The generous gift from the Stafford Fox Medical Research Foundation will support Walter and Eliza Hall Institute researchers Associate Professor Clare Scott and Associate Professor Tony Papenfuss to develop new strategies for diagnosing and treating patients with rare cancers.
Treatments for people with rare cancers have not advanced at the same pace as treatments for more common cancers, such as breast or prostate cancers.
The Stafford Fox Rare Cancer Research Program will ensure that Australian cancer patients benefit from new approaches to diagnosis and treatment. This research program would have a significant impact on the future for patients with rare cancers in Australia.
Lead researcher Associate Professor Scott, who is also an oncologist at The Royal Melbourne Hospital, said options for people with rare cancers were often limited.
“One in three people – or 1.4 million Australians – who die from cancer will die of a rare cancer,” she said. “Because the cancers are rare, there is often a lack of information about the disease and treatment options. People are being left behind.”
Associate Professor Scott said the Stafford Fox Rare Cancer Research Program would ensure Australian cancer patients benefited from the latest technologies and research, in the hopes of improving their options.
“A major objective of this research is to recommend effective treatments for rare cancer patients by genetically matching their cancers to existing anti-cancer medications that are used for more common cancer types,” she said.
“Once a treatment for a rare cancer patient is devised, our researchers will monitor the success of the therapy and use this information to guide future treatment recommendations for other patients. It represents a huge step forward in what we could offer patients with rare cancers.”
Stafford Fox Medical Research Foundation trustee Mr Ken Wallace said few rare cancers had been well researched. “As a result, treatments for many rare cancers had not advanced at the same pace as treatments for common cancers,” Mr Wallace said. “We wanted to both encourage researchers to invest more resources into rare cancers and offer much needed hope to patients.
“The research team from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute will use state-of-the-art molecular and genomic technologies to study critical genes that drive rare cancers.”
Many large cancer centres internationally, such as the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, are undertaking similar research programs to match cancer patients with the right treatment.
Established in 2013 after the death of Mrs Moyna Fox, the Stafford Fox Medical Research Foundation was named in honour of her husband, former BP Australia chief executive James Stafford Fox.
Over the next five years, this $3 million gift will fund the Stafford Fox Rare Cancer Research Program including the appointment of two centenary fellows: the Stafford Fox Centenary Fellow in rare cancer research to Associate Professor Scott, and the Stafford Fox Centenary Fellow in bioinformatics to Associate Professor Papenfuss.
The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute is the research powerhouse of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC), an alliance of leading Victorian hospitals and research centres committed to controlling cancer.
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