Cancer is not one disease but a complex group of more than 100 diseases characterised by the abnormal growth of cells. Changes in a cell’s genetic material triggers uncontrollable growth and the cells invade or spread (metastasise) to surrounding tissue and other parts of the body.

Certain risk factors may predispose you to developing cancer including:

  • age – the risk increases with age
  • family history – mutations or changes in genetic material are inherited or passed on from your relatives
  • environment – exposure to certain cancer-causing chemicals (e.g. asbestos, benzene)
  • lifestyle behaviours – an unhealthy diet, smoking, excessive drinking, or excessive sun exposure may increase the risk
  • infection with certain viruses – for example, hepatitis B may increase the risk of liver cancer, while human papillomavirus (HPV) may increase the risk of cervical cancer.

Innovative new cancer treatments lead the way

Ongoing research strives to understand how cells become cancerous, which in turn informs and assists researchers to develop new ways to detect and diagnose cancer. After years of work by scientists and clinicians, some cancers can be effectively treated, although not necessarily cured.

Stem cell treatments are used to treat blood cancers such as leukemia, myeloma or lymphoma, while targeted drug therapies using monoclonal antibodies, or small molecule drugs (inhibitors) effectively block the growth and spread of cancer by targeting specific molecules controlling cancer cell growth.

Hormone or endocrine therapy works by blocking the production of hormones or the way hormones work and is typically used to treat breast and prostate cancer.

Immunotherapy harnesses the immune system to help fight cancer. Immunotherapy drugs slow the growth and spread of cancer and assist the immune system to destroy cancer cells.

Image caption: Research scientists working on a cure for cancer.

Image credit: Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute

The institutes listed below are currently researching Cancer, and more information about their discoveries can be found by visiting their websites.
Share this Research