Researchers target protein that helps spread lung cancer, leukaemia and melanoma

Cancer research

Funding from Cancer Council Queensland (CCQ) is supporting Griffith University research into the development of inhibitors to stop proteins responsible for the spread of cancer.

Associate Professor Helen Blanchard, from Griffith’s world-leading Institute for Glycomics, was awarded a CCQ 2015-16 Project Grant worth $200,000 for her work targeting the cancer-promoting protein galectin-3.

“Galectin-3 is involved in cancers including lung cancer, leukaemia and melanoma. The aim of this research is to design small-molecule inhibitors as lead drugs tackling these cancers,” says Associate Professor Blanchard.

Galectin-3’s ability to promote tumour survival and metastasis — the process by which cancer cells detach from primary tumours, reattach elsewhere and establish further tumours — makes it a significant drug target to fight cancer.

Researchers at the Institute for Glycomics are using X-ray crystallography to determine and visualise the exact atomic details of the protein structure and how it interacts with designed and synthesised inhibitors.

“We analyse these details and use the information to help us design inhibitors to bind and stop the function of these proteins, thereby allowing the immune defences to attack tumours,” says Associate Professor Blanchard.

More than 25,000 Queenslanders are diagnosed with cancer each year, and around 8000 die from the disease.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said the organisation was excited to be funding local research that developed drugs to stop the spread of the disease.

“The earlier we can treat cancer, and stop the spread of the disease, the greater the chance of survival,” Ms Clift said.

“We place a strong value on funding local research focused on eliminating cancer in its various forms – at every stage of the disease.

“We are proud of the work being undertaken at Griffith University, and look forward to the results of Prof Blanchard’s work to benefit Queenslanders diagnosed with cancer.”

More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available at or 13 11 20.


For more information or interviews, please contact:

Katie Clift, Executive Manager, Media and Spokesperson, Cancer Council Queensland

Ph: (07) 3634 5372 or 0409 001 171