Melbourne's Bowel Cancer Research Could Potentially Save Thousands of UK Lives, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research Study

Published: Mar 01, 2013

Melbourne, 29 February 2013: Researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne have identified a potential new treatment for a variety of colon and gastric cancers, which could prove highly important for preventing thousands of deaths around the world.

Associate Professor Ernst and Dr Stefan Thiem from the Institute’s Cell Signalling and Cell Death division in Melbourne identified medications that block the function of proteins that promote the growth of some types of colon and gastric cancers, which could be developed into a new treatment. This is the first time the complex of proteins, known as mTorc1, has been shown to promote the growth of colon and gastric cancers that are associated with inflammation.

Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer or bowel cancer, may not have as high a profile as breast or lung cancer, but is one of the three most deadly cancers in the UK*.

The significance of colon cancer was highlighted in the UK Coalition’s mid-term review which was released last month. It included a pledge to introduce a new bowel screening programme which could save around 3000 deaths a year.

Key facts on colon cancer *:

• Around 40,700 people were diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2010 in the UK (110 people every day);

• Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in women after lung cancer and breast cancer, with around 17,900 new cases diagnosed in the UK in 2010;

• In 2010, around 22,800 men were diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK making it the third most common cancer in men after prostate and lung cancer;

• It is one of the most treatable cancers if it is diagnosed early.

Ylva Carosone, acting Head of Post for Victoria in the UK said: “Our Melbourne researchers continue to make ground-breaking medical discoveries that will help the world to combat life-altering diseases such as cancer and the Victorian Government is extremely humbled to be a part of this research. Melbourne consistently proves itself as a centre of excellence in biotechnology, with more than 150 companies and organisations constantly working collaboratively to deliver innovative medical developments.”

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute’s findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The research was supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council and the Victorian Government, through the Operational Infrastructure Support program.

About Invest Victoria

Invest Victoria is the investment promotion agency of the State Government of Victoria, Australia based in Melbourne and across the globe including London, New York, Dubai, Bangalore, Hong Kong and Tokyo. Invest Victoria provides a single entry point to a range of business and investment services for companies wanting to set up or expand their business operations through foreign direct investment (FDI) in the state of Victoria.

About the Operational Infrastructure Support program

The Operational Infrastructure Support program provides essential funding for independent Victorian Medical Research Institutions. Funding goes towards indirect research costs that are not met by competitive grants. This includes costs associated with infrastructure (physical, technical and/or competency) overheads, support services, equipment maintenance, commercialisation and clinical application of the institutes’ research endeavours. The program is distributing $26.1 million to 13 institutes in 2012/13.

*Cancer Research UK:


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