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Australian melanoma rates improve

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A study found that rates of invasive melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, have started to decline in Australia and are predicted to keep falling over the next 15 years.

Researchers at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute have found that Australia no longer has the highest per capita rates of invasive melanoma in the world, after being overtaken by New Zealand.

Researchers compared the rates of melanoma in six populations over a 30-year period from 1982 to 2011. The six populations were Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, and the caucasian population of the United States.

The researchers found that melanoma rates in Australia increased from about 30 cases per 100,000 people in 1982 and peaked at nearly 49 cases per 100,000 people in 2005. The rates then declined to about 48 cases per 100,000 people in 2011. Invasive melanoma rates in New Zealand reached about 50 cases per 100,000 people in 2011.

Professor David Whiteman, who led the study, said Australia was the only one of the six populations where melanoma rates had begun to fall overall.

“We think the main reason for this decline is that Australia has put a huge effort into primary prevention campaigns since the 1980s,” Professor Whiteman said.

“Australians have become more ‘sun smart’ as they have become more aware of the dangers of melanoma and other skin cancers. Schools, workplaces and childcare centres have also introduced measures to decrease exposure to harmful UV radiation.”

“This has contributed to a decline in melanoma rates in people under the age of about 50.”

“Unfortunately, rates of melanoma are still increasing in people over the age of about 50. This is probably because many older people had already sustained sun damage before the prevention campaigns were introduced, and those melanomas are only appearing now, many decades after the cancer-causing exposure to sunlight occurred.”

Despite the fall in average melanoma rates per 100,000 people, the overall number of invasive melanomas diagnosed in Australia is still rising and is expected to increase from 11,162 cases per year from 2007-2011, to 12,283 cases per year from 2012-2016.

Professor Whiteman said this was due to the ageing of the Australian population, as well as overall population growth.

“Melanomas occur most commonly in older people. As Australia’s population ages, the number of melanomas diagnosed will continue to increase,” he said.

“The picture in Australia at the moment is mixed. While it’s good news that average melanoma rates have started to fall, the fact that the actual number of cases is still rising is bad news.”

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation has supported cancer research at QMRI Berghofer by providing three grants, totalling AUD 6.65million towards cutting edge cancer research equipment and technology.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk Unveils ACRF Centre for Comprehensive Biomedical Imaging at QIMR Berghofer

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk unveiled Queensland’s newest weapon in the fight against cancer this week, opening the ACRF Centre for Comprehensive Biomedical Imaging at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

A $2.6 million grant from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation has funded the three state-of-the-art microscopes housed by the new lab – a significant and exciting advancement for the institutes researchers.

Ms Palaszczuk said the centre would allow QIMR Berghofer to unlock new techniques which would dramatically accelerate our understanding of cancer.

“To beat cancer, we need both brilliant minds and cutting edge technology – as we can see today, QIMR Berghofer has both,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“This imaging facility will build on Queensland’s global reputation for research excellence.”

“And it builds on my government’s Advance Queensland strategy – to not only consolidate and grow our research base, but also develop investment opportunities to diversify and strengthen our economy.”

QIMR Berghofer Director and CEO Professor Frank Gannon said the new imaging equipment would allow the Institute to build on its world-leading immunotherapy program.

In recent days QIMR Berghofer has launched Phase II clinical trials of an immunotherapy treatment for nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and announced a major agreement with a global pharmaceutical company to discover cancer antibodies.

“Thanks to the generosity and vision of the ACRF we will be able to take our research to a new level of understanding and target cancer with greater accuracy as our scientists continue to deliver outcomes which have real consequences for patients,” says Professor Gannon.

The ACRF CCBI consists of three crucial pieces of imaging equipment: a multiphoton intravital microscope for imaging of live cells; a laser scanning confocal microscope for high resolution imaging of cancer at the molecular level; and a spinning disc confocal microscope for imaging signalling pathways in cancer cells.

The new equipment will also allow QIMR Berghofer scientists to study the process by which cancers metastasise, or spread, to distant tissues.

ACRF Trustee Russell Caplan said that since the ACRF was established in 1984 it has awarded more than $103.9 million to 34 research centres across Australia.

“Eleven of those grants ($23.3 million) have been distributed to research centres in Queensland and three of them have directly funded projects at QIMR Berghofer ($6.65 million).”

“These grants are awarded on the basis of research excellence and are subject to a rigorous approval process overseen by a Medical Research Advisory Committee made up of some of Australia’s most respected researchers, so it says a lot about the level of work being conducted at QIMR Berghofer,” Mr Caplan said.

To learn more about the other grants that have been awarded to leading research institutes across Australia click here.

Six more ovarian cancer risk genes found

Close-up of microscopeQIMR Berghofer and the University of Cambridge have led an international study, finding six new gene regions which increase a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer. The number of ovarian cancer risk susceptibility regions identified has therefore increased, from 12 to 18.

Although these risk gene variants, or “typos”, are much more subtle than the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, incorporating them into tests which predict a woman’s ovarian cancer risk would be more precise.

Head of QIMR Berghofer’s Cancer Program, Professor Georgia Chenevix-Trench said “Individually, each of these ‘typos’ increases the risk of cancer by a very small amount.”

“However, if a woman carries a large number of these ‘typos’ her risk of developing ovarian cancer may be as high as that conferred by mutations in BRCA1 or 2.”

QIMR Berghofer scientists are now part of an even bigger study which is likely to double the number of gene regions known to increase ovarian cancer risk.

“Once we identify each of these genetic ‘typos’, the next challenge is to find out the way they work – both individually and together,” Professor Chenevix-Trench said.

“Understanding how each of these variants works will eventually lead to an understanding how ovarian cancer develops, and how to develop better reduction medications and treatments.”

The ACRF is proud to have provided over $6 million in grants funding to QIMR Berghofer since 2002, for technologies and infrastructure with the power to speed up lifesaving discoveries across many cancer types.

Top Australian researchers bid for ACRF grants

Millions of dollars in ACRF funding will soon be awarded to Australia’s top cancer research teams, with this week heralding our final stage of assessments.

Today and tomorrow, lead researchers from five shortlisted institutes will meet with the ACRF’s esteemed Advisory Committee (which is chaired by Professor Ian Frazer AC) for the final interviews which will ultimately determine the successful research teams.

Shortlisted applicants include two institutes from Sydney: the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia, and the Children’s Medical Research Institute, as well as the QIMR Berghofer Cancer Research Institute in Brisbane, the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute in Adelaide, and the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Melbourne.

Continue reading “Top Australian researchers bid for ACRF grants”