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Cancer statistics reinforce need for research funds

The Director of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) has welcomed improved cancer survival rates in Australia, but cautioned against easing commitment to medical research.

Professor Frank Gannon said the new figures were a vindication of the value of medical research, and reinforced the need for ongoing funding.

The latest report on cancer from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows the five-year survival rate from all cancers increased from 47% to 66% from 1987 to 2010.

“This is obviously wonderful news for cancer patients and their families, and a real credit to medical researchers and clinicians across the globe,” Professor Gannon said.

“I hope it’s seen as a validation of the importance of medical research, and not a sign we can take our foot off the pedal, as it were.

“Medical research is enormously expensive, but also enormously important. This country needs more, not less, financial commitment to research with an emphasis on translating that knowledge from lab to bedside, like that at QIMR.”

The AIHW report also showed cancer survival rates were mixed when it came to individual cancers.

Prostate cancer, kidney cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma had the largest survival gains over time, but there was little improvement in mesothelioma, pancreatic cancer, and lung cancer.

“Again, this is a sign that we must pursue our research with renewed vigour, not less,” Professor Gannon said.

“QIMR will continue its research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancers like skin (including melanoma), ovarian, breast, prostate, blood, brain, lymphoma and colorectal with passion, commitment and diligence.”

QIMR has more than 500 scientists working in three main areas: cancer, infectious diseases, and mental health/complex disorders. More than half of its 50 labs are devoted to cancer.