Last year our scientists uncovered some impressive achievements for QIMR Berghofer. Here is a summary of the best research highlights from 2017.
POTENTIAL NEW HOPE FOR ASTHMA SUFFERERS
We created fresh hope for asthma sufferers who experience an attack brought on by the common cold. An antibody was tested in pre-clinical trials with researchers from QIMR Berghofer and the University of Queensland, which revealed it may help the body to fight colds, while potentially reducing the risk of an asthma attack.
DISCOVERED 72 NEW GENE MARKERS FOR BREAST CANCER
We led the world’s biggest ever genetic study of breast cancer and discovered 72 new genetic variants that put women at higher risk of the disease. Our hope in the future is that we will be able to test for these genetic variants in order to inform preventative approaches and treatment for women who may be at a higher risk of breast cancer.
COMPLETED WORLD’S LARGEST STUDY OF ALLERGIC DISEASE
QIMR Berghofer scientists conducted the world’s largest genetic study of allergic disease, which examined the DNA of 360 000 individuals and identified over 100 genetic risk factors that
explain why some people suffer from asthma, hay fever and eczema. The research determined which specific genes, when not working properly, cause allergic conditions, giving us new
clues on how allergies could be prevented or treated.
DEVELOPING GROUNDBREAKING DIAGNOSTIC & TREATMENT TOOLS FOR DRUG-RESISTANT EPILEPSY
Researchers at QIMR Berghofer, Mater Centre for Neurosciences and Queensland University of Technology joined forces to develop new diagnostic and treatment tools for doctors working with patients who have drug-resistant epilepsy. The head of QIMR Berghofer’s Mental Health Program, Professor Michael Breakspear, said the team will use world-leading diagnostic imaging techniques to improve treatment of epilepsy through brain stimulation, improving health outcomes for patients, with fewer negative side-effects.
TAKING A PROACTIVE APPROACH TO REDUCE FUTURE RISK OF DENGUE MOSQUITO
Our researchers warned the growing popularity of rainwater tanks on Brisbane properties could provide the right conditions for the dengue mosquito Aedes aegypti to return to the city, almost 60 years after its elimination. The global emergence and re-emergence of mosquitoborne viruses, including dengue, chikungunya and Zika virus, highlighted the importance of early detection and response to disease-carrying mosquitos in urban areas.
NEW GENE HOPE FOR PATIENTS WITH AGGRESSIVE BREAST CANCER
We have discovered a set of genes that can help predict the survival of breast cancer patients. The findings could in the future help us test patients to determine who is likely to experience a relapse and need further treatment. As well as a diagnostic tool, this research also helps us develop new drug targets for aggressive breast cancer.
LINKED BREASTFEEDING TO A LOWER RISK OF UTERINE CANCER
An international study led by QIMR Berghofer has found that women who have breastfed at least one child have a lower risk of cancer of the uterus. The study was the largest and most comprehensive analysis of the link between breastfeeding and uterine cancer.
ZIKA VIRUS BREAKTHROUGH
Our researchers synthetically re-created Zika virus in the laboratory, a breakthrough that will help scientists to understand the virus and the foetal brain defects it causes. The research was a collaboration between QIMR Berghofer and UQ’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences.
FOUND THE LINK BETWEEN SMOKING AND SKIN CANCER
We have found the strongest evidence yet of a link between smoking and a common form of skin cancer. The team from QIMR Berghofer studied nearly 19 000 people and found that
current smokers were significantly more likely than non-smokers to develop a squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the skin.
PROGRESS TOWARDS ERADICATING MALARIA
Our scientists, as part of an international team, sequenced the genomes of the final two species of malaria parasites. The findings have important implications for malaria eradication worldwide and may help researchers to develop new drugs and a vaccine. Malaria kills about 500 000 people, mostly children, each year.
PAVED THE WAY FOR A NEW TREATMENT FOR DEADLY GVHD
Our scientists have unlocked the secrets of a little-understood immune cell, potentially paving the way for an easier way to treat and prevent graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). GVHD
occurs in up to 70 per cent of patients who receive a stem cell transplant to treat blood cancer. A significant proportion of patients who develop acute GVHD of the gastrointestinal
tract do not survive. We hope that by giving patients infusions of these cells early on, we will eventually be able to prevent GVHD altogether.
IDENTIFIED 12 NEW GENETIC CAUSES OF OVARIAN CANCER
As part of a major international collaboration, we identified 12 new genetic variants that increase a woman’s risk of developing epithelial ovarian cancer. Only 44 per cent of women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer will survive for five years. Our hope in the future is that further study may help us to treat and even prevent ovarian cancer.
REVEALED UNDERLYING GENETIC LINKS OF NEUROENDOCRINE PANCREATIC CANCER
Our researchers played a key role in an international research effort that revealed that genetic changes normally linked to breast, colon and ovarian cancers could also drive a rare form of pancreatic cancer, pancreatic neuroendocrine tumours (PanNETs). The findings offer the prospect of one day being able to identify people at risk of these cancers, as well as aggressive forms of the disease, and who might respond to current or new targeted therapies.