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QIMR Berghofer scientists secure NHMRC support for new treatments

Groundbreaking cancer research at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute has secured almost $7 million in funding from the National Health and Medical Research Institute (NHMRC).

Professor David Whiteman, head of the Cancer Control Group, along with Professors Penny Webb and Adele Green, secured more than $6 million to address the prevention and diagnosis of common cancers.

Professor Whiteman said nearly 400,000 people were treated for skin cancer in Australia each year, and more than 3,500 women developed ovarian or uterine cancer.

“Our aims are, first, to understand how we might prevent these cancers in the future; second, to enhance diagnosis of these cancers; and third, to improve the survival and quality of life for people who are diagnosed with these cancers,” Professor Whiteman said.

“Cancer impacts so many Australians, but with the NHMRC’s support, we are hoping to better understand skin and gynaecological cancers with the view to offering improved outcomes for sufferers.”

Meanwhile, Professor Rajiv Khanna’s groundbreaking work into a vaccine for one of our most common, but potentially devastating, viruses received more than $500,000 from the NHMRC.

Professor Rajiv Khanna researches cytomegalovirus (CMV), a common virus, which most of us carry without our knowledge. However if the virus is caught or activated during pregnancy it can cause serious birth defects, including brain damage, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, hearing loss and vision impairment. It is also believed to be responsible for one stillborn baby each month.

“This grant from the NHMRC will help make the development of a CMV vaccine possible, which could help prevent potential birth defects in our babies,” Professor Khanna said.

“Up to 50% of all Australians carry CMV, so developing a vaccine is essential to curb this transmission during pregnancy.”

QIMR Berghofer Director Professor Frank Gannon said the NHMRC funding was a great result for the Institute.

“As ever, the NHMRC has funded the best and most relevant research and QIMR Berghofer is thrilled to be able to contribute to Australia’s medical research landscape,” Professor Gannon said.

“QIMR Berghofer is committed to carrying out translational research, and with the NHMRC’s support, we are able to carry out research which can have a positive and real impact on many Australians.”

In all, the Federal Government announced $133 million in NHMRC funding for medical researchers to find new health treatments and cures.