Huge boost for cancer

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					Huge boost
for cancer
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."

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