ACRF funds three new cancer research facilities

Monday, 13 May, 2024

ACRF funds three new cancer research facilities

Scientists at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute are set to investigate personalised cancer treatment, having received a $2 million grant from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) to establish a world-class national cancer research centre.

To be led by Professor Steven Lane and Dr Nicola Waddell on behalf of a team of academic and clinical investigators, the ACRF Centre for Optimised Cancer Therapy (ACRF-COCT) will integrate the latest advances in genomics and technology to understand how cancerous tumours respond to treatment. It will be jointly managed by researchers and clinicians from QIMR Berghofer, the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital and Princess Alexandra Hospital, to deliver a bench to bedside approach of treating people with cancer.

Waddell explained that the centre will use an entirely new approach to cancer precision medicine, focused on the dynamic changes that happen during the treatment of cancer. “By using genomic single cell and spatial technologies, together with big datasets, we hope we can offer alternative treatments in real time,” she said.

“We will examine patient samples at the time of surgery, during treatment and at the completion of treatment to provide a comprehensive view of how different cancers respond to standard chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapies and cellular therapies.”

According to Lane, what makes the centre unique is its access to extensive samples from patients who are undergoing treatment. “Vital information about cancer tumour responses will be available,” he explained, “allowing us to inform and validate individualised therapeutic approaches in a clinical setting, ultimately leading to improved treatment options for patients.”

The news comes after the ACRF last month announced the official opening of two state-of-the-art cancer research facilities in Victoria, made possible by $3.8 million in ACRF grant funding. Both facilities will provide a novel approach to help transform the way cancer is detected or treated.

The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre received $1.8 million to establish the ACRF Radiation Immuno-oncology Program. This innovative research program will study radiation therapy (a fundamental pillar in cancer treatment) and how it triggers ‘host anti-cancer immune defences’, similar to a vaccine. Understanding the relationship between radiation and the immune system will aid in the development of powerful new treatment regimens that optimise the use of radiation therapy alongside immunotherapy.

The University of Melbourne’s Bio21 Institute meanwhile received $2 million for a world-class research facility that will assist medical researchers in the discovery of new cancer drugs. Using state-of-the-art equipment, the program explores the use of structural biology to assist with the discovery of new medicines and treatments, and will enhance the early-stage translation of basic cancer discoveries made by Australian researchers into new cancer treatments. Structural biology has already been instrumental in developing highly effective medicines to treat a range of cancer types, including leukaemia and lung cancer.

Thanks to the ACRF funding, all three facilities have been provided with cutting-edge equipment to cater for their particular area of cancer research.

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