I have experienced cancer from both the research bench and the bedside. After studying cancer for over 15 years my wife, who is also a cancer research scientist, was diagnosed with breast cancer. After tests it was revealed she had a mutation in the BRCA2 gene, which predicts for poor outcome.
Seemingly one minute she was working in the Cancer Research laboratories at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the next day she was off to the surgical theatre in the very same building, on the same floor, for a radical procedure.
Despite the intense ongoing upheaval, this experience has reaffirmed to us the incredible importance of cancer research. If it had not been for research-led improvements in early breast cancer detection we wouldn’t have picked up the cancer in her breast. If it wasn’t for the advances in DNA sequencing and its implementation to the clinic we would not have identified that she had a mutated breast cancer susceptibility gene. If wasn’t for fundamental research into what genes cause or predict an increased risk of breast cancer, we would not have undertaken the radical life-saving surgery. Every step in this journey, whether it be early detection, molecular diagnosis, or treatment, has been enabled by research funded, in part, by foundations such as Cancer Council ACT.
More recently my own research has been directly supported by Cancer Council ACT. My group was fortunate to be awarded the Ellestan Dusting Research Bequest Grant, the largest ever Cancer Council ACT grant. Our team will use this funding to combine two new approaches, targeting protein production and metabolism to control cancer cell growth in both blood cancers and solid tumours like breast cancer.
Why do my wife and I choose to do cancer research as a profession? Because we believe that cancer, “The Emperor of All Maladies”, can be beaten through more research into cancer prevention, early detection and new treatments. We believe Australia has an incredibly important role to play in this process, and we believe now is the time to do it. The realistic goal in my lifetime is to change incurable cancers into chronic diseases that can be managed, so that patients can live a relatively normal, high quality of life. Support from fantastic organisations such as Cancer Council ACT is making this achievable!
Photo credit: Multimedia, JCSMR, ANU