- VICTORIAN babies suffering asphyxia at birth will be given melatonin after research on animals indicated the hormone could significantly reduce the damage of oxygen deprivation.
- A team of researchers have found that the substance, long linked to heart problems and clogged arteries, also plays a major role in helping cancer spread through the body.
- Dermatologists say new research shows almost half of all melanoma deaths are from lumps that look like innocent pimples, rather than skin cancer.
VICTORIAN babies suffering asphyxia at birth will be given melatonin after research on animals indicated the hormone could significantly reduce the damage of oxygen deprivation.
Of four million babies a year who fall victim, half either die in their first few weeks or suffer permanent disabilities or developmental delays.
Researchers at the MIMR-PHI Institute of Medical Research’s Ritchie Centre are preparing for a world-first international clinical trial to test the effectiveness of applying melatonin patches to the skin 30 minutes after delivery.
Victorian newborns with suspected birth asphyxia will be given melatonin, either via a patch or injection, as well as standard cooling therapy.
Parallel research in India next year will see babies given just patches, as hypothermia treatment is unavailable there.
Medical student and PhD student James Aridas told the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand’s annual conference that melatonin boosted the body’s capacity to deal with damaging reactive molecules called free radicals.
“What happens following low oxygen at birth is you get a return of oxygen after the initial injury. Then the body produces heaps of free radicals, which damage cells,” Mr Aridas said.
“We found when you give melatonin to a newborn (animal) soon after birth, you’re able to significantly reduce the amount of free radicals that are flowing within the body and brain.”
Mr Aridas said scans showed that a threefold increase was “reduced immensely” after the patch was applied.
He will today presented this research at the national final of the FameLab awards in Perth, a global competition for early career scientists organised by Science in Public and the British Council.
Over the next six months the research team, supervised by Professor Graham Jenkin, Dr Suzie Miller and Monash Health neonatologist Dr Atul Malhotra, will train rural Indian health workers to recognise birth asphyxia in preparation for human clinical trials.
The project has been funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Cholesterol gives cancer a free ride
Cholesterol’s already badly tarnished image has just got a whole lot worse.
A team of researchers have found that the substance, long linked to heart problems and clogged arteries, also plays a major role in helping cancer spread through the body.
In a finding set to intensify the focus on links between elevated cholesterol levels and the incidence of cancer the researchers, led by Sydney University Associate Professor Thomas Grewal, found that low density lipoprotein (LDL) – often referred to as bad cholesterol – regulates the machinery that controls the migration of cells through the body.
Associate Professor Grewal said cells in the body typically stick to each other with the help of Velcro-like molecules on their surface known as integrins. Cancer cells typically have more of these integrins, which help cancer cells that have broken away from a tumour to take root elsewhere in the body.
“Our study identified that bad cholesterol controls the trafficking of tiny vessels which also contain there integrins, and this has huge effects on the ability of cancer cells to move and spread through the body,” he said.
“Our research found that having high amounts of bad cholesterol seemed to help the integrins in cancer cells to move and spread.
“In contrast, we found that high levels of good (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol keeps integrins inside cells, and may therefore protect against cancer cell spread.”
The discovery, published in the journal Cell Reports, may shed new light on cancer therapy.
Associate Professor Grewal told the Adelaide Advertiser that people with common cancers such as those of the breast, prostate, lung and liver, often had low levels of LDL cholesterol because it had been absorbed by the cancer cells to help them grow and spread.
THE “Our findings advance the theory that knowing how to manipulate and lower bad cholesterol could significantly help to reduce the ability of cancer cells to spread.
Associate Professor Grewal has been working on the link between cancer and cholesterol for the last 15 years in collaboration with Professor Carlos Enrich from the University of Barcelona, and the latest paper was the result of five years’ work involving researchers from the University of Sydney, the Garvan Institute, and from universities and research centres in Brisbane, Hamburg and Barcelona.
Melanoma deaths linked to cancers that look like pimples, dermatologists say
Dermatologists say new research shows almost half of all melanoma deaths are from lumps that look like innocent pimples, rather than skin cancer.
Australia has the highest rate of melanoma in the world and dermatologists say the lesions, which do not present as typical skin cancers, grow at four times the rate of other melanomas.
The research published in the Australasian Journal of Dermatology found dermatologists were more accurate in identifying types of cancers than non-dermatologists.
Associate Professor John Kelly from the Victorian Melanoma Service says many doctors are dismissing the lumps, which are round and red or brown but which are in fact melanomas.
If nodules stay the same shape and size for a while, they are most likely harmless. If the lump comes up quickly, it is probably inflammatory like a pimple.
But Assoc Prof Kelly says if the red nodules are firm and growing progressively for more than a month, they should be checked as a nodular melanoma.
The most common melanomas look like an ugly mole and change in shape and colour.
Associate Professor Kelly said to bring down the death rate, doctors and patients need to be more aware of the spots, which grow quickly and can be easily mistaken for moles or pimples.
He said the nodular melanomas account for 15 per cent of melanomas, but almost 50 per cent of deaths.
“Lack of pigmentation is a key reason for failure to recognise these unusual presentations as melanoma,” he said.
He says another reason for the high death rate is that the spots tend to grow very rapidly.
One of the important features of these spots is that they change at a rate which is detectable over months.
In 2014, about 14,240 Australians – 8,540 men and 5,700 women – are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma of the skin.