24 November 2016
Wellington, November 24, 2016 - The Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, New Zealand’s independent biomedical research institute, based in Wellington, announced today that Professor Mike Berridge has been awarded the distinguished Liley Medal from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) for his internationally recognised breakthrough in cancer research.
The Liley Medal recognises Professor Berridge’s outstanding research contribution to health and medical science in 2015. Professor Berridge’s New Zealand-based research, published last year in the high impact journal Cell Metabolism, showed that metastatic melanoma and breast cancer cells without mitochondrial genes acquire these genes from surrounding normal cells and that this acquisition is required for tumour formation and lung metastasis. His research uncovered a previously unknown phenomenon, namely that DNA in mitochondria, where most of the cell’s chemical energy is generated, can move between cells in the body. These findings were highly unexpected and challenged the dogma that genes remain within cells. The novelty of this research is reflected in high citations of the publication and invitations to present the research at a number of overseas scientific meetings.
“It is early days but a better understanding of how mitochondrial DNA transfers between cells could lead to the development of new treatment approaches that inhibit this transfer and improve clinical outcomes for cancer patients”, says Professor Berridge. The novel discovery is highly relevant not only to cancer and the many ways cancer cells spread and evade treatment, but may also relate to neurodegenerative diseases and to ageing.
Professor Berridge is currently leading a $1.1 million HRC-funded research project that will explore mitochondrial transfer in glioblastoma, a highly malignant brain tumour which currently has few treatment options and poor prognosis. He also works on another HRC-funded project aimed at understanding the drivers of mitochondrial transfer between cells.
About the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research
The Malaghan Institute of Medical Research is New Zealand’s leading independent biomedical research institute, contributing new scientific discoveries and innovative research steps for immunology to be applied for a whole range of human diseases. As a registered charity, the Institute is committed to finding cures for cancer, asthma, allergy and infectious and inflammatory diseases. The Malaghan Institute has advanced significant expertise in pioneering research programmes focus on immunology, gut immunology and cell biology to seek better treatments and cures for diseases affecting New Zealanders.