UQ’s most notable achievement in Cancer Studies has been the groundbreaking contribution to the development of the Gardasil vaccine that promises a worldwide reduction in the incidence of cervical cancer. This life-changing work has been recognised by numerous awards to Professor Ian Frazer including Councillor Australian Academy of Sciences, Fellow of the Royal Society, Queenslander of the Year, Australian of the Year, the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science, Balzan Prize for Preventative Medicine, Honda Prize and Companion of the Order of Australia.

Cancer Studies at UQ has internationally competitive talent recognised by the receipt of prestigious fellowships including National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Principal and Senior Research Fellowships, and Australian Research Council (ARC) Professorial and Future Fellowships. Our Cancer researchers have an extensive network of local and international partners and collaborators including Queensland Health; Queensland Institute of Medical Research; Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital and Pathology; Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane; the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute; the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (UK); the International Cancer Genome Consortium; the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (UK); the Harvard School of Public Health; Erasmus University (Netherlands); Imperial College London and University College London; National Hospital Singapore; Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen; and the University of the Andes, Santiago. Industry collaborators include Leo Pharma, Genetech-Roche, Aquesta Pathology, Agilent Technologies, Life Technologies, Olympus Australia and Colgate Palmolive Australia.

UQ researchers tackle various aspects of cancer from basic mechanisms of formation through to the identification of informative cancer biomarkers and ultimately to the development of novel and clinically valuable diagnostics, prophylactics (including vaccines) and therapies. Researchers study cervical, skin, pancreatic, oral, breast, ovarian, prostate and blood cancer (leukaemia and lymphoma).

Cancer Studies at UQ are multi-disciplinary, including research in:

  • Faculty of Engineering Architecture and Information Technology 
  • Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences
  • Faculty of Medicine
  • Faculty of Science
  • Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
  • UQ Diamantina Institute - a key partner in the Translational Research Institute
  • Institute for Molecular Bioscience

UQ has particular expertise in the areas of:

  • Oncology and Carcinogenesis
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Cancer Diagnostics (Risk and Early Detection)
  • Cancer Therapies

Cancer Studies in brief

  • More than 45 full-time equivalent researchers with collaborators in fields including Clinical Sciences and Experimental Medicine, Public Health and Health Services, Genetics and Genomics, and Molecular and Cellular Biosciences
  • More than 710 publications since 2008
  • More than $87 million in research funding since 2008
  • Oncology and Carcinogenesis research rated at the highest level – well above world standard – in the 2012 Excellence in Research for Australia exercise.

Highlights of UQ Cancer Studies

Cancer and the role of viruses

UQ’s most notable achievement in Cancer Research has been to the development of the Gardasil vaccine by Professor Ian Frazer in collaboration with Dr Jian Zhou that is that is tackling the incidence of cervical cancer worldwide.

UQ researchers from the Faculty of Science, UQ Diamantina Institute, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, and UQ Centre for Clinical Research are advancing knowledge into key mechanisms of cancer development including the role of viruses in skin and breast cancer.

International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) 

In 2010, UQ gained membership to the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) via the next-generation sequencing facility at Queensland Centre for Medical Genomics (QCMG). This effort was supported by the largest NHMRC grant ($27.5 million) ever awarded combined with science funding from the Queensland Government. The ICGC is a multi-national exercise bringing together the world’s leading researchers – identifying the genetic drivers behind 50 different cancers of global clinical and societal importance.

Researchers from UQ and Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research led an international team of more than 100 researchers sequencing the genomes of 100 pancreatic tumours and comparing them to normal tissue to determine the genetic changes that lead to this cancer. The informatics pipelines needed to handle the data output have been successfully established with many of the tools created in house at UQ. 

Cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment 

UQ researchers from the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, UQ Diamantina Institute (a key partner in the Translational Research Institute), Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, Centre for Advanced Imaging, and UQ Centre for Clinical Research are working to improve the prediction of risk and the detection and diagnosis of skin diseases, melanoma, early stage breast cancer, metastatic breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer and oral cancer. This includes new imaging technologies to identify cancerous regions of the prostate; an iPhone accessory to detect melanoma; the identification of common genetic variants associated with skin, blood, breast and ovarian cancers; the development of terahertz laser technology to detect skin diseases; and the identification of mutations that cause leukaemia and influence its response to treatment.

Researchers from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, the Faculty of Science, Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences and the Faculty of Medicine are identifying and developing new drug targets, cancer therapies, and drug and vaccine delivery systems. Candidate drugs are being assessed for their use in treating non-melanoma skin cancer, mesothelioma, and many other cancers. RNAi-based cancer therapies are also being explored and the Centre for Preclinical Drug Development has a preclinical testing pipeline to facilitate drug discovery leads through to clinical trials.