'In the last 10-15 years, we have made huge progress
in the treatment of patients with cancer,
but there is still a lot of important work to do.'
- Associate Professor Steven Lane
'By working together on breakthrough cancer
research, we can make a greater impact
into the future, and save lives.'
- Dr Nic Waddell
QIMR Berghofer’s largest research program is cancer,
one of the major causes of illness and death in Australia
and the developed world.
Head of the Cancer Program
Dr Nic Waddell
Nearly 49,000 Australians are predicted to lose their lives to cancer this year. Few families escape the clutches of cancer. It affects us all — friends and family, young and old, male and female — cancer doesn't discriminate. Our researchers share a dream that one day, there will be proven and personalised treatments available for all types of cancer.
Cancer is a disease caused by abnormal cell growth, with the potential to metastasise or spread to other parts of the body. For decades, scientists have known that genetics play a role in a person’s susceptibility of developing cancer and disease. Some cancers are inherited through your family’s genes, while others are caused by factors in the environment interacting with genetic susceptibilities. Many forms of cancer can be treated successfully if detected early.
Explore our cancer labs
Here at QIMR Berghofer, our largest research program is cancer. Our dedicated scientists continue life-saving research to understand this insidious disease and create revolutionary medical treatments. We are researching over 15 different types of cancer across 31 laboratories.
Find out more about our researchers working in cancer by clicking their area of cancer research.
Did you know?
In 2018, approximately 18,235 Australians will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 3,157 will die. Whilst breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, it also has a 90% 5-year survival rate. Despite the high survival rate, breast cancer is still the second leading cause of cancer death in women behind lung cancer. Approximately 190,000 women were living with breast cancer in 2012 (who have been diagnosed in the previous 31 years).
Skin cancer bears the highest cost to the Australian health system of all cancers. Over 90% of new skin cancer cases diagnosed are in Australians over the age of 40. Each year approximately 2000 Australians die from skin cancer.
In 2013, 5,336 Australian women were diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer, and 3,157 died. Gynaecological cancers account for almost 10% of all cancers diagnosed in women. 45% of Australians diagnosed with ovarian cancer will survive beyond the first 5 years post diagnosis. This statistic jumps to 73% for cervical cancer.
In 2018, approximately 12,741 Australians will be diagnosed with lung cancer, and 9,198 will die. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths at almost 20% with a 17% 5-year survival rate. This statistic drops to 6% for mesothelioma. Lung cancer predominantly affect the older population.
In a given year, approximately 11,983 Australians will be diagnosed with a blood cancer and 5000 will die. Blood cancers are the most common form of cancer in children. 3 out of every 5 Australians diagnosed with leukaemia will survive beyond the first 5 years post diagnosis.
In 2018, it is estimated that approximately 5,091 Australians will be diagnosed with a head and neck cancer and 1,034 will die. Head and neck cancers have a 70% -year survival rate with 16,006 Australians living with head and neck cancer in 2013 (diagnosed in the previous 5-year period).
In a given year, 15,253 Australians are diagnosed with bowel cancer (also known as colorectal cancer), making it the 3rd most commonly diagnosed cancer and 2nd most deadly, claiming approximately 4,346 lives with a 68% 5-year survival rate.
In 2018, an estimated 2,215 Australians will develop liver cancer and a further 902 will develop bile and gall bladder cancer. An estimated 2,088 Australians will die from liver cancer and a further 261 from bile and gall bladder cancer.
In 2014 there were 1457 Australians diagnosed with oesophageal cancer and a further 2,148 Australians diagnosed with stomach cancer. In 2016, 1,338 Australians died from oesophageal cancer and 1,087 from stomach cancer. The five year survival rate for oesophageal cancer is 21% and 30% for stomach cancer.
In 2018, it is estimated that approximately 1,935 Australians will be diagnosed with brain cancer and 1,435 will die. Brain cancer is the leading cause of death in Australians under 40. Brain cancer has one of the lowest 5-year cancer survival rates at only 2%.
Endocrine cancers are named by the gland in which they begin. Endocrine cancers include pancreatic cancer and thyroid cancer. In 2018, approximately 6,694 Australians will be diagnosed equally with thyroid cancer and pancreatic cancer. The estimated number of deaths in 2018 however is greatly unequal with an estimated 144 (97% 5-year survival rate) deaths for thyroid cancer compared to 3,006 (9% 5-year survival rate) for pancreatic cancer.
In 2018, approximately 3,617 Australians will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 3,500 will die. Prostate cancer is the 2nd most commonly diagnosed cancer and 3rd highest cause of cancer death however; it has a 95% 5-year survival rate. Almost 100,000 men were living with prostate cancer in 2013 (diagnosed in the previous 5 years).
In 2018, approximately 17,729 Australians will be diagnosed with kidney cancer, and 1,069 will die. 3 in 4 Australians diagnosed with kidney cancer will live beyond the first 5 years from diagnoses. 11,675 Australians were living with kidney cancer in 2013 (diagnosed in the previous 5 years).
Sarcomas are rare cancers that can begin anywhere in the body. There are two main types – soft tissue sarcomas affecting mainly adults, and bone sarcomas that are much more common in children and young adults. Sarcoma accounts for just 1% of all cancers but disproportionately accounts for 20% of all cancers in children. Sarcoma has a 40% 5-year survival rate, meaning that more than half of Australians diagnosed will die in the first 5 years.
Cancer of unknown primary (CUP) is the term used to describe a metastatic cancer (cancer that has spread) with an unknown starting point. In 2014, 2666 Australians in Australia were diagnosed with CUP and 2554 deaths in 2016. CUP has a 5-year survival rate of just 14%.