Major industry award for Australian scientist at the forefront of genetic breast cancer research

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An Australian researcher who is internationally recognised for her work on mapping the genetics of breast, ovarian and other cancers has been awarded the 2022 GSK Award for Research Excellence.

Professor Georgia Chenevix-Trench is a Distinguished Scientist at The QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

She has won the 2022 GSK award for her research investigating genetic predispositions to breast and ovarian cancer.

The research has elevated global understanding of why some people have a genetic cancer risk and what determines it. Her work also has contributed to the development of better screening, possible prevention solutions and treatment options for patients.

Professor Chenevix-Trench said that understanding the biology behind the genomes of cancer cells is key to improving patient outcomes. 

“I’ve had an interest in helping those affected by hereditary cancers my entire life,” says Professor Chenevix-Trench. “Over the last five years, my focus has been to understand how genetic variants act as a determining factor in developing breast cancer. Unless we know how these genomes operate in relation to cancerous cells, we won’t be able to translate the knowledge we have gained into tangible treatment options and preventative solutions for patients.”

Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting Australian women. In 2022, approximately 57 people have been diagnosed every day. Professor Chenevix-Trench's research has helped the scientific community gain a better understanding of those at risk of the disease.

Professor Chenevix-Trench and her team have identified genetic variants in over 240 regions of the genome that can affect a person’s risk of developing breast cancer.

As each region has many genes, the next major challenge for Professor Chenevix-Trench and her team is identifying which of these genes operate in human cancers.

The genetic variants that were discovered are a common occurrence within the general population and differ from the rare mutations previously linked to breast cancer. Women who carry these variants are at increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Professor Chenevix-Trench said the $100,000 grant that comes with the GSK Award for Research Excellence will be used to purchase a new piece of equipment that enables real-time cell analysis.

We’re currently undertaking research that looks at how certain genes influence the way cancerous cells or tumours are destroyed by the immune system. This is very exciting work. By gaining access to the new instrument, we will be able to accelerate our work and expand our insights into the behaviour of cancerous cells,” she said.

The 2022 GSK Award for Research Excellence (ARE) was presented to Professor Chenevix-Trench at Research Australia’s Health and Medical Research Awards 2022 in Melbourne. Dr Alan Paul, Medical Director at GSK Australia, said GSK is proud to be able to continue supporting home-grown Australian research through the award.

"We are delighted to welcome Professor Georgia Chenevix-Trench to our esteemed list of the GSK ARE winners, in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the health of Australians,” said Dr Alan Paul. “Georgia, and her team, are driving innovative research in cancer genetics that truly has the potential to improve health outcomes for cancer patients around the world.”

The GSK Award for Research Excellence is one of the most prestigious and longstanding independently-judged awards available to the Australian medical research community.

It has been awarded since 1980 to recognise outstanding achievements in medical research with a focus on human health. Over the last 42 years, over $3 million has been awarded to support Australian research and innovation.