New Director Set to Transform Lung Cancer Future

lung cancer centre

Esteemed cancer researcher Professor Maija Kohonen-Corish has been appointed to lead a new dedicated lung cancer centre into an exciting future of disease discovery.

The Lung Cancer Centre, at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, will run cutting-edge programs across all areas of lung cancer research, including genetics, drug discovery, delivery of medications and future developments for patient care. Our cross-disciplinary approach will ensure that today’s research in lung cancer is translated into tomorrow’s outcomes for patients.

Professor Kohonen-Corish brings with her a 24-year track record of discovery in cancer research, including the genetic basis of colon cancer, and translational research in colon and lung tumours.

Among projects to be established at the centre is the new director’s own work investigating lung bacteria and their role in disease. “One of the brightest hopes for better lung cancer treatments lies in research on the microbiome, naturally-occurring microorganisms found in the human body,”  Professor Kohonen-Corish says. “We know that gut bacteria play an important role in cancer and the success of cancer therapies, but what we are just discovering now is that the microorganisms found naturally in the lung itself may be vital too,” she says.

“It’s possible that bad lung bacteria or an altered balance of bacterial species, called dysbiosis, could be promoting lung disease, and could even be stopping some lung cancer treatments working effectively.”

Professor Matthew Peters, chair of the Lung Cancer network, says this new frontier of research shows great promise. “Discoveries in this area could dramatically alter our whole approach to lung cancer and improve outcomes for the 10,000 Australians diagnosed with lung cancer every year,” he says. “Lung cancer screening could be focussed on those who have a high-risk microbiome. Understanding the relationship between microbiome patterns and response to treatments will allow precision medicine and improve outcomes.”

Breakthrough innovations are desperately needed for lung cancer, a disease that kills 8,000 Australians every year, more than breast and prostate cancer combined. The past decade has seen the introduction of some new treatments that are effective for a minority of lung cancer patients.

“Survival rates will remain low unless we fund research and implement new treatments that are effective for the majority,” Professor Peters says. “What will hold us back more than anything is the mistaken belief that discovery is impossible and that investment is futile.”

Professor Kohonen-Corish says lung cancer receives just a tiny fraction of the funding of other cancers, largely due to its negative links to smoking. “This stigma is misplaced though, when you consider that many people who get lung cancer have never picked up a cigarette, but may have been exposed to other risk factors in the environment,” she explains.

The new state-of-the-art facility includes a patient database and biobank to give researchers access to valuable cells, de-identified patient information and fresh experimental results in the areas of molecular biology and drug discovery. The facility is a focus for the lung cancer network, an initiative which includes multiple research and clinical groups devoted to improve lung cancer outcomes.  “We are a hub for researchers, clinicians, respiratory physicians, oncologists, radiologists, thoracic surgeons, and advocates for lung cancer - basically all those driven to help fast track a cure for lung cancer,” the researcher says.

Professor Kohonen-Corish’s own work on microorganisms forms an key part of this disease discovery. Through a new collaboration with the Microbiome Research Centre at the University of New South Wales Sydney and St George Hospital in Sydney, researchers are investigating how gut and lung bacteria affect cancer development and interfere with treatment.

It is thought that an imbalance of the bacterial composition somehow weakens the effectiveness of potentially life-saving immunotherapy drugs that have shown promise in the treatment of metastatic lung cancer. “However, the genetic or epigenetic make-up of the tumour may also play a role. This is the challenge of the type of research we do, to determine which factors are the most important, in order to discover how the therapy can be improved,” says Professor Kohonen-Corish, who holds a joint appointment at the UNSW Sydney and the Woolcock Institute.  

Microbiome Research Centre Director Professor Emad El-Omar, from UNSW Sydney, says there are hundreds of different types of microbes in the lung that clearly impact on health, risk of disease and response to treatment. “The microbiome is the new frontier of medicine and it offers real opportunities for reducing the disease burden in society,” Professor El-Omar says. “Research on the lung microbiome has lagged behind but I am delighted to see this exciting new programme led by Professor Kohonen-Corish.“

He says progress in medicine can only happen if researchers challenge dogma, dedicate resources and work together across different disciplines. “This is why I am so excited about this collaboration between the Woolcock Institute and UNSW Sydney’s Microbiome Research Centre,” Professor El-Omar says.

