The Woolcock Institute of Medical Research

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Lung Cancer Centre Sets Sights on Cure

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A cure for Australia’s deadliest cancer is closer than ever with the launch of a dedicated lung cancer research centre charged with boosting survival rates and treatment options for the killer disease.  

The Centre for Lung Cancer Research opened its doors in Sydney today, ushering in a new era of innovation and collaboration to find a cure for a disease affecting 10,000 Australians each year.

Working across the areas of genetics, drug discovery, delivery of medications and patient care, the Centre, unveiled by NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard, will transform today’s lung cancer research landscape and ensure lab discoveries are swiftly implemented in cancer clinics.

“Lung cancer has an appalling survival rate, very few effective treatment options and a bad reputation which has made it difficult to secure the funding needed to make research breakthroughs,” says Professor Carol Armour, Director of Sydney’s Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, where the Centre is based.

“We’re changing that forever, with a purpose-built lung cancer research facility dedicated exclusively to finding a cure for this killer condition. With the innovations inside these walls and among our broad network of leading researchers, lung cancer will no longer be the dreaded diagnosis that it is today.”

Lung cancer facts make grim reading. More Australians die every year from this disease than breast and prostate cancer combined. Despite this, lung cancer receives only a small fraction of the funding of other cancers, largely due to its negative links to smoking, Professor Armour says. “What people don’t realise is that many sufferers have never smoked, and of those who have, many started young before cancer links were well understood, so the stigma is really quite undeserved,” Professor Armour says.

The Centre aims to lift the profile of lung cancer by supporting large translational research programs to be run from its high-tech purpose-built Glebe facilities. It includes the Lung Cancer Research Network, a team of world-class researchers from over 20 hospitals, research centres, universities and organisations who are united in the goal to better understand, treat and prevent the disease.

“The facility acts as a hub for researchers, clinicians, respiratory physicians, oncologists, radiologists, thoracic surgeons, advocates for lung cancer, basically all those who are passionate and motivated to fast track a cure for lung cancer,” says respiratory specialist Associate Professor Lucy Morgan, a member of the network supported by the new Centre. Collaboration in our network will connect discovery and implementation more quickly than ever before.

”The work has already begun, with the network establishing core research projects through the Centre to develop non-invasive diagnosis, innovative drug delivery and 3D-printed airway stents for patients with breathing difficulties,” Associate Professor Morgan says.

The Centre’s database and bio-bank give lung cancer researchers access to unprecedented quantities of valuable cells, de-identified patient information and fresh experimental results in the areas of molecular biology and drug discovery. The state-of-the-art laboratory will be available to researchers and provide tissue and cell analysis.

The innovation has been welcomed by Lillian Leigh, a Sydney lawyer and mother who was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer three years ago, aged 37. “We desperately need better treatments and far better outcomes for people diagnosed with this disease,” says Ms Leigh, who will speak at the launch.

“The Centre and the Network have a very exciting opportunity here to build a robust, energised lung cancer research field. That gives myself and others hope for a brighter future where survival rates climb and we get the chance to see our children grow up.”

The Centre for Lung Cancer Research will be opened by NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard at 9.30am on Wednesday, April 18 at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Glebe, Sydney.

Lung Cancer: The Facts

  • Lung cancer is the 4th most common cancer in Australia and has the highest mortality rate
  • More than 10,000 Australians are diagnosed with it each year
  • It kills more women than breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer combined
  • Unlike breast or prostate cancer, lung cancer has no diagnostic tests for early detection
  • It is the leading cause of cancer in the Aboriginal population
  • Just 15% of those diagnosed with lung cancer are still alive five years later
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