12 November 2003

Research into the genetic basis of skin cancer susceptibility at The University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) was just one project supported in the latest competitive round of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grants.

The project headed by IMB's Dr Rick Sturm aims to understand the complex genetic interactions that cause melanoma and identify individuals with a high susceptibility to this most deadly form of skin cancer.

Dr Sturm said results from previous studies of Queensland melanoma patients identified a number of genetic changes associated with skin, hair and eye colour and the incidence of melanoma.

"Further investigations into the genetic combinations which segregate skin and hair colours is the starting point for a new genetic classification of skin colour and melanoma risk, as well as identifying what makes some individuals susceptible while others are not," he said.

"With the highest rate of skin cancer in the world and summer just around the corner all Queenslanders should be 'sun smart' as our studies have shown that the ability to tan does not always confer a low susceptibility to skin cancer."

Announced by NHMRC CEO Professor Alan Pettigrew, IMB researchers were awarded over $5.6 million for projects investigating the molecular basis of human diseases and developing drugs to assist in treating these conditions.

IMB Deputy Director (Research) Professor Brandon Wainwright said these grants illustrated the quality of researchers at IMB as well as the practical applications in terms of human health and drug design.

"This outstanding performance confirms that IMB researchers are at the leading edge of biomedical research both in Australia and internationally," he said.

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