Home' Policy Magazine : Policy Vol 31 - No 3 Contents 10 POLICY • Vol. 31 No. 3 • Spring 2015
today. Second, we need technologies to personalise
treatment based molecular information. If we could
have personalised the treatment of patient 205
before her chemotherapy treatment was given, it
would have quite likely spared her life. What we did
for patient 205, we should now do for all patients
and there is an urgent need to translate this fully
into the hospital setting. Third, after treatment, we
need to monitor to see if the treatment is effective
and if it is not then we need to modify the treatment.
We don’t do that very much in the modern hospital
system, and we need to embrace new diagnostic
technologies that make this possible.
I’m going to outline two examples of technologies
that we have developed to try to attack those three
problems. And again they have to be simple, cheap,
and accurate. The current method of pathology
soaks a lot of money out of our health care system.
You get a blood sample for example out of Paul
Mainwaring’s clinic, it’s shipped somewhere and
then there’s something I call palaver, which is
Australian slang that fits perfectly this situation.
Anyway, what happens is you need, equipment,
people, and technicians. You have to send the
sample and then you might get the data back, all
this is time and expense — palaver! For DNA there
are three key steps that happen, you have to extract
the DNA, then you need to amplify the DNA, and
then you need to display it on a machine like the
one Lee Hood invented. That’s what happens in the
pathology lab. There is a massive need to reduce the
cost of all the stuff I’ve talked about.
The first technology I’d like to outline is one
that we have invented and recently published
about. The challenge is to invent a technology
using nanotechnology to miniaturise all of this and
put it in a single drop. It sounds ridiculous but it
works. Basically, what we have done is put in those
three key steps that I’ve described, with molecular
machinery, sophisticated enzymatic machinery, and
Each of those three steps happen automatically
inside the droplet on-site. The test has comprehensive
DNA and RNA analysis within a single drop. Now
you don’t need extensive equipment and you don’t
need training. You need one drop of fluid and 55
minutes. It’s so simple that I can do this. It’s very
and the RAM memory of those cells. I want to
acknowledge here the genius of Paul Mainwaring,
who really was the key intellect behind this.
So we do something called integrated
biothermatics which is basically like a bio-Google
and it searches in the cancer memory to try to find
out what’s wrong. In patient 205’s case we found
something: although she had a blood cancer, the
code was was very similar to a skin cancer. Who
would have thought? But that’s going to be the
future. It’s about the code, it’s not about where it
happens in the body.
In fact the mechanism was similar to a rare type
of skin cancer, retinal cancer. A bioinformatics
company in Brisbane has a register of all known
drugs and it can scan to match the code with drugs
that are already preapproved that you would never
ordinarily use in a hospital setting. So it made a
match. What lit up was that even though she had
a horrible blood cancer, there is potentially a drug
used for a skin cancer that could be effective. What
a concept! It wouldn’t have been possible without
Lee Hood’s initial technology.
She was treated with the drug, and I want to
emphasise this was a tablet that was sitting in a
cupboard It worked immediately, it arrested the
cancer and in three days the cancer had dropped
to below detectable levels. She was so ill from the
chemotherapy that it took a while but eventually
she went home in remission. When this happened
we all fell off our chairs, we couldn’t believe it. The
tragedy is, and it’s a lesson for all of us, she died three
months later of a heart attack. The chemotherapy
that wasn’t effective up front is very cardio toxic
and a large percentage of AML patients die of heart
complications from medications.
There are three lessons here and they guide the
technology that we must develop. First is early
screening — we need cheap, accurate early detection.
If we could have caught patient 205’s cancer early,
and spared her the chemotherapy treatment that
caused her heart attack, she would certainly be alive
We need cheap, accurate early detection.
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