Research heavyweights join forces to combat breast cancer

14 Mar 2016

Three of Queensland’s leading breast cancer researchers have joined forces to lead a $6.5 million National Health and Medical Research Council-funded program that is set to change the future of breast cancer diagnosis, prevention and treatment.  

Lakhani GroupProfessor Sunil Lakhani, who has appointments at The University of Queensland and Pathology Queensland, in partnership with Professors Georgia-Chenevix Trench and Kum Kum Khanna from QIMR Berghofer, will look for new ways to combat the condition which claims the lives of almost 3000 Australian women every year.

Professor Sunil Lakhani from the UQ Centre for Clinical Research said the team would focus on several key areas to enable more personalised treatment and better outcomes for those diagnosed with breast cancer.

“At the heart of our program is a strong desire to offer improved quality of life and more targeted treatments to beat the most common female cancer in Australia and worldwide,” Professor Lakhani said.

 “Our research will seek to understand who is most susceptible to breast cancer, the role that genes play in tumour development and behaviour, and why some types of breast cancer spread from the breast to other parts of the body.

“Armed with this knowledge, we will work to develop tools to prevent, diagnose and treat breast cancer, including those more aggressive, spreading forms.”

Professor Lakhani said the research team was well-placed to achieve good outcomes, with strong collaborations and state-of-the-art facilities at its disposal.

“Our team is strengthened by new and established collaborations with many local, national and international researchers with varied expertise – they will assist us to resolve some of the key questions in our research,” he said.

“We will also have access to samples from the Brisbane Breast Bank, a facility that collects fresh tissue donated by patients having breast surgery at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital; and the Herston Imaging Research Facility for hi-tech medical imaging technologies not available anywhere else in Australia.”

These resources will allow the team to quickly test new treatments and ensure that any successes can be quickly translated into clinical practice.

“There are some drugs already on the market for other diseases that could prevent and treat certain types of breast cancer,” Professor Lakhani said.

“We also know that a group of genes have been linked to patients’ survival outcomes and responses to treatment.

“With our combined expertise and state of the art facilities we’ll be able to test these drugs and learn more about patients with genetic predisposition to the disease.

“We can then apply what we learn to change the way we treat patients in the future and ultimately save lives – there’s no more satisfying reason to join forces to beat this disease.”

While the research program will be led equally by the three researchers, the NHMRC funding was awarded to QIMR Berghofer as the lead institution in the grant.

Contact: Siobhan Barry, QIMR Berghofer, +61 7 3845 3919,; Jenny Johnston, UQCCR, +61 7 3346 6041,