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QIMR Berghofer to lead major investigation into breast cancer

Scientists from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, The University of Queensland and Pathology Queensland have been awarded a $6.5 million grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to lead a major, five-year, international study to look for new ways of preventing and treating aggressive breast cancers.

QIMR Berghofer scientists Professor Georgia Chenevix-Trench and Professor Kum Kum Khanna will team up with Professor Sunil Lakhani from the University of Queensland and Pathology Queensland, along with more than 50 collaborators, to tackle the most common cancer in Australian women.

The team will conduct several different avenues of research into aggressive breast cancers. This includes looking at whether drugs that are already on the market for other diseases could be used to prevent and treat certain subtypes of breast cancer.

The scientists will also try to develop new treatments for breast cancer, including by targeting a group of genes that have been linked to patients’ survival outcomes and response to treatment.

The study will also look at how breast cancers spread to the gynaecologic organs and the brain, and will use imaging technology to find out whether certain antibodies can be used to treat tumours that have spread to the brain.

Professor Chenevix-Trench said the scientists involved in the study had already made huge advances in the field of breast cancer research, but there was still more work to do to tackle spread of disease to other sites.

“Thanks to the research that has been done over the last decade, we now have a much better understanding of how and why breast cancer develops,” Professor Chenevix-Trench said.

“In this study, we want to use the research that’s already been done to come up with new ways of diagnosing, preventing and treating aggressive breast cancers.

“We hope that this grant will get us closer to our goal of prolonging and saving lives.”