Big donation helps cancer researchers

University of Wollongong researchers are helping combat pancreatic cancer thanks to the generosity of the Illawarra community.

The Illawarra Cancer Carers yesterday donated $20,000 to the research project, money raised through the group’s annual Banquet at the Beach  fund-raiser.

UOW project leader Dr Danielle Skropeta said it was the second donation from the group, which  donated the seed funding of $20,000 to establish the project  two years ago.

Dr Skropeta leads an interdisciplinary team, which includes 2012 Medal of the Order of Australia recipient Professor Philip Clingan.

‘‘Pancreatic cancer accounts for 2.2per cent of all cancer diagnoses, but while it is not very prevalent it is very deadly,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s the fifth most common cause of cancer death and has an average survival rate of about three to six months from diagnosis.

‘‘It’s often diagnosed late by which time it’s usually quite advanced, and there is no cure.’’

The UOW team is using the community funding to develop a new type of therapy that will prevent the tumour spreading, and stop it growing.

‘‘We are trying to stop the function of an enzyme, or protein, that the tumour uses to be able to grow and metastasise,’’ Dr Skropeta said. ‘‘This latest donation will help us fund the next phase of biological screening of the newly developed enzyme inhibitors.’’

Illawarra Cancer Carers spokesman Alexander Jessup said the group,  staffed by more than 230 volunteers,  donated more than $400,000 to  UOW.

‘‘It’s important to support the world-class research being done at the university,’’ he said. ‘‘This latest donation helps contribute to pancreatic cancer research and knowledge about cancers generally, as this research may also have applications for colorectal, breast and ovarian cancers.’’

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