The Illawarra community has helped fund a state-of-the-art machine that will speed up cancer research in the region.
Illawarra Cancer Carers contributed $130,000 towards the Nanostring machine, which is now in use by researchers at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI).
IHMRI Professor Marie Ranson said the machine significantly reduced the time it took to collect, and analyse, genetic data.
“It’s a state-of-the-art technology for measuring the impact of mutation in genes,” Prof Ranson said.
“If you have mutations in your genes it may not have any impact on the way a cell behaves, or it may have a significant impact on the way cells behave to become cancerous or move around the body.
“This machine gives us the capacity to look at hundreds of genes and multiple samples, to look at the potential impacts – and help us predict whether the cancer may or may not eventually metastasize.”
Ultimately this would help clinicians predict which cancers needed to be treated more aggressively, and which treatments would be most effective.
The machine is being used in a number of IHMRI research projects, including a study into non-melanoma skin cancer. However Prof Ranson said it could be used for a range of projects.
“It’s very versatile and we are really thankful for this support from the cancer carers, who raise money in the Illawarra that stays in the Illawarra,” she said. “This is vital for us because applying for government grants is highly competitive so if we want to progress our research, we need to have other avenues for funding.”
Since 1990, Illawarra Cancer Carers (ICC) volunteers have raised $3.6 million dollars for cancer research and care in the Illawarra. That includes around $880,000 for research at IHMRI and the University of Wollongong.
They paid half the cost of the Nanostring machine, with IHMRI and the university funding the remainder.
ICC committee members Maria and Keith Wilson saw the new machine in motion at a special morning tea at IHMRI on Friday.
“I think it’s important to balance where we donate our funds, so that some go directly towards helping cancer patients while others go towards vital research,” Mr Wilson said.
“Over the years research has helped uncover new treatments and helped us get much closer to a cure.
“So for us it’s very important to keep donating to the terrific researchers right here in our region.”
Like most families, the Wilson’s have personal experience of cancer – their daughter – now 45 – had Hodgkin’s lymphoma when she was 18. Mr Wilson has also lost his brother, sister and mother to cancer.
“Cancer affects one in four people so it’s a big issue for our community,” he said.
“And we get so much support from this community – from our 200 volunteers through to those who donate.”
ICCs major fundraiser Banquet at the Beach is on July 22. Visit illawarracancercarers.org.au for details.