I’m still standing

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“Ian and I will have been married for 46 years next month. We have spent very little time apart in those years. We have three adult children and four grandchildren. We both grew up in the country but spent some time in Brisbane before settling in the rural town of D’Aguilar, Queensland.

On Valentine’s Day in 2004, a year after we moved, I found a lump and was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I had to undergo a major operation and travel to the city for daily radium treatments. Not only did cancer have a physical impact on my body, but it also affected me emotionally and financially. For a number of years after, I suffered panic attacks and became a recluse which made it incredibly difficult to work. Six years after my first diagnosis the breast cancer was back.

Thankfully we managed to get through it all together. We never used to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but we do now because I am all clear and have been for six years now.

However, our fight against this disease wasn’t over. A week before Christmas in 2014, Ian went to see the doctor in severe pain and he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The doctors told him that unfortunately there was nothing they could do for him and that he should go home and get his affairs in order and enjoy what time he had left.

After we had got all of our affairs in order, our son suggested we have a “wake” as Ian was always saying how unfair it was that you’re not there to party with your friends and family when you die. So we had a pre-departure wake last year. It was just what we both needed – over 120 people came and it was a fantastic day.

During the day of celebrations, Ian told everyone to save the date for an ‘I’m Still Standing’ celebration in 2016 as he would still be here. And he was right.

Because Ian was keeping well, his doctors did an endless amount of scans, blood tests, and biopsies and discovered that he had a Neuroendocrine Tumour. This is a slow-growing form of pancreatic cancer, but it is still terminal. It has been an endless roller coaster ride of emotions, with a lot of twists and turns, but we are grateful for this extra time to enjoy together.

Cancer is an insidious disease that affects so many people. In the past five years, we’ve lost two brothers-in-law, I very recently lost my brother, and now I’m losing a good friend, and my husband – all to terminal cancer.

I nearly lost Ian at Christmas this year, but the fantastic staff at the Redcliffe Oncology performed a miracle and like Ian had promised, he is still here. My darling Ian is such a fighter, so I have decided to make his “I’m Still Standing” celebration day into a fundraiser for cancer research. I wanted to make a difference and help the dedicated and hardworking researchers bring an end to cancer.

We have been very humbled by the wonderful love and support of family and friends and even strangers. While I have been organising the fundraiser I have been blown away by people’s generosity. Thank you to everyone who has kindly helped this day come together. It’s going to be a fantastic event filled with lots of music, laughter, great prizes and everyone is welcome. We’ll also hold an auction, a cut and colour for cancer and have an open mic for anyone who wants to sing on the day.

I would really encourage others to donate or fundraise for cancer research because you may one day help save someone you love!

I hope that maybe our story will give someone else some comfort in their own struggle with cancer.” ACRF supporter, Carol Robinson


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. 

Pancreatic cancer researchers find important molecular similarity between cancer types

High levels of the HER2 molecule have been identified in 2% of pancreatic cancer cases – indicating new treatment options could be possible via an existing therapy.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most devastating cancer types, with a five year survival rate of less than 5%. It is also one of the most elusive cancers, with significant variability in molecular behaviour across cases, which dictates how the cancer behaves.

This means that each tumour will only respond to treatments that target its unique molecular blue-print.

But new research, supported with significant funding by the Australian Cancer Research Foundation and published in Genome Medicine, has suggested the treatment ‘Herceptin’ could bring new hope to these pancreatic cancer patients. Herceptin is currently available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for breast and gastric cancers with high expressions of HER2, and clinical trials will show whether the drug is equally effective in pancreatic cancer patients.

The HER2 pancreatic cancer sub-group was identified following a series of modern genetics and traditional pathological assessments to estimate the prevalence of HER2- amplified pancreatic cancer. Continue reading “Pancreatic cancer researchers find important molecular similarity between cancer types”

Pancreatic cancer research enhanced through new access to advanced nanotechnology

Australian cancer researchers can now view never-before-seen images of how cancers respond to therapy, thanks to new access to an advanced imaging nanotechnology, based in the US.

Dr Paul Timpson of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, in collaboration with a team from the UK, are using the Fluroescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) technologies to map areas within pancreatic cancers, pin-pointing where drugs need to be delivered to significantly improve patient survival.

Continue reading “Pancreatic cancer research enhanced through new access to advanced nanotechnology”

Mapping pancreatic cancer genes reveals hidden secrets for treatment

PancCurrent cancer researchreatic cancer has long been considered a mysterious, deadly disease. It has the highest mortality rate of all the major cancers, and it is one of the few cancer types for which survival has not substantially improved over the last 40 years.

But two Australian researchers can now tell us why. They know how to fix it, and ACRF funding will play a pivotal role in the realisation of their treatment plan.

Professors Sean Grimmond from Brisbane’s Institute for Molecular Biosciences (IMB), and Andrew Biankin from the newly opened Kinghorn Cancer Centre in Sydney (formerly of the Garvan Institute) led an international team of researchers towards this ground-breaking discovery.

They sequenced the genes of 100 pancreatic tumour cells and, in order to determine the genetic changes which lead to the cancer, they compared their results to normal tissue. Continue reading “Mapping pancreatic cancer genes reveals hidden secrets for treatment”

‘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”

Discovery of biomarkers will aid pancreatic cancer patients

Cancer researchers at Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research have discovered two ‘biomarkers’ which can indicate the likelihood of patient survival after pancreatic cancer surgery.

Lead investigator of the research, Professor Andrew Biankin, has acknowledged the significant financial contribution of ACRF to the work of his team for this and other cancer research at the Garvan. ACRF has awarded $6.1 million in grants since 2004 to the Garvan Institute.

Continue reading “Discovery of biomarkers will aid pancreatic cancer patients”

An ever higher level of achievement

How good it feels when we hear that important research initiatives you’ve helped fund are achieving major results: