Our mission is to outsmart cancer by providing the technology, equipment and infrastructure Australian researchers need to continuously explore new and improved ways to prevent, detect and treat all types of cancer.

ACRF was founded in 1984 by the late Sir Peter Abeles and the late Lady Sonia McMahon. After surveying several scientists and medical professionals, asking what they needed most to progress cancer research in Australia, they identified a primary need for physical buildings in which to conduct research activities and so determined the focus for The Foundation. As the research landscape has evolved, so has the areas of funding for ACRF. Nowadays ACRF grants cover technology, equipment, and infrastructure – both physical and virtual.

Our commitment to funding ground-breaking cancer research projects

One in two Australians will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85, which means most of us will be impacted by cancer at some stage in our lives, either personally or through family and friends. 

At ACRF, we believe a world without cancer is possible and we won’t stop until it’s a reality. 

Since 1984, thanks to our generous supporters, we’ve awarded 78 grants totalling over $165 million to 42 research institutions who have developed some of the most incredible and ground-breaking advancements in cancer research and treatment.

We promise we’ll continue to support researchers as they work towards a world without cancer.

How donations made to ACRF help scientists outsmart cancer

The donations we receive help fund the technology, equipment and infrastructure Australian researchers need to continuously explore new and improved ways to prevent, detect and treat all types of cancer.

Our highly esteemed Medical Research Advisory Committee (MRAC) only endorses the most promising projects that have potential to provide us with the greatest health and social returns.

Why the Crab?

The crab as a symbol of cancer

Cancer and the crab have been linked since the early days of medicine. The origin of the word cancer has been linked to the Greek physician Hippocrates (460 – 370 BCE), who is widely considered to be the “Father of Medicine”. Hippocrates used the term ‘karcinos’ (the word for crab) to describe a tumour, because the blood vessels which surround a tumour are crab-like in shape.

The Roman physician, Celsus (28-50 BCE) later translated the Greek term into cancer – the latin word for crab – while another Roman physician, Galen (130 – 200 CE Common Era) used the word ‘oncos’ (Greek for swelling) to describe tumours.

Although the crab analogy of Hippocrates and Celsus is still used to describe malignant tumors (eg. carcinoma), Galen’s term is now used to refer to the specialist study of cancer, oncology.


Our founding trustees

Founding Chairman

The Late Sir Peter Abeles AC

April 1924 – June 1999

Named ‘Australian of the Year’ by ‘The Australian’ in 1987, Sir Peter Abeles established the Australian Cancer Research Foundation in 1984.

Founding Trustee

The Late Lady [Sonia] McMahon

August 1932 – April 2010

A founding trustee and life member, Lady McMahon had a very significant impact on the Foundation and its mission to fund Australian cancer research projects at the forefront of medical science.

Founding Trustee

The Late Mr John Boettcher OAM

September 1931 – September 2012

Mr Boettcher was an unwavering enthusiast for ACRF’s work, and a significant part of our growth and achievements. He was a much-loved and highly respected member of the ACRF team.

Founding Trustee

The Late Sir Ian Turbott AO CMG CVO

March 1922 – August 2016

Sir Ian Turbott was chairman of the I T Graham Investments Pty Limited, director of the Australian Youth Trust (established by the Commonwealth Day Council NSW), director of the Ted Noffs Foundation and Emeritus Chancellor of the University of Western Sydney.

  • What your donations have achieved

    Cervical cancer vaccine

    We gave initial seed funding to Professor Ian Frazer’s research into the cervical cancer (HPV). Over 150 million doses of vaccine have been delivered worldwide to date.

    Help fund cancer research
  • What your donations have achieved

    The pill that melts away cancer

    Our long term support of cancer research at WEHI has led to a treatment that melts away certain advanced forms of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. It has been approved for clinical use in the US, European Union and Australia and is being trialed for other types of cancer.

    Help fund cancer research
  • What your donations have achieved

    Personalised cancer diagnosis

    In 2015, we awarded $10 million seed funding to an ambitious cancer proteome project that aims to provide each cancer patient a personalised treatment plan within 36 hours. This will improve treatment outcomes and help avoid unnecessary treatments.

    Help fund cancer research
  • What your donations have achieved

    Zero childhood cancer

    We are one of the founding partners of the initiative that will tackle the most serious cases of infant, childhood and adolescent cancer in Australia. It is a key step towards the program vision of one day helping to cure 100% of children with cancer.

    Help fund cancer research