Research Update: The ACRF Molecular Oncology Translational Research Facility

The Molecular Oncology Translational Research Facility (MOTIF) was established in 2014 with an ACRF grant thanks to the support of our generous community. The centrepiece was a state-of-the-art PET-CT instrument, housed within the Herston Imaging Research Facility (HIRF) on the campus of the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.

Research activity in non-invasive imaging of molecular aspects of cancer has continued to evolve throughout the last two years. With the initiation of new projects, at the end of 2019 there were 11 studies actively recruiting participants and a further 8 studies pending. The research conducted at HIRF has included research into new methods of targeting and diagnosing cancer metastases, including the potential for molecules to be the basis of both disease staging and therapy, the core idea of theranostics.

In addition, the facility continues to support innovative projects in other areas of medicine, notably in clinical neuroscience. Researchers affiliated with MOTIF have published 8 papers in 2018-19, including in high impact journals such as Annals of Oncology and Gut, with multiple presentations at international conferences heralding discoveries that will deliver future research outcomes. 

The Herston Imaging Research Facility and the UQ Centre for Clinical Research continue to promote MOTIF as a facility that provides advanced molecular imaging capabilities. The start of 2020 sees HIRF becoming a member of the Australian National Imaging Facility. This provides the facility significant investment in radiochemistry and molecular imaging capabilities locally, and major new opportunities for MOTIF.

This grant has had significant impact on both human health and scientific research outcomes. Thanks to the generosity of people like you, some of these include:

  • A clinical trial being undertaken targeting prostate cancer with the potential to improve both staging and providing information on the extent of metastases (the development of secondary cancerous growths). This could be a possible new treatment option for people with late-stage prostate cancer, with data showing the showing it is extremely well tolerated and provides benefit for considerably longer than other second-line treatments.
  • A second randomised trial brings together a team of oncologists, radiologists, radiochemists and nuclear medicine physicians to investigate late-stage prostate cancer treatment. 
  • A study to look at a new way of detecting the spread of pancreas cancer.
  • PET/CT and PET/MRI for radiation treatment planning in patients with head and neck cancer undergoing definitive radiation or chemo-radiation treatments.
  • Improving the quality of PET imaging of pulmonary nodules and lymph nodes to facilitate invasive and non-invasive assessment.

In summary, there are currently 27 cancer projects underway with 222 cancer participants. In 2018-2019 alone, 8 publications and 18 conference presentations featured outcomes from MOTIF. In additional to this, a further $7.7 million has been awarded to the facility from other sources since the seed funding provided by the initial grant. 

These innovative projects by some of the best minds in Australia will help find more effective, less invasive treatments for cancer – and your support has made this all possible. Thank you for standing with research, and understanding the value of helping to get these important ideas like these off the ground. It is the momentum we build through projects like these that bring us closer to finding better ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer.