Huge boost for cancer researchers State to spend $15m on projects By NICK MILLER als of new drugs to treat leuk- aemia and other cancers that affect children in particular, MILLIONS of dollars worth of bringing together experts from new Melbourne-based cancer Peter Mac, the Royal Melbourne research will be announced and The Alfred hospitals, and today to coincide with World the Murdoch Children's Cancer Day. Research Institute. The scientists hope to find Other state-sponsored drugs that will stop breast can- research will investigate new cer recurring, and flick the treatments for bowel, colorectal chemical "switches" that could and skin cancers. prevent blood cells from turning State health minister Daniel into diseases such as leukaemia. Andrews said it was the single The state government will biggest investment in cancer sponsor $15.2 million in new research since the Victorian projects under its cancer action Cancer Agency began in 2006. plan, to translate basic research "The Government is proud into new treatments. Professor to support cutting-edge Miles Prince at the Peter Mac- research that helps detect can- Callum Cancer Centre said his cer and saves lives," he said. team's $2.2 million project In another announcement, would follow up new insights the National Breast Cancer into the cause of leukaemia and Foundation will give $5 million other blood-borne cancers. to a national project based at St It will combine the talents of Vincent's Institute and the Uni- four world-leading, Melbourne- versity of Melbourne, to find a based teams in the field of cure for recurrent or metastatic "epigenetics", the study of how breast cancer. the genes inside cells get Chief investigator Professor switched into a cancerous state. Erik Thompson said the "The reason we are not win- researchers would exploit ning in curing cancer is we are insights into the way cells just trying to poison it," he said. change when they become can- "We need to be a bit smarter cerous. Some tumour cells that that. We need to reprogram spread through the body once a the 'software' [of a cancerous cancer is established and lurk cell], not just hit the 'hardware'." for years, dormant or undetec- This has been made possible ted in places like the bone mar- by a new class of epigenetic row. The new work hopes to use drugs that has recently been new or even existing drugs to developed. detect and deactivate these cells "If we had sat where we were so the cancer cannot return. the rest of the international "This is the most exciting pack would pass us," Professor thing I have ever been involved Prince said. "With this new with," Professor Thompson group we will be standing out in said. "It's going to be a tough front." couple of years but it's a fantas- The money will speed up tri- tic challenge."