Building a world-leading cancer research hub

By Ross Hannan

Cancer is now the leading cause of death in Australia. In 2012, more than 43,000 Australians died from it.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one-in-two Australian men and one-in-three Australian women will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85.

Similar trends are being found in other first world countries due to ageing populations and changing lifestyles.

Despite a sustained research effort and recent advances in cancer therapies, outcomes for many cancer patients remains poor.

There have been no major improvements in pancreatic cancer treatment in the last 20 years.

Only 20 per cent of patients survive one year after diagnosis and there is a five-year survival rate of just five per cent.

While improvement in outcomes for sufferers of other cancer types has fared considerably better and the development of immunotherapies is becoming a reality, there remains an urgent need to develop new approaches and drugs for the early detection and treatment of cancer.

While Canberra has some truly outstanding cancer research, this is largely conducted in isolated groups.

These groups, in some cases, lack either critical mass or have limited translation into the clinic.

Into this scenario, earlier this year I was appointed the inaugural Centenary Chair in Cancer Research at The John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR).

The position is a joint initiative between the ACT Government and ANU.

The strategic goal is to create a hub offering a critical mass of multidisciplinary research excellence in cancer and to bridge the gap between laboratory research and the cancer clinic.