Australian cancer researchers will gain access to first-in-Australia technology through new funding from Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) to the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. The $2.5 million grant will allow the establishment of the ACRF Breakthrough Technologies Laboratory, providing new insights into how cancer develops, and how it can be more effectively treated. The laboratory is one of four initiatives announced by ACRF last night.
The laboratory will enhance and accelerate research into many of Australia's most common, and most deadly, cancers including cancers of the blood (leukaemia, lymphoma), breast, ovary, lung and bowel.
Dr Daniel Gray, a Walter and Eliza Hall Institute cancer researcher, said a centrepiece of the ACRF Breakthrough Technologies Laboratory would be an Australian-first system to modify specific genes in cancer cells and in cells undergoing transformation to become cancers. "The support of ACRF will allow us to investigate how cancers develop, progress and respond to treatments, using a relatively new technology called 'CRISPR-Cas9'," he said.
"Cancer occurs when cells develop changes to their genetic material (DNA) that allow the cells to divide uncontrollably and survive beyond their normal lifespan. This new technology will provide cancer researchers with a 'library' of molecules that enable us to rapidly and precisely alter a single gene within a cancer cell. This has the potential to provide immense insights into which genes are crucial drivers of cancer development, progression and resistance to anti-cancer treatments," Dr Gray said.
Located at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Parkville, the ACRF Breakthrough Technologies Laboratory will be available to more than 1000 cancer researchers through the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, a collaborative network of Victorian hospitals and research centres improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Mr Tom Dery, Chairman of the ACRF Board said Australia was at the forefront of cancer research globally. "We're proud to support the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in their investigations to better understand cellular errors in cancer," he said. "This fantastic research team is forging a new path towards solving the problems of cancer."
The director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Professor Doug Hilton, said the support of the ACRF was crucial for providing Australian cancer researchers with access to new, state-of-the-art research technology. "The ACRF Breakthrough Technologies Laboratory will enable us to continue to produce internationally competitive research. These are the sort of facilities Australia requires if we are to retain our brilliant young cancer researchers, who might otherwise take their research overseas," he said.
"Support from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation has driven many important advances in understanding and treating cancer," Professor Hilton said. "In the long term, this partnership will result in better outcomes for the 100,000 Australians diagnosed with cancer every year."