Discovery of four pancreatic cancer sub-types raises hope for future treatments.

Cancer ResearchACRF funding has enabled a new discovery which will improve pancreatic cancer treatments of the near future.

Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research, the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), and QIMR Berghofer Institute of Medical Research collaborated with researchers from the Wolfson Wohl Cancer Research Centre in Scotland, to analyse the complete genetic code of pancreatic tumours in 100 patients.

The team identified and mapped out the extensive and damaging genetic changes – finding four key subgroups which differentiate pancreatic tumours by their gene arrangements: ‘stable’, ‘locally rearranged’, ‘scattered’ and ‘unstable’.

Professor Sean Grimmond from IMB said, “Having access to these detailed genetic maps could help doctors in the future determine which chemotherapy drug a patient should get, based on their cancer’s genome.”

This discovery already promises to improve the treatment of at least one of these groups after the researchers noticed an existing class of chemotherapy drugs, used to treat some breast cancers, may also work on patients whose pancreatic tumours have the “unstable” genomes.

The team of researchers realised the significance of their discovery when they found four out of five study patients with this genetic signature responded to the DNA-damaging drugs.

“Two of them had an exceptional response, which happens very, very rarely in pancreatic cancer. Their tumours went away completely,” said the co-leader of the group, Andrew Biankin, who conducted the work at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.

Dr Nicola Waddell from QIMR Berghofer (previously from IMB) said pancreatic cancer remained one of the most complex cancers to treat, with a survival rate that has not improved considerably in the last 50 years.

“Our study identified four major genomic subtypes in pancreatic cancer, revealed two new driver genes not previously associated with pancreatic cancer, and reaffirmed the importance of five key genes,” said Dr, Waddell.

The team at IMB plan to begin a clinical trial in the UK, selecting patients for targeted treatments based on their genomic testing.

The ACRF is proud to have supported each the Australian research centres involved in this study with funding over many years. 

Brisbane pounds the pavement for a good cause

Cancer fun run and cancer fundraising
Cancer fundraising in cancer fun run

As Father’s Day dawned in Brisbane, almost 40,000 people lined up in the chilly weather to take part in the annual Bridge to Brisbane race. In amongst the crowds of competitors were 28 supporters of the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) who had their own personal reason for taking part in the race along with cancer fundraising.

The group of ACRF runners were a range of ages, abilities and people from different areas of life coming together with a common goal to support the future of cancer research. Team member Julia is a medical researcher at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience who has worked in cancer research in the past and has a passion for funding the talented scientists involved in medical research. Amber is a radiation therapist who helps to treat cancer everyday and wanted to use her love of running and training to help support those who she meets in her job. And for many others there were loved ones in their lives who had beaten cancer, were currently fighting cancer, or had sadly been lost to cancer – and this run was a way to acknowledge those wonderful people. Continue reading “Brisbane pounds the pavement for a good cause”

‘Brake gene’ turned off in pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic Cancer ResearchA new study has found that a particular gene is being switched off in the cancerous cells of up to 15% of pancreatic cancers.

New drugs are already being tested to turn the gene back on, thereby working to stop the spread of cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive and lethal types of cancer, and this discovery paves the way towards a new class of drugs which target this gene, thus treating some types of pancreatic cancer much more effectively.

The study was published in the journal ‘Nature’ following research which revealed that when the gene Usp9x was ‘switched off’ in mice, cells started to grow out of control. It has been called a ‘brake gene’ because it seems to have a key role in natural cell death.

Continue reading “‘Brake gene’ turned off in pancreatic cancer”

Cell ‘glue’ opens new pathways to understanding cancer

Australian researchers at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland (UQ) have found a novel way in which the proteins that ‘glue’ cells together to form healthy tissues can come unstuck, opening new avenues to understanding how these proteins are disturbed in diseases such as cancer.

Professor Alpha Yap and Sabine Mangold have been studying how cells stick together and the diseases that occur when cells detach when they shouldn’t. In particular, the progression of tumours to advanced stages commonly occurs when cancer cells separate from their tissue of origin. Continue reading “Cell ‘glue’ opens new pathways to understanding cancer”

Advances in Queensland Cancer Research thanks to ACRF

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) continues to build on its 25-year legacy by funding the opening of a new $2.5 million world leading cancer-imaging facility in Queensland.

Since being established in 1984 by the late Sir Peter Abeles, the Australian Cancer Research Foundation has now funded more than $62 million in cutting edge cancer research with the power to change the world.

The new ‘ACRF Cancer Biology Imaging Facility’, part of The Institute for Molecular Bioscience located at The University of Queensland in Brisbane, is now the most advanced facility of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Governor of Queensland, Her Excellency Ms Penelope Wensley AO officially opened it on the morning of February 10.

The Facility will allow IMB researchers to unravel the molecular reasons why healthy cells turn into cancerous cells and spread through the body. Continue reading “Advances in Queensland Cancer Research thanks to ACRF”