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New cancer research program to investigate tumour heterogeneity

November 14, 2016

A $2M grant from Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) has been awarded to a Peter Mac-led application from members of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) to establish The ACRF Tumour Heterogeneity Program.

This major investment will see world-leading researchers from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) and the University of Melbourne join forces to address one of the biggest challenges facing cancer research today.

Tumour heterogeneity occurs when different cancer cells show diverse genetic or functional characteristics, either within one tumour, or when there are variations among cancers from different individuals. This heterogeneity within cancer can evolve over time and cause significant challenges in designing effective treatment strategies.

The Program will work towards a better understanding of the diversity of evolutionary changes that result from tumour heterogeneity, gaining information that will be critical to the development of strategies that overcome and/or exploit this diversity and ultimately improve patient survival across many cancer types.

While cancer research efforts have reached a high level of sophistication, knowledge of the full extent of tumour heterogeneity remains limited, hindering efforts to understand patterns of tumour evolution, select effective therapies and combat treatment resistance in the clinical setting.

“New technologies now provide us with unprecedented opportunities to research and understand fundamental questions about tumour heterogeneity,” said Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre Associate Professor, Sarah Jane Dawson, who led the application on behalf of the partnership.

The cutting edge equipment funded by this grant will allow the characteristics of different cancer cells, including their genetic make-up, to be studied in great detail, allowing researchers to characterise tumour heterogeneity at previously undefined levels.

“With ACRF’s support, the combined power of our laboratory and translational research will deepen our understanding of tumour heterogeneity and accelerate discoveries so they can directly benefit patients with cancer sooner,” said Associate Professor Dawson.

“ACRF exists to challenge researchers and encourages them to look at new ways of working together in an effort to realise new insights and bold ideas. We are proud to continue to support the collaborative efforts of the VCCC,” said Professor Ian Brown, CEO Australian Cancer Research Foundation.

“Many of the research institutes involved in this new initiative have received grants in the past from Australian Cancer Research Foundation, including Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, University of Melbourne and Walter Eliza Hall Institute. The Australian Cancer Research Foundation is proud to continue to support the world class cancer research at these institutes.” said Professor Brown.

Cover image: Dr Sarah-Jane Dawson and His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), Governor of New South Wales

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