A world-class research facility has been launched where Australian scientists will study cancer from the overlooked perspective that it is “actually two diseases”.
The Lowy Cancer Research Centre (LCRC), a $127 million facility built on the grounds of Sydney’s University of NSW, will eventually house 400 scientists.
It has placed the study of adult as well as childhood cancers under one roof and it is this unique approach that should generate new scientific breakthroughs, said LCRC director Professor Phil Hogg.
He said just as it was easy for the public to overlook the split in the killer disease, scientists had for too long worked with their focus divided between childhood and adult cancers.
“The general perception is that they are the same disease but they are not, there are actually two diseases,” Prof Hogg said at the centre’s official launch on Friday…..
“Childhood cancer is a disease of development and adult cancer is largely a disease of ageing so the way they start, the way they develop and the way they are treated is very different.”
Prof Hogg said this had resulted in scientists working on two different steams of research, and drug therapy, over the decades.
“Commonalities” were also now emerging, he said, as the latest in genetic studies were revealing common genes and proteins involved in child and adult cancers.
Where similarities could be found they point to drugs that could cross over.
For example, leukaemia is rare in adults but a drug used to treat child sufferers was being trialled for use in adults with lung cancer.
“Researchers working in the separate fields tend to think about cancer in a different way,” Prof Hogg said.
“Getting us together under the one roof, we’ll come up with ideas, research directions, discoveries that we probably wouldn’t have made working separately.”
Prof Hogg said medical science had made huge strides in the understanding of childhood cancers and 70 per cent of children diagnosed with cancer would survive it.
Adult survival rates were lagging, he said, another reason for a new research approach.
Businessmen and philanthropist Frank Lowy donated $10 million to the facility which was officially opened by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
“We lose 40,000 members of our Australian family a year through cancer – that’s a lot of people,” Mr Rudd told the audience at the launch.
“A hundred thousand Australians each year receive a diagnosis of one form of cancer or another.”
Mr Rudd said against this backdrop of “terrible” statistics, world-class facilities such as the LCRC were a sign of man’s “determination and hope to do something about it”.