Cancer Connections

Beating Cancer in the Highlands ... This column is brought to you regularly by the Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee and is first published in the Lifestyle section of the Southern Highland News. It is designed to inform everybody of matters relating to cancer in our local community and the wider society. We aim to focus on local news, forthcoming events, services and other cancer issues.

Cancer Connections - December 2018

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Cancer Research is ESSENTIAL
Ever wondered why cancer charities need to raise so much money ? Apart from the funds which go towards promoting cancer education, information and prevention; supporting patients undergoing treatment; and advocating for advances, a large proportion of the money raised goes to fund necessary research. This month I thought I would illustrate what goes on by mentioning in detail just two research projects which have been undertaken.

Killing the cells causing liver cancer
Australia has witnessed a significant rise in liver cancer rates in recent years, and this trend is expected to continue over the next few decades. Sadly, the chance of a person with liver cancer surviving for 5 years or more is just 16%, and this is largely because the cancer is able to resist current therapies. Professor Christopher Liddle from the University of Sydney has found that there is a group of cells in liver tumours called cancer stem cells. These cells initiate cancer growth and contribute to the spread of the tumour. Current therapies are not able to target these cells, explaining why liver cancers are so unresponsive to treatment. Prof. Liddle and his team have developed two agents that can seek out and bind to the liver cancer stem cells and kill them. The researchers are now testing the effectiveness of these agents in the lab to see just how powerful their anti-cancer capability is. Once the team proves the agents are successful, this will lay the foundation for clinical trials.

Bowel cancer treatment
Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in Australia, with about 15,000 new cases diagnosed every year. Women have a 1 in 30 chance of getting bowel cancer before the age of 75, while men have a 1 in 21 chance. Survival rates have only slightly increased in recent years. When bowel cancer is detected early, it is potentially curable, however less than 40% of bowel cancers are picked up in these early stages. Despite the progress being made in developing targeted therapies for other forms of cancer, effective treatments for advanced bowel cancer are still needed. That’s why it is essential that research is directed into the prevention and treatment of bowel cancer. Cancer Council NSW committed $360,000 in funding the Valerie Enid Legge Project Grant led by Professor Xu Dong Zhang at the University of Newcastle. Prof. Zhang has made an important discovery : that a certain protein is linked to the development of advanced bowel cancer. His team has found that blocking this protein has the potential to slow down the growth of the cancer cells. While research is still ongoing, this finding represents a big step towards creating personalised bowel cancer therapies that are effective in targeting the disease at the molecular level.

Season’s Good Wishes
On a different note than above, let’s recognise all the great work that goes on in our local community with marvellous health professionals delivering specialist care and with so many volunteers raising funds and providing valuable support to patients. Our committee salutes you all and offers seasonal best wishes to every one of you.

Coming Events

• December is Decembeard : raising awareness of bowel cancer. See the website

• There is no meeting of the Southern Highlands Cancer Support Group planned for December
• Please note : the Southern Highlands branch of Can Assist will not be holding a meeting in January. The work of branch executive members will be carried on as usual. The next meeting will be held on February 12th.

Grahame Hackett (Chair, Southern Highlands Cancer Leadership Committee)
0407 234 780 or


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