Research

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Our research focuses on the unmet needs of cancers with a poor prognosis.

Professor Stephen ClarkeLaboratory Co-Head

In 2018 almost 50,000 people in Australia died of cancer

In 2018 over 140,000 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in Australia

1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85 years

Research Director: Associate Professor Viive Howell

Cancer is the leading cause of disease burden in Australia. The above statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare highlight the urgent need for research to improve cancer treatment and patient outcomes.

Our research aims are:

  1. Improving treatment for cancer patients and overcoming resistance to current cancer therapies
  2. The identification and validation of biomarkers to improve the diagnosis, prognosis and tailoring of therapies to individual patients.

The cancers we currently research are listed at left and include lung cancer which is the 5th most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, but the leading cause of cancer death. Pancreatic cancer is ranked 11th by incidence, but is the 5th leading cause of cancer death. Diagnosis of these and other cancers at an early stage greatly improves prognosis and survival.

Our research is only possible through funding for projects, researcher salaries and the equipment required to undertake the research, and we thank our donors and current funding bodies.

Additional areas of interest which are currently unfunded include the following.  Please contact us to discuss potential projects in these and other areas

1. Exploring the molecular basis of brain metastases in patients with lung cancer in order to identify better therapeutic strategies

Brain metastases are common in patients with lung cancer, and the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in these patients. We aim to explore how different genetic alterations allow some lung tumours to spread to the brain and evade therapeutic attack whilst others are incapable of brain invasion or are sensitive to current treatment strategies.

2. Understanding the patterns of presentation of biliary cancer in Australian patients.

Biliary cancer or cholangiocarcinoma has a high incidence in Asia but is quite rare in Australia. Defining the patterns of presentation in Australia will assist in determining whether there are genetic and, or environmental factors that increase susceptibility to this cancer in Australia.  This combined with genomic analysis will assist in understanding the underlying biology and improving treatment strategies.

3. Predicting risk of clotting in Australian patients with rare lung cancers

Clotting is a significant complication and cause of death in cancer patients. We have identified a subgroup of lung cancer patients with a particularly high incidence of clotting. These patients have been diagnosed with a rare subtype of lung cancer, called ROS1+ lung cancer. In this cancer the ROS1 gene “fuses” with other gene partners to initiate cancer development and “drive” tumour progression. The aim of this project is to identify the ROS1-gene partner in ROS1+ lung cancer patient tumours. By comparing these results with patient outcomes we will test the hypothesis that the ROS1-gene partner influences patient prognosis and the likelihood for clotting, as well as other patient outcomes.

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