flyer HERE for further information.

Apply before April 28th 2017.

MMC animal facilities update for Easter period

During the Easter period MMCAF staff will only be performing basic husbandry duties between Friday April 14th and Friday April 21st. 

No additional task or animal transfer requests will be able to be performed by staff in the three working days following the Easter period from Wed 19th April to Fri 21st April as staff will be utelising these three days to complete all necessary cage and water changes and husbandry duties only.

We will return to normal duties from Monday 24th April 2017.

During this busy time over the three week period, we do ask for your patience. It may take staff a bit longer to complete tasks when we can. Thank you.

If you have any specific queries relating to work during this time, please speak to Jo Howden or Melinda Smith (SPF) or Jess Eberbach (Conventional) or Monika Generowicz (Facilities Manager).

Prestigious Scholarships Information Session, 5 April

Prestigious scholarships include local, national and international opportunities that are developed to support our outstanding students with the resources needed to excel. These generous and well-recognised scholarships are open to students who are committed to contributing to a better future and those who are able to demonstrate academic leadership and academic merit.

Monash encourages all Honours and Masters students who are considering progressing into a PhD, to attend this information session to find out more about these prestigious scholarships.

·         Date: Tuesday 5 April 2017
·         Time: 12.00 – 2.00pm
·         Venue: Banquet Hall, Level 1, Campus Centre, Clayton Campus
·         Registrations online

In this session you will receive:
  • strategies and handy tips about how to apply;
  • firsthand information from the scholarship providers in attendance;
  • the opportunity to ask questions and receive personal advice to ensure that you can put your best application forward.
At this session, you will hear from:
  • Museum Victoria
  • the Menzies Foundation
  • the Fulbright Commission
  • the Department of Education and Training (Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships)
  • the Rhodes Trust
  • the Sir John Monash Foundation
  • the Westpac Bicentennial Foundation (Westpac Future Leaders Scholarship)
A light lunch will also be provided.

Further information available from Monash Graduate Education at

CID Weekly Seminar Series - Tuesday 4 April: Professor Nicole La Gruta, "Determinants of Effective CD8+ T cell immunity"

Tuesday 4 April, 12:00 - 1:00pm, Seminar Room 1, TRF Building

Professor Nicole La Gruta
Viertel Senior Medical Research Fellow
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Infection and Immunity Program
Biomedicine Discovery Institute, Monash University

Nicole's research focuses on understanding the key drivers of effective CD8+ T cell immunity. In this presentation she will summarize her findings on how the abundance and quality of antigen-specific T cells in the preimmune repertoire impacts on immune response magnitudes, detailing how the mode of TCR recognition of antigen dictates T cell recruitment into the immune response. Moreover, she will describe recent work elucidating how ageing undermines primary CD8 T cell responses, in part, through direct effects on naïve CD8 T cells that alter their phenotype and decrease their functionality. To understand the molecular basis of these defects, Nicole's team have assessed functional, metabolic and transcriptional differences across various subsets of naive CD8 T cells from young and aged mice and humans. Understanding characteristics that drive or delimit effective T cell responses permits the optimization or recovery of T cell function via strategies that target these mechanisms.

Nicole La Gruta obtained her undergraduate degree at Monash University and also completed her PhD at Monash on the initiating events in T cell mediated organ-specific autoimmunity. After completing her PhD training she moved to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tn, for a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr Dario Vignali investigating the immediate downstream consequences of TCR ligation. She returned to Melbourne in 2002 to assist in the establishment of Prof Peter Doherty’s laboratory at the University of Melbourne, and initiated studies into the drivers of T cell response magnitude. In 2008, Prof La Gruta started her independent research laboratory at the University of Melbourne. In 2016 she relocated to the Infection and Immunity Program at the Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University where she continues to study the key determinants and hallmarks of effective CD8+ T cell responses.

To book a meeting time with Nicole La Gruta - Meeting request form =

Further information

A light lunch is served prior to the seminar at 11:45am in the seminar room foyer, level 2, TRF Building.
Further information, including the link to add the seminar series to your google calendar, is available from CID Weekly Seminar Series website [

PhD Mid-candidature review, Yao Wang, "HtrA4-induced cellular dysfunction in early-onset preeclampsia", 6 April

All staff and students are invited to Yao Wang's mid-candidature review.

