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Upgrade to the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne allows cancer research

First for Australian medical research at Synchrotron

28 April 2009

A $14.7 million upgrade to the new beamline at the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne will allow scientists to research cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis more quickly and accurately.

The upgrade means the Australian Synchrotron will become one of only three facilities in the world to use synchrotron technology for the treatment of cancer.

Victorian Premier John Brumby said the upgrade would help enable biomedical imaging of human tissue that allows scientists to see the early signs of cancer tumour formation.

“This is another example of this successful collaboration to bring world-leading expertise and technical capabilities to Australia’s research and clinical communities,” he said.

The Australian Synchrotron, which is about the size of football field, accelerates electrons to near the speed of light and deflects them through magnetic fields to create extremely bright light. The light is then channelled down beamlines to where scientists can work out the structure of matter by looking at the patterns of light. Most synchrotron work is research rather than treatment-related.

The synchrotron is also involved in the ongoing research into possible treatments for emerging diseases such as pandemic flues, including swine flu.

Victorian Innovation Minister Gavin Jennings said scientists from Monash University will use the synchrotron’s new beamline for microbeam radiotherapy (MRT) which allows cancer radiation treatment to be more accurately targeted to prevent damage to healthy cells surrounding a tumour.

“The investigation of heart disease and type II diabetes will be a use of the beamline while scientists will also use the facility to develop x-ray imaging techniques to determine the precise location of implanted stem cells that have been designed to treat and repair damaged tissue,” he said.

“The new facility will allow faster and more accurate research into areas such as osteoporosis, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis and lung development of premature babies. It will also support non-medical x-ray imaging applications, such as forensics, archaeology, mineral research and art conservation.”

Mr Jennings commended the researchers from around Australia, in particular Monash University, who secured the funding for the new beamline from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The Commonwealth Government has contributed $13.2 million towards the new facility and the Victorian Government has provided $1.5 million.
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