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Aussie University Gets $19.3 Million For Cancer Genome Sequencing Project

This article has been corrected to note that the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research is a collaborator in the project rather than the Ontario Cancer Institute, as was noted in the statement sent to GenomeWeb Daily News.

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Australian government's National Health and Medical Research Council has pledged A$27.5 million (US$19.3 million) to the University of Queensland's cancer genome sequencing program.

The grant — the largest given out by NHMRC to date — will help support pancreatic and ovarian cancer studies taking place at UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience, or IMB. Applied Biosystems, a division of Life Technologies, Silicon Graphics, the Cancer Council New South Wales, and the university are also contributing to the five-year project, which is expected to cost more than $40 million.

The Garvan Institute of Medical Research, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, and the Australian Genome Research Facility are partnering with IMB on the project. The institute also is collaborating with the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, the US Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and researchers from the University of California at San Francisco and Johns Hopkins University.

In a statement issued today, IMB Director Brandon Wainwright said that the team intends to look for genetic changes in 500 pancreatic and ovarian tumors, comparing them with normal tissue.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death in the developed world. The average individual survives just six months after being diagnosed with the disease.

Ovarian cancer is less common but ranked as the sixth most common cause of cancer death in Australian women. Because there is no screening test for ovarian cancers, most aren't detected until they have spread to other parts of the body.

The UQ cancer sequencing program aims to increase researchers' understanding of the two cancers, identify patterns that can improve prognosis and treatment strategies, and uncover targets for new therapies.

Sean Grimmond, a genomics researcher at UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience, is directing the project. Grimmond also is heading the Australian arm of the International Cancer Genome Consortium project, an effort to sequence 50 different types of tumors in 25,000 individuals from around the world.

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