11am, 6 April, Level 4 seminar room, Block E, MMC

Thesis title: HtrA4-induced cellular dysfunction in early-onset preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a life threatening pregnancy disorder that is associated with wide spread endothelial dysfunction. HtrA4 maybe a potential causal factor of endothelial dysfunction, and my research project is to determine the impact of HtrA4 on endothelial cell functions.
Supervisors:A/Prof Guiying Nie and Dr Craig Harrison

Panel members: Eva Dimitriadis, Rebecca Lim and Kelly Walton

Hudson Seminar Series, Professor Emad El-Omar, "The role of the gut microbiota in health and disease." Thurs 6th April

Thursday 6th April 2017 at 12.00pm to 1.00pm in Seminar rooms 1 & 2, Level 2, TRF Building.
The speaker will be Professor Emad El-Omar, Professor of Medicine at St George & Sutherland Clinical School, University of New South Wales and Editor in Chief of GUT. He will be presenting "The role of the gut microbiota in health and disease."
Professor Emad El-Omar graduated with BSc (Hons) and MB ChB from Glasgow University, Scotland, in 1988. He trained in General Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology in Glasgow and gained dual accreditation in both in 1997. In 1995 he was awarded the degree of MD with honours and Bellahouston Medal, for his work on the effect of H. pylori infection on gastric acid secretion in man. In 1997, Professor El-Omar moved to the USA spending time in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee, followed by two years at the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland. In July 2000, Professor El-Omar took up the Foundation Chair of Gastroenterology at Aberdeen University, Scotland and Honorary Consultant Physician with NHS Grampian.
In March 2016 Professor El-Omar took up the Chair of Medicine at St George & Sutherland Clinical School, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. He is the Editor in Chief of the journal Gut. His main research interests are in the role of microbially-induced inflammation in GI cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. His group has strong collaborations with groups within the UK/Europe, US, Asia and Australia.

A light lunch and refreshments will follow the presentation. 

PhD progress review, Anselm Wong, 13 April

All staff and students are invited to Anselm Wong's PhD progress review.

10.30am-12pm, 13 April, Seminar Room 2, Monash Medical Centre

Presentation Title: Management and Risk prediction of paracetamol overdose 

Synopsis: Improving the management of paracetamol overdose through clinical trials.

Supervisors names : Prof. Andis Graudins, Prof. David Taylor, Prof. Marco Sivilotti 

Panel Chair: A/Prof Dominique Cadilhac 
Independent assessors: A/Prof Rob Meek, Dr. Neil Goldie

PhD confirmation, Beisi Jiang, "Telemedicine in palliative care: investigating the clinical impact and efficiency of the service", 24 April

All staff and students are invited to Beisi Jiang's PhD confirmation of candidature.

1.30-3pm, 24 April, Professor Julian Smith's office, Level 5, Block E, MMC

Synopsis: Telehealth is considered to be the potential solution to narrow the gap between increasing demand for palliative care and the insufficiency of service delivery. This project is one of the first randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in telehealth-assisted palliative care (TPC) in the rural and remote area. This multicenter clinical study cooperated with community health care groups in Gippsland aims to investigate the impact of TPC on the patient and carer outcomes and the effectiveness of this service system.

Supervisor:  Associate Professor Peter Poon

Intro to Python workshop by the Monash Bioinformatics Platform, 20 April

The Monash Bioinformatics Platform and Monash eResearch are running a one-day Intro to Python workshop on the 20th April. 

The Monash Bioinformatics Platform and Monash eResearch want to help make introductory bioinformatic approaches part of the research landscape in Biomedicine. To do this, a foundation level of expertise amongst as many researchers as possible is an important step forward. The Python programming language is versatile and popular in the bioinformatics community.
This workshop aims to equip participants with the fundamentals of programming and give them the skills needed to take bioinformatic approaches to research questions.
The workshop will be taught in a similar style to Software Carpentry workshops. Software Carpentry's mission is to help scientists and engineers get more research done in less time and with less pain by teaching them basic lab skills for scientific computing.
Who: The course is aimed at graduate students and other researchers. You don't need to have any previous knowledge of the tools that will be presented at the workshop.

Unimanual versus bimanual therapy in children with unilateral cerebral palsy: Same, same, but different

Brian Hoare et al. published in the Journal of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine.

Read article here.

Development of a novel strategy to target CD39 antithrombotic activity to the endothelial-platelet microenvironment in kidney ischemia-reperfusion injury

Michael Hickey et al. published in Purinergic Signalling.

Read article here.

Optimizing the Dose of Erythropoietin Required to Prevent Acute Ventilation-Induced Cerebral White Matter Injury in Preterm Lambs

Kyra Chan et al. published in Developmental Neuroscience.

Read article here.

Human amnion epithelial cells modulate the inflammatory response to ventilation in preterm lambs

Tim Moss et al. published in PLoS One.

Read article here.

Venetoclax and obinutuzumab in chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Stephen Opat et al. published in Blood.

Read article here.

Evaluation of ‘SAEFVIC’, A Pharmacovigilance Surveillance Scheme for the Spontaneous Reporting of Adverse Events Following Immunisation in Victoria, Australia

Jim Buttery et al. published in Drug Safety.

Read article here.