WA cancer researchers to reap benefits of BHP Billiton cancer research equipment grant

Monday, 30 March 2015

WA cancer researchers now have access to cutting edge technology to investigate ways to improve radiation therapy treatment thanks to a $500,000 grant from BHP Billiton for cancer research equipment.

Cancer Council WA says the new X-RAD radiation platform – which is the first of its kind in Australia – will provide opportunities for high level collaboration amongst local cancer researchers from institutions including Telethon Kids Institute, Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, The University of Western Australia, Curtin University, Princess Margaret and Sir Charles Gardiner Hospitals.

The cutting edge instrument, to be located at the QEII medical precinct, will enable researchers to carry out pre-clinical studies to test new ways to deliver radiation therapy through its unique image-guided delivery of radiation that precisely targets tumours and is monitored in real-time.

Cancer Council WA President, Professor George Yeoh, said the radiation platform will create a unique opportunity for radiation oncologists in Australia to understand how radiation affects specific biological pathways involved in cancer, as well as to explore new treatment options and develop new collaborations across basic and clinical cancer disciplines.

He said the aim is to improve radiation therapy for some of the less common, but more serious cancers – such as brain tumours and bladder cancer – among other cancers.

“The impact of access to this technology cannot be underestimated.  Thanks to BHP Billiton’s investment, this equipment will connect researchers from diverse fields, from laboratory scientists, child and adult oncologists, to radiation oncologists and physicists, all with the goal of improving cancer outcomes,” Professor Yeoh said.

“Importantly, this application for the X-RAD radiation platform will build on existing collaborations and strengthen the WA teams in cancer research across Telethon Kids Institute, Perkins Institute, School of Medicine and Pharmacology (UWA), Princess Margaret Hospital and Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital.

“It will also support joint projects with existing national and international collaborators, and because of its unique capacity, it will attract these cancer researchers to work with investigators in WA,” he said.

While about 50% of cancer patients are eligible for radiation treatment, often combined with other therapies, undesirable side effects and failure to respond to treatment are common problems.

BHP Billiton Iron Ore Senior Manager, Community and Indigenous Affairs, Richard O’Connell, said the Company was proud to support cancer research in Western Australia.

“We are really pleased to help bring this piece of equipment to WA, and to be able to support researchers here and across the country to work together on ground-breaking cancer research,” he said.

“This important piece of equipment will have wide spread benefits for the community, including those in the regional communities in which we operate.”

Professor Yeoh said the X-RAD will add vital capacity to incorporate preclinical therapy with cancer imaging.

“This radiation platform is already used in other world-leading research centres, including the US National Cancer Institute, Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Netherlands Cancer Institute, so it will provide a quantum leap in the ability of cancer researchers in WA to develop new therapeutic approaches to cancer based around radiotherapy,” Professor Yeoh said.


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