Grain for Hope campaign launched to raise money for cancer research

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Victorian grain growers experiencing one of the best seasons in recent memory are being asked to donate some of their harvest this year to help fight cancer.

The Grain for Hope campaign is a joint venture between CHS Broadbent and the Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute (FECRI), Australia’s only regionally based cancer research centre.

Michael Broadbent, chief operating officer with CHS Broadbent, said the company would be kicking off the fundraiser with a 100-tonne grain donation.

Taken too soon

Jim Liston lost his brother Tony, 57, to cancer this year after being diagnosed in March.

“Tony was always interested in farming. He loved every day of it,” the Stockyard Hill mixed farmer said.

“He was a happy-go-lucky character, had a very strong work ethic.”

“Poor old Tony, [the cancer] started in his groin area and spread through his lymph system, and by the time they got onto it, there was a rouge cell.”

A family portraitA family portrait
Jim Liston is one of nine siblings and the family has been farming in Western Victoria for over 100 years.(Supplied: Jim Liston)

Mr Liston said his brother had to go through intensive chemotherapy.

“The cancer was so persistent. It didn’t matter what treatment they threw at Tony. His determination was unbelievable,” he said.

Despite the pain and challenges, Mr Liston said Tony did not let the situation get him down.

“He just wanted to talk about the seasons, who’s doing what and how everyone else was getting on,” he said.

“While it was tough, that was his way through it. Just to keep on thinking about the good things in life.”

Tony is survived by his three sons, all in their twenties and his wife, Fiona.

Two men standing in a backyardTwo men standing in a backyard
Tony and Frank Liston both died of cancer before the age of 60.(Supplied: Jim Liston)

Mr Liston also lost another brother, Frank, 56, to lung cancer 10 years ago.

“Frank thought he had a bad back one day, had lower back pain but found out there was a lump,” he said.

“I think [the fundraiser] is a great thing. Any money going to research to fight [cancer] is a good thing.”

Improving treatment

Professor George Kannourakis, Institute Director at FECRI, based in Ballarat, said the research was focused on the immune system and cancer.

“It is hoped that by identifying proteins on the surface of cancer cells, druggable targets can be developed to allow the immune system to attack the cancer, without chemotherapy and radiation.”

“We as an organisation plan and rely heavily on a number of fundraising events throughout the year as well as the generous support of the community.”

Cancer researchCancer research
Money raised as part of the Grain for Hope campaign will go towards research focused on the immune system and cancer.(Supplied: Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute)

“Unfortunately, the pandemic has put a stop to many of those events, greatly reducing research funds over the past 18 months.”

Professor Kannourakis said all cancers had a unique “barcode” of proteins, and the institute is researching how antibodies can be used to target these cells specifically.

“Once we’ve formed antibodies, we can then use a cocktail of those antibodies to treat each individual cancer,” he said.

He said, hopefully, in the future, when somebody is diagnosed with cancer, it will be a quick biopsy to work out which proteins they had.

“Then give them these [specialised] antibodies, and hopefully that’s all the treatment they need, so no surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.”

Hands holding canola seedsHands holding canola seeