Two new cancer research laboratories at WEHI receive $2M ACRF funding

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) has committed $2 million towards the fit-out of two new cancer research laboratories at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

The funding has helped establish new laboratories for the institute's ACRF Stem Cells and Cancer division and ACRF Chemical Biology division. These divisions will expand the institute's research programs into the causes of, and new treatments for, some of the most prevalent cancers in Australia, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, lung cancer and leukaemia.

The ACRF Stem Cells and Cancer division will study the biology of epithelial cancers, including breast, lung and ovarian cancer. Epithelial cancers account for about 80 per cent of human cancers and new treatments are desperately needed, said Professor Geoff Lindeman, joint head of the new division with Professor Jane Visvader, and an oncologist at The Royal Melbourne Hospital. "Lung cancer is the greatest cause of cancer-related death in Australians, while breast cancer is a leading cause of mortality in women," he said. "These are diseases that are very prevalent, and patients need better treatments. Similarly, more research is needed into ovarian cancer, which is poorly understood and for which the outlook for patients is very poor. The ACRF's support will help us to better understand how these cancers develop, and discover new treatment strategies."

Professor David Huang, head of the new ACRF Chemical Biology division, said the new facilities would enable institute researchers to develop new medications for cancers including epithelial cancers and blood cancers such as leukaemia. "The institute has many scientists investigating how cancers might be better treated," Professor Huang said. "Our division will use this knowledge to develop medications that have the potential to be used as new anti-cancer agents."

The director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Professor Doug Hilton, said the fit-out of the new cancer laboratories would provide an important boost to the institute's cancer research programs. "Discovering the causes of cancer, and developing treatments for cancer, have been a focus of our researchers for much of the past 100 years," he said. "The institute has already made many contributions that have helped patients. For example, the discovery of colony stimulating factors by institute researchers in the 1960s has now helped more than 10 million cancer patients worldwide. We anticipate that some of our current studies will have similar impacts on cancer treatments in the future."

The ACRF Chairman, Mr Tom Dery, said the new funding agreement would further strengthen Australian cancer research efforts. "We have been proud to support successful research projects at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in the past," he said. "This research has been across the spectrum, from investigating the underlying molecular defects in cancer through to the development of new anti-cancer treatments. The ACRF's support for these new research facilities will enable institute scientists to make discoveries about cancer biology, and then see them developed through to potential new anti-cancer treatments. This will undoubtedly improve the outlook for patients with some of the most common and deadly cancers in Australia."

The new laboratories will be officially opened in late 2012.

Source: Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

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