Proudly announcing our ATAC facility open!

Today we were extremely proud to officially open our unique, world first Australian Cancer Research Foundation Telomere Analysis Centre (ATAC).


(Minister for Medical Research The Hon. Pru Goward MP who officially announced the new centre open)

Coincidently tying in with our latest published research which demonstrates why studying telomeres may lead to treatments for some of the most aggressive cancers.

For those who do not know, telomeres are structures that cap the ends of chromosomes (which are bundles of DNA). In normal cells, telomeres shorten gradually as part of normal ageing, but cancer cells develop methods to stop their telomeres shortening so they can keep multiplying relentlessly. One of these methods, called ALT, is often used by bone cancers, brain cancers and other aggressive types of cancer that are currently difficult to treat.

Our researchers previously discovered that normal cells have a “lock” mechanism which prevents ALT getting out of control, but the nature of this lock has remained a mystery. A few years ago, several research teams reported that ALT cancers often have damage in a specific gene called ATRX, leading to speculation that ATRX might be the elusive ALT controller.


(ATAC Facility Manager Scott Page giving The Hon. Pru Goward MP a tour of the new centre)

Now, research conducted here at Children’s Medical Research Institute by Dr Christine Napier with vital contributions from colleagues at the University of Minnesota, have just been published, showing that ATRX is indeed the missing ALT lock.

CMRI Director, Professor Roger Reddel, who was involved in the research, said “We think that losing this lock makes cancer cells vulnerable to treatments that normal cells are protected against. So we may have found an Achilles heel for ALT cancers.

According to Professor Reddel, “This is far from the end of the story, because a very exciting aspect of Dr Napier’s research is her discovery that there is a second ALT lock. Apparently, normal cells are so strongly protected against ALT getting out of control, that they use at least two locks, both of which have to be broken.


(CMRI Director Prof. Roger Reddel addressing the attendees of this mornings official launch)

We were able to conduct this work prior to the availability of the new ATAC facility, which includes cutting-edge equipment consisting of state-of-the-art microscopes and computer analysis stations and which. Having access to the new ATAC facility will propel telomere-related cancer research to a new level.

Dr Napier said “Now that ATAC is opening, we can greatly accelerate the next phase of this work, which I expect will lead to significant advances in treatment of some very aggressive cancers.

The organisation which made ATAC possible is the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) donated $2 million towards the development of the facility alongside The Ian Potter Foundation who also contributed $100,000.

The ACRF’s Medical Research Advisory Committee – led by Professor Ian Frazer AC – assessed this research initiative as both nationally ground-breaking and internationally competitive. The ACRF and our supporters are very proud to fund this life-saving work at CMRI.” said ACRF Chief Executive, Professor Ian Brown.

ATAC forms part of a multi-million dollar redevelopment of CMRI and the Westmead precinct to create a world-leading centre for health and medical research.

Donations towards the redevelopment of CMRI can be made by visiting the website:


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