A very useful and convenient method used in many fields of medical research involves growing cells in the laboratory. Cells are ""cultured"" in plastic dishes in incubators that provide an environment warmed to body temperature, 37 degrees Celsius. Human cells also require carbon dioxide to grow and this is added to the ambient air in the incubator. This kind of cell culture has been used for over a century and has been accepted as the standard way of growing cells in the laboratory. This method is very important and useful in cancer research.

However, there is one problem with this method that has only recently become known. Whilst the added carbon dioxide makes cell culture more realistic and more life-like, the amount of oxygen in atmospheric air is much higher than in the organs of the body - up to 10-times higher. There is an increasing awareness of this problem, and many reports that show that this high oxygen is deleterious to the growth of cells in culture, and distorts the results of experiments.

Hunter Cancer Research Alliance Clinical Research Fellow Dr Craig Gedye’s research has shown that the amount of oxygen is an important variable in how cancer cells behave, showing that kidney cancer cells starved of oxygen, sugar and proteins behave much more aggressively than the same cancer cells grown in well-fed conditions. The amount of oxygen in cell culture is therefore very important to control. Cutting off the oxygen supply to kidney cancer is one of the main drug treatments we have in clinical practice, so doing experiments where there is 10-times too much oxygen is not the optimal way of researching these cancer treatments in the lab.

Dr Gedye’s basic laboratory research within the HMRI Building will focus on ways of targeting these more aggressive kidney cancer cells, and hopefully lead to novel combinations of old and new drugs to work with the medications routinely used in the clinic. However such a piece of equipment is not limited to Dr Gedye’s research.
A triple-gas incubator will assist:

  • melanoma
  • breast cancer
  • prostate cancer
  • endometrial, ovarian and testicular cancer researchers
  • leukemia and brain cancer researchers, as well as
  • Inflammatory bowel disease researchers within HMRI.
Research Area 
Project type 
Equipment Grant
Year of funding 
2017