Celebrating 15 years of progress in breast cancer research in Victoria

Thursday 15 March, 2012

In 2006 two Melbourne researchers produced, for the first time, a functional, milk-producing mammary gland in a mouse from a single stem cell obtained from the mammary gland of another mouse.

This achievement, by Professors Jane Visvader and Geoff Lindeman at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, is part of their new knowledge about how breast tissue develops that has provided important new insights into the origins of different types of breast cancer, and ways in which they might be controlled.

This is just one of the many research outcomes that will be celebrated at a symposium this Friday 16 March, to mark the 15th anniversary of the Victorian Breast Cancer Research Consortium (VBCRC).

The public forum, presented by the VBCRC in conjunction with Breast Cancer Network Australia, will discuss key research achievements over the past 15 years and future prospects for women with breast cancer.

VBCRC President, Professor Jock Findlay AO, says the symposium provides a timely opportunity to reflect on the progress that has been made over the past 15 years.

"In the period from 1995 to 2009, five-year survival for breast cancer in Victoria has increased from 81% to 89%," he says. "This is due to a range of factors, including earlier detection through mammographic screening and improvements in treatment that have helped, but not yet solved the problem of breast cancer"

"The vision of the VBCRC is that new and better treatments for breast cancer, and possibilities for prevention, will be based on improved understanding of the biology and genetics of the disease."

"In the past 15 years, the VBCRC, with support from the Victorian State Government, has contributed over $42 million to the significant, long-term research projects that are required to generate the type of knowledge that can have a real impact on cancer survival."

While the statistics are promising, there is still much work to be done according to Breast Cancer Network of Australia CEO, Maxine Morand.

"We know that in Australia 38 women a day are diagnosed with breast cancer, so while we recognise we have come a long way, there is still much more to do," she says.

"It is important for women with breast cancer to learn about individual treatment options, better understand the science behind breast cancer and find out about new advancements in breast cancer treatment and research."

The symposium will feature presentations by Professors Geoff Lindeman and Jane Visvader from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Associate Professor Ian Campbell from Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Dr Kristy Brown from Prince Henry's Institute, and Professor John Hopper AM of The University of Melbourne.

Fast facts

  • In 2010 almost 3,500 Victorian women were diagnosed with breast cancer, which is approximately 10 diagnoses per day.
  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, representing 22% of all female cancer diagnoses.
  • In 2010, breast cancer claimed the lives of over two Victorian women every day (763 deaths in total).
  • In Victoria, one in 11 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • Survival is improving, with 89% of women alive five years following a diagnosis, compared with 72% in 1985.

About the Victorian Breast Cancer Research Consortium

The VBCRC is a Consortium of Medical Research Institutes, established to improve knowledge, through research on the basic biology and genetics of breast cancer and thus to open new opportunities for better treatments and prevention strategies. The VBCRC has been funded by the Victorian State Government since 1997 (via the Victorian Cancer Agency since 2007) and is managed by Cancer Council Victoria.

About Breast Cancer Network Australia

BCNA is the peak national organisation for Australians personally affected by breast cancer, and consists of a network of more than 67,000 individual members and 288 Member Groups. BCNA works to ensure that women diagnosed with breast cancer, and their families, receive the very best information, treatment, care and support possible, no matter who they are or where they live. BCNA informs, empowers, represents and links together people affected by breast cancer.