Cancer researchers from around the world gathered at QUT today.

Their goal? To understand why cancer cells are spreading, when patients are supposedly in remission.

Nick Kelly reports.


Amongst the chatter over breakfast at the Gardens Theatre, a serious topic was on the table.

It was a time to reflect on the fact that Brisbane institutions are leading the fight against cancer.

While looking into re-occurring cancers, QUT researchers have found the cells change deceptively over time.

Prof. Rik Thompson, Inst. of Health and Biomedical Innovation: “So what you’re looking at later when the patient has a relapse maybe quite different to what you removed at the time of the initial surgery, and a lot of the treatment is based on how it looked at the initial surgery.”

They’re now looking for more effective treatment methods to prevent relapses.

Prof. Rik Thompson, Inst. of Health and Biomedical Innovation: “Cracking that last frontier of breast cancer – mortality, the metastatic cells, it’s part of the personalised medicine approach.”

It’s all about using new methods and tesiing procedures to keep one step ahead of the disease. But the good news is survival prospects are improving all the time.

Of course, research like this doesn’t come cheap, this lab relies on money raised from events like this morning’s breakfast, philanthropic donations and pharmaceutical investment.

Government grants also help kickstart research, but the pool available is reducing.

Another important challenge being addressed is how to improve mental wellbeing and life after cancer.

Leonie Young, Inst. of Health and Biomedical Innovation & Breast Cancer Advocate: “Balance is vital, reflecting and acknowledging the experience is equally vital.”

It’s challenging, but vital work.

Nick Kelly, QUT News.