World-class cell sequencing centre to transform cancer research in WA

Monday 3 July 2017

Western Australia is set to be at the forefront of advanced cancer research with the establishment of a unique cancer sequencing centre led by Perkins researcher Professor Alistair Forrest.

Professor Alistair ForrestThe Cancer Research Trust today announced $13.5 million in funding for cancer research, spread over 9 years, $6.75m of which has been awarded for the ground-breaking new facility which will deliver major insights into tumour biology, cancer progression, methods for earlier detection and innovative new ways to kill cancer cells.

Professor Alistair Forrest, a former Australian Eureka Prize recipient, and his multi-disciplinary team of scientists and clinicians will establish a world-class single-cell sequencing facility at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.

The facility will generate a molecular atlas of hundreds of cancer samples donated by patients - a resource which will help researchers uncover which genes are switched on and off in every cell within a tumour. 

Tumours are made up of thousands of different cell types, each with a variety of mutations that cause the cell to resist immune intervention and spread out of control.

Professor Forrest said that rather than treating cancers with a broad-brush approach, the centre will allow researchers to use cutting-edge new technology to study tumours at a single cell level.

“To fight cancer, we need to understand how it develops at the single cell level, which is now possible courtesy of major advances in technology," Professor Forrest said.

Perkins Director, Professor Peter Leedman, said he anticipates the facility will lead to greatly improved personalised medicine, where a researcher can catalogue the different cells that make up a patient’s unique cancer, allowing for treatments to be tailored to each individual.   

“This project will revolutionise cancer research in Western Australia and will have fundamental impacts on treatments for and early diagnosis of cancer,” Professor Leedman said.

Funding for the centre has also come from the Cancer Council WA, The University of Western Australia, Telethon Kids Institute, Edith Cowan University and Harry Perkins Institute of Medical research to bring the total funding for the centre to $9 million.

The project is a large-scale collaborative syndicate uniting cancer researchers across Perth, with 18 institutions including numerous medical research institutes, four universities, major hospitals and the WA Department of Health involved. 

Learn more about Professor Forrest's work at the Perkins.

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