QIMR scientists combating Asian cancer

The Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) is undertaking a major project to defeat one of the most common cancer killers in people of Chinese and Taiwanese descent. Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma (NPC) – also known as Guangdong Cancer – is a virulent cancer of the nose and throat and one which is often difficult to treat effectively. One in ten people in Southern China, Hong Kong and Taiwan will develop NPC – more than 100,000 people develop NPC each year.

NPC is linked to Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), genetics, smoking, a diet high in salted fish, and exposure to wood dust and chemicals. QIMR scientists have undertaken extensive computer analysis and gene sequencing from blood taken from people in China, Africa, PNG and Australia, and have identified a genetic defect. They are now developing an “immunotherapy” treatment for NPC – which works in a similar way to a vaccine because it stimulates the body’s own immune system to recognise and kill the cancer cells. This is a world-first development and QIMR scientists are the only ones in Australia researching NPC and developing a treatment for this cancer.

“Earlier this year QIMR has received a preliminary funding grant from the NIH (National Institutes of Health) in the USA to develop such a treatment and I understand that this is the first research grant awarded to any group in the world. Preliminary results for this “immunotherapy” treatment, which was the basis for the research grant, have been published in a leading Cancer Research journal,” said Dr Rajiv Khanna from the Tumour Immunology Laboratory at QIMR.

The award of the NIH grant will provide QIMR with a major platform for the development of a vaccine for Hodgkin’s lymphoma and the same vaccine can be applied to nasopharyngeal carcinoma. However, the clinical testing of this vaccine in humans will require additional significant financial support before it can move from the bench to the bedside.

“The State Government wishes QIMR every success in its initiative to raise funds towards the research and development of a potential therapy for NPC. As part of our “Smart State” initiative, we have actively encouraged medical research in Queensland, which addresses diseases found in Australia and Asia,” said The Hon. Peter Beattie, MP, Premier of Queensland.

QIMR has now established an Advisory Board on NPC which will bring together business and political leaders in order to raise funds from Asia for the clinical trials to defeat this major cancer killer of Asians.

For further details, please contact Christine Borthwick on 3362 0291