PM launches ACRF Unit for Molecular Genetics of Cancer

A $1.1 million grant provided by the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) has helped one of Australia’s leading research institutes to package eight months of cancer research into one day.

The Hon John Howard MP, Prime Minister of Australia, today officially opened the ACRF Unit for Molecular Genetics of Cancer at Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney.

Mr Howard also toured the new state-of-the-art, world class facility, which was established using the $1.1 million ACRF grant awarded last year. Grant funds were also directed towards the purchase of major research equipment including the Mass Array Sequenom analyser, which can test 768 DNA samples at once, allowing eight months of cancer research to now be completed in one day.

Mr Howard’s presence at today’s proceedings follows the Australian Government’s 2005-06 budget pledge of $189.4 million over five years for the Strengthening Cancer Care initiative, including funding for additional research, screening and prevention initiatives.

ACRF Chairman Mr Tom Dery praised the Government’s ongoing commitment to cancer research and the efforts of the dedicated research team at Garvan Institute, headed by Professor Rob Sutherland, FAA.

“This is a remarkable leap forward,” said Mr Dery. “It is this kind of innovation – in capital works and infrastructure – that the Australian Cancer Research Foundation is committed to funding,” he said.

“The last few years have seen major strides forward in cancer therapy (see cancer FAST FACTS). However, as our population ages, cancer is becoming an ever-more prevalent problem. ACRF grants ensure that Australia will continue to draw the best and brightest minds to this major problem of mankind, and also retain its place as a world-class leader in the field. Ultimately, of course, this means real benefits to cancer patients.”

Mr Dery explained that the annual cost of treating cancer in Australia is more than $2 billion, and that every dollar spent on medical research returns $5 in national economic benefit.*

“A reduction in cancer in the community by just 20 per cent would be worth $184 billion to the national economy — more than the total Commonwealth expenditure in the current financial year,” said Mr Dery.

Professor John Shine, AO, FAA, Executive Director, Garvan Institute said the ACRF Unit’s aim is to provide an additional capability in the search for cancer susceptibility genes. (see latest Garvan Institute discoveries).

“Our research focus has been on the development of a world class facility to genotype cancer, identifying patients with a predisposition to a variety of cancers including prostate, colorectal, breast and ovarian,” said Professor Shine.

Professor Sutherland said the establishment of the ACRF Unit was an instrumental component to providing the capacity within NSW to perform internationally competitive research in cancer genetics, as well as providing an additional platform to attract the best researchers and students in NSW and country-wide.

“We can expect to see the development of new gene markers of cancer risk, cancer diagnosis, disease progression and therapeutic responsiveness,” said Professor Sutherland. “What this means for cancer patients is earlier diagnosis, targeted prevention and treatment and better outcomes following a cancer diagnosis.”

Now in its 21st year of operation, the Australian Cancer Research Foundation has raised in excess of $36 million to support excellence in Australian research initiatives, and awarded grants totaling $6.3 million in just the last two years.

Individual ACRF grants exceed $1 million – a sum not available from other private sources in Australia – and continue to significantly contribute to drastic breakthroughs in the fight against cancer.

* Source – Access Economics report for the Australian Society of Medical Research.