Queensland scientists leading way in cancer battle

Published Tuesday, 08 July, 2014 at 10:21 AM


The Honourable Campbell Newman

Minister for Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts
The Honourable Ian Walker

Queensland families living with pancreatic cancer have more chance of beating the disease, with the State’s scientists among the first in the world to identify how the disease forms.

Premier Campbell Newman hailed this breakthrough as a significant scientific achievement that will give hope to many cancer sufferers both in Queensland and around the world.

“The battle to find a cure to cancer is a long road and this is a great step forward for many living with this awful disease,” Mr Newman said.

“I congratulate Professor Sean Grimmond and his dedicated team at the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience.”

Science and Innovation Minister Ian Walker said Professor Grimmond and his team had comprehensively sequenced the DNA of pancreatic cancer creating a detailed atlas of the disease that would help take the guesswork out of chemotherapy.

“With more than 2600 Australians and about 350 Queenslanders diagnosed every year, this is a remarkable piece of work that aligns with our election promise to revitalise frontline services,” Mr Walker said.

“Profiling this ruthless killer will allow more effective treatment of the disease that kills 95 per cent of people diagnosed within five years. It edges us closer to providing an effective treatment for the disease that has one of the highest mortality rates of all cancers.

“Drugs that are effective in prolonging the life of some pancreatic cancer patients are not effective on other patients. This research will mean clinicians will have a better chance at delivering the most effective drug treatment for each patient.”

Mr Walker said Professor Grimmond and his team set out to find what was happening at the genetic level when pancreatic cancer takes hold, in partnership with scientists from the renowned Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney and international collaborators.

Professor Grimmond said by comparing the sequence of DNA in every patient’s normal genome with the sequence of DNA in their cancer genome, they could determine at the level of DNA code what was different.

“Cancer occurs because of changes to the genome – a person’s full set of genetic material,” Prof Grimmond said.

The projects to sequence pancreatic and ovarian cancers are the Australian contribution to the International Cancer Genome Consortium, a global research effort aiming to sequence 50 of the most common types and sub-types of cancer from 25,000 patients.

The research was funded by the Queensland Government, the National Health and Medical Research Council, the University of Queensland, the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, and Cancer Council New South Wales.

[ENDS] 8 July 2014

Media Contact: Premier’s Office: Katherine Hornbuckle 0402 862 351, Minister’s Office:Monica Rostron 0409 126 332