Lung Cancer: The Facts

  • Lung cancer is the 4th most common cancer in Australia and has the highest mortality rate

  • More than 10,000 Australians are diagnosed with it each year

  • It kills more women than breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer combined

  • Unlike breast or prostate cancer, lung cancer has no diagnostic tests for early detection

  • It is the leading cause of cancer in the Aboriginal population

  • Just 15 per cent of those diagnosed with lung cancer are still alive five years later

LCRN Quarterly Newsletter

Dear Colleagues and Supporters, welcome to the second issue of Lung Cancer Research Network quarterly newsletter.

The Lung Cancer Research Network has a number of core research projects and this month we focus on one of those, our research into early diagnosis, and also talk to one of our young early career researchers who aims to make that a reality.

This issue also updates you on some of our wider community advocates and supporters that have donated their time and financial assistance to make the Network and Centre a reality.

We would like to thank the Richard Woolcock Family who donated a new vital research platform and Stephanie John who raised funds for lung cancer research in support of her brother Tim.

We would also like to thank the Werrett Family for their ongoing donation to the Woolcock Centre for Lung Cancer Research & Lung Cancer Research Network that helps support its operation and innovative research.

Lastly, I wish you all seasons greetings and a Happy New Year.

Professor Paul Young | Lung Cancer Research Network Coordinator

Centre Gives Lung Patients Hope for Brighter Future

Ms Lillian Leigh at the Woolcock Centre for Lung Cancer Research launch on Wednesday, 18 April 2018.

Ms Lillian Leigh at the Woolcock Centre for Lung Cancer Research launch on Wednesday, 18 April 2018.

Lillian Leigh gives thanks for every extra day she gets.

The 37-year-old Sydney mother is living with lung cancer, a deadly disease for which there is no cure and few effective treatments. But thanks to drug trials, her tumours have shrunk, her energy has returned and she’s been given the chance to see her daughter start kindy.

“Every time I open my eyes in the morning, I'm so grateful,” says Lillian, a lawyer turned lung cancer advocate. “I'm so grateful for every breath I take, for every extra day I get with my family, every extra day I get to be a school mum. Every single day counts.”

Lillian has thrown her support behind NSW’s first lung cancer centre dedicated to finding new treatments and ultimately a cure for the disease with the highest mortality rate of any cancer. The Centre for Lung Cancer Research, run from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, will shine a spotlight on the condition that is so often neglected by funders and hidden behind the banners of ‘no smoking’ campaigns.

Its opening ushers in a new era of lung cancer research to extend the lives of the 12,000 Australians – many young, fit and non-smoking - who are diagnosed with the condition every year.

Lillian, a beneficiary of a lung cancer drug trial launched in Melbourne, says the Centre launch can’t happen soon enough. “Think of breast cancer, prostate cancer, pretty much any other cancer and there’s a wealth of medical research underway into every aspect of the disease and how to beat it - but not so for lung cancer,” she says. “Lung cancer is the hidden cancer. We don’t have powerful lobby groups or celebrities backing our cause. Research funding opportunities are rare and the stigma, that victim-blaming mentality, is sadly alive and well in our community.”

The Centre, which opened on Wednesday, 18 April, will work to lift the profile of the disease, sending a clear message to funders, policy makers and the public that the lung cancer battle is a worthy cause, just like every other cancer.

The Centre for Lung Cancer Research will support large-scale research projects run from its high-tech purpose-built Glebe facilities, and act as a hub for a network of researchers, clinicians, respiratory physicians, oncologists, radiologists, thoracic surgeons and advocates for lung cancer. It’s high-tech laboratory, database and bio-bank will allow an unprecedented level of information sharing, ensuring patients get to benefit from new discoveries quicker than ever before. Several projects are already underway, including work to develop non-invasive diagnosis, innovative drug delivery and 3D-printed airway stents for patients with breathing difficulties.

