ANU cancer researcher wins biomedical award

November 15, 2005

An ANU medical researcher who has an anti-cancer drug in commercial development has been awarded the prestigious Clive and Vera Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence in Biomedical Science for 2005.

Professor Chris Parish, who has made fundamental and applied contributions to knowledge in the fields of immunology and cancer biology, was presented with the award in Sydney last week.

The Clive and Vera Ramaciotti Foundation, which awards the Medal, is Australia's largest foundation dedicated to the advancement of biomedical research, according to Perpetual Trustees.

Professor Parish is the Head of the Division of Immunology and Genetics, and leads the Cancer and Vascular Biology Group at the John Curtin School of Medical Research at ANU. He received the medal and $20,000 from the Foundation.

In immunology, Professor Parish was the first to show that the two types of immunity that can be made against an infection - antibody-mediated and cell-mediated immunity - are mutually antagonistic. The research continues to have important implications for the design of effective vaccines and the study of disease resistance, autoimmunity, allergy, and cancer immunity.

Professor Parish has also contributed extensively to the field of molecular cell biology, and has made important technical advances in immunology, including the development of a method now used worldwide for tracking white cell migration and cell division.

In cancer biology, his interest in cell migration led him to the characterisation and molecular cloning of a key enzyme involved in cell invasion, heparanase. Heparanase allows cancer cells to spread from the primary tumour to distant organs and also helps white cells enter tissues during inflammatory responses.

Professor Parish has developed a synthetic, sugar-based inhibitor of heparanase, called PI-88, which blocks cancer spread and also reduces tumour growth by stopping the growth of new blood vessels in tumours. PI-88 is in commercial development by the Australian biotechnology company, Progen Industries, and is undergoing international Phase II clinical trials for the treatment of several cancer types.
Photographs of Professor Parish are available from the ANU Media Office 02 6125 5575 / 0416 249 245.

Research Australia

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