Scientists excited about

‘key’ to solving cancer

December 8, 2010
Researchers are closing in on a cure for cancer.Researchers are closing in on a cure for cancer.

Scientists leading the battle against cancer say they are on the verge of acquiring their most valuable weapon yet.

Leading international cancer researcher Michael Stratton said obtaining the genetic make-up of the disease, expected in the next five to seven years, would give scientists the key to unlocking the secrets of what causes it.

He said they may even be able to determine the influence of outside effects, such as the environment and occupational impacts, on the development of cancer.

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Professor Stratton, who has made international headlines for his cancer discoveries, said such insights could help solve several mysterious cancer clusters in Queensland, including the 18 cases of breast cancer at the former ABC site in Toowong.

“The sequencing [will be] like a new microscope being applied to cancer,” he told

“With the much deeper understanding of the genes that are abnormal … and actual DNA abnormalities of these genes, we’re anticipating that over the next few years we will acquire a better understanding of what those outside factors might be that are implicated in causing individual clusters.”

Despite numerous environmental tests of the Toowong site, scientists have not been able to link anything between the high number of breast cancer cases there.

The ABC abandoned the site in 2006 and is struggling to sell the riverfront property.

Professor Stratton said there were unexplained cancer clusters all over the world, including on Long Island in New York.

He said while the disease was common and such clusters may be coincidence, it was possible there were hidden environmental factors – “something we don’t know about”.

Such cases could be re-examined following the expected breakthrough on cancer genomics, Professor Stratton said.

“When these clusters occur we have to document them carefully, we have to collect as much information about them as we can … and then keep these materials for later on when we have new ways of looking at these clusters,” he said.

Professor Stratton is in Queensland as part of an International Cancer Genome Consortium workshop and delivered a speech at the University of Queensland last night.

He leads a research team that recently developed a pill that rapidly shrinks skin cancer tumours – the first cancer drug to harness knowledge from the full decoding of human DNA.

Professor Stratton said cancer research had come a long way in the past century.

“Go back 100 years or more, before they applied a microscope to cancer, all they knew was cancer was lumps that appeared to spread [in the body],” he said.

“There’s plenty more to be done … but the fact that we have succeeded in part for those cancers [with a cure] … should give us hope that we’d be able to do more in the future.”

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

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