Lillian, who is working with the Woolcock to establish the Network, says the centre gives her hope for future lung cancer patients. “It’s very exciting to see so much energy and expertise being poured into an area where it is so desperately needed,” she says. “It gives me hope that our voices, the voices of people with lung cancer, will finally be heard and that we can dare to wish for a better outcome than the status quo.”

“I want nothing more than to see my daughter start high school. Let’s make that dream a reality.”

LUNG CANCER CENTRE SETS SIGHTS ON CURE

lung cancer centre

A cure for Australia’s deadliest cancer is closer than ever with the launch of a dedicated lung cancer research centre charged with boosting survival rates and treatment options for the killer disease.  

The Centre for Lung Cancer Research opened its doors in Sydney today, ushering in a new era of innovation and collaboration to find a cure for a disease affecting 10,000 Australians each year.

Working across the areas of genetics, drug discovery, delivery of medications and patient care, the Centre, unveiled by NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard, will transform today’s lung cancer research landscape and ensure lab discoveries are swiftly implemented in cancer clinics.

“Lung cancer has an appalling survival rate, very few effective treatment options and a bad reputation which has made it difficult to secure the funding needed to make research breakthroughs,” says Professor Carol Armour, Director of Sydney’s Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, where the Centre is based.

“We’re changing that forever, with a purpose-built lung cancer research facility dedicated exclusively to finding a cure for this killer condition. With the innovations inside these walls and among our broad network of leading researchers, lung cancer will no longer be the dreaded diagnosis that it is today.”

Lung cancer facts make grim reading. More Australians die every year from this disease than breast and prostate cancer combined. Despite this, lung cancer receives only a small fraction of the funding of other cancers, largely due to its negative links to smoking, Professor Armour says. “What people don’t realise is that many sufferers have never smoked, and of those who have, many started young before cancer links were well understood, so the stigma is really quite undeserved,” Professor Armour says.

The Centre aims to lift the profile of lung cancer by supporting large translational research programs to be run from its high-tech purpose-built Glebe facilities. It includes the Lung Cancer Research Network, a team of world-class researchers from over 20 hospitals, research centres, universities and organisations who are united in the goal to better understand, treat and prevent the disease.

“The facility acts as a hub for researchers, clinicians, respiratory physicians, oncologists, radiologists, thoracic surgeons, advocates for lung cancer, basically all those who are passionate and motivated to fast track a cure for lung cancer,” says respiratory specialist Associate Professor Lucy Morgan, a member of the network supported by the new Centre. Collaboration in our network will connect discovery and implementation more quickly than ever before.

”The work has already begun, with the network establishing core research projects through the Centre to develop non-invasive diagnosis, innovative drug delivery and 3D-printed airway stents for patients with breathing difficulties,” Associate Professor Morgan says.

The Centre’s database and bio-bank give lung cancer researchers access to unprecedented quantities of valuable cells, de-identified patient information and fresh experimental results in the areas of molecular biology and drug discovery. The state-of-the-art laboratory will be available to researchers and provide tissue and cell analysis.

The innovation has been welcomed by Lillian Leigh, a Sydney lawyer and mother who was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer three years ago, aged 37. “We desperately need better treatments and far better outcomes for people diagnosed with this disease,” says Ms Leigh, who will speak at the launch.

“The Centre and the Network have a very exciting opportunity here to build a robust, energised lung cancer research field. That gives myself and others hope for a brighter future where survival rates climb and we get the chance to see our children grow up.”

The Centre for Lung Cancer Research will be opened by NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard at 9.30am on Wednesday, April 18 at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Glebe, Sydney.

Lung Cancer: The Facts

  • Lung cancer is the 4th most common cancer in Australia and has the highest mortality rate
  • More than 10,000 Australians are diagnosed with it each year
  • It kills more women than breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer combined
  • Unlike breast or prostate cancer, lung cancer has no diagnostic tests for early detection
  • It is the leading cause of cancer in the Aboriginal population
  • Just 15% of those diagnosed with lung cancer are still alive five years later

Woolcock funds PhD scholarship on innovative Airway Stent Technology

jesse.jpg
lung cancer research

A University of Sydney student, Jesse Xu has received a PhD Scholarship from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, funded through a kind donation*. Jesse’s PhD focusses on developing personalised airway stents using 3D printing technology.

Airway stents are sometimes inserted post-surgery to maintain lung structure and keep the airways open. Jesse explains that there has been little to no change to the design of airway stents since 1965. The current stents are “one-size, fits all” resulting in patients coughing them up, or integration into the surrounding tissue making removal almost impossible. 

Jesse aims to develop an innovative platform that can produce personalised stents based on the patient’s airway CT scans that are conducted routinely. This will improve quality of life for patients with Lung Cancer and Tracheobronchomalacia, it will also significantly reduce the burden on the healthcare system as the current stents costs thousands of dollars. With an integrated 3D-printing platform in a surgery or operating theatre, the cost per stent can be reduced to cents.

Jesse's project is one of many that will be run from the new state-of-the-art Woolcock Centre for Lung Cancer Research in Glebe, Sydney.

* This scholarship was awarded in memory of Sheila Jacobson.

"Cloudy With Increasing Sunshine" a success story for advocacy and research in lung cancer

The Lung Cancer Research Network, The Woolcock and Lung foundation held a public a public seminar at the Woolcock on the 26th August 2017. The Seminar and forum focuses on improving lung cancer outcomes from the perspective of patients, clinicians and researchers. The Woolcock lecture theatre was packed with a mix of researchers, clinicians, lung cancer patients, advocates and supporting members of the public.

Special guest Chris Draft, Former US NFL Linebacker and long term lung cancer advocate, generated enthusiasm in the audience and was a pivotal contributor, sitting on two discussion panels on better advocacy and innovative research for lung cancer. 

The Lung Cancer Research Network thanks all the speakers and participates on the day. These include Chris Draft (Guest Star and Advocate), Prof Carol Armour (Woolcock) Prof Christine Jenkins (Lung Foundation), Lisa Briggs, Jo Silvia and Lillian Leigh (Patient Advocates and Community Support), Prof Matthew Peters (Clinical Research, Care and the Future of Lung Cancer in Australia) and Prof Neil Watkins (Garvan Institute Cancer Researcher). The day was wrapped up with a presentation on the vision for collaborative research in lung Cancer (lcrn-connect.org) by Prof Paul Young.  Visitors were given a guided tour of the new Centre for Lung Cancer Research facilities under construction during lunch.

 

 

Lung Cancer Research Network Project Finalist at Sydney Research The Big Idea

We are pleased to announce that Jesse Xu was a finalist at Sydney Research's the Big Idea

The Big Idea is the first Sydney Research event focusing on research innovation and commercialisation and is an innovation challenge supporting individuals to progress their idea to the next level. Jesse Xu's Big Idea is to develop a 3D-printing platform technology that will revolutionise the way that airway stents are used in a clinical setting. This Big Idea forms one of the Core Translation Projects within the Lung Cancer Research Network.

The Challenge: Lung cancer patients often have to have an airway stent inserted post surgery to maintain lung structure and keep the airways open. However, unlike cardiovascular stents, which are highly advanced, there has been little change to airway stent design since 1965. Depending on their design, current stents dislodge easily, are coughed up, or get integrated into the surrounding tissue making removal almost impossible.

Revolutionising Airway Stents: Using a combination of image recognition and 3D-printing, Jesse is developing a platform that can produce personalised airway stents that are biocompatible and easily installed. Not only will this improve the quality of life for those who need airway stenting but it will also significantly reduce the burden on the health care system. Current stents are thousands of dollars. With an integrated 3D-printing platform in a surgery, the cost per stent can be reduced to cents.

About the Team: Jesse Xu is a first year PhD student at the University of Sydney and the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research. Jesse's supervisory team are Dr Hui Xin Ong (Lecturer in Pharmacology, University of Sydney) Prof Paul Young (Head of Respiratory Technology, Woolcock) Dr Michael Byrom (Cardiothoracic Surgeon at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital) and Dr Jonathan Williamson (Respiratory Physician at Liverpool Hospital). Together they bring expertise to make this vision a reality. Jesse Xu's project are one of many that will be run from the new state-of-the-art Centre for Lung Cancer Research being constructed in Glebe, Sydney.

As a finalist, Jesse is now participating in the NSW Medical Device Commercialisation Training Program.

You can learn more about the NSW Medical Device Commercialisation Training program here, Sydney research here, the Woolcock here and the Lung Cancer Research Network here

Modular grid and flooring installed at the new Centre for Lung Cancer Research

The Centre for Lung Cancer Research is housed at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research HQ in Glebe

The Centre for Lung Cancer Research is housed at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research HQ in Glebe

The Centre for Lung Cancer Research construction works are well underway with the floor being installed and the innovative grid structure up. The grid structure forms part of the modular lab construction design. Designed by G3 Labs in Sydney, the new laboratory layout is flexible and can be adjusted over time (or even moved!) if need be. The Labs form part of the key infrastructure that will support the Lung Cancer Research Network.

Welcome to the online home of the Lung Cancer Research Network

We are pleased to announce the launch of the Lung Cancer Research Network official website at www.lcrn-connect.org. The website has been designed to provide information about the exciting research that our members are undertaking and how this translates to real-world outcomes for lung-cancer sufferers. The site also provides information about our partners, governance and in future, will provide a portal for researchers to communicate their findings and coordinate large cross-disciplinary research programs. We hope you find the website useful and please keep checking back for regular news updates as the Network grows.

Construction underway for the new Centre for Lung Cancer Research

Strip-out of Woolcock level 3 in preparation for new Lung Cancer Research Centre

Strip-out of Woolcock level 3 in preparation for new Lung Cancer Research Centre

Construction has commenced on the the new state-of-the-art Centre for Lung Cancer Research. The new laboratory facility will house researchers working in the fight against lung cancer and act as a hub for the Lung Cancer Research Network. Check back regularly for updates regarding the build progression.

 

Signatures mark construction of the Woolcock Centre for Lung Cancer Research

Woolcock Executive Director, Professor Carol Armour and Russell Urquhart from G3Labs sign contract to commence works on the Centre for Lung Cancer Research

Woolcock Executive Director, Professor Carol Armour and Russell Urquhart from G3Labs sign contract to commence works on the Centre for Lung Cancer Research

We are pleased to announce that the Woolcock and G3 Labs have signed an agreement to commence works on the new Woolcock Centre for Lung Cancer Research. The new Centre will provide a central hub for the Lung Cancer Research Network, including meeting spaces, state-of-the-art laboratories, a biobank and storage facilities.

The new Centre will revolutionise the way that we research and develop innovative diagnostics and therapies for lung cancer and provide a critical resource to the Lung Cancer Research Network.  

Boosting Medical Research: NSW Government Commitments

We are pleased to announce the State Government have committed to funding $3 million towards our new Lung Cancer Research Centre if they are re-elected next term. This is exciting news and will enable us to revolutionise the way we research and treat lung cancers. Please read the media release below for more information. Specifically the Government has committed:

  • $3 million for the Woolcock Institute for the establishment of a Lung Cancer Research Centre in Glebe. Lung cancer is Australia’s biggest cancer killer and its five year survival rate is just 18%

The New Centre is part of the NSW governments commitments to medical research and healthcare and the Woolcock and Lung Cancer Research Network acknowledge the Hon Jillian Skinner, NSW Health Minister for her support of this initiative.

 

The State Government will also continue to fund dedicated cancer research of at least $125 million over four years through the NSW Cancer Institute, including $15 million in cancer research fellowships and $11 million in equipment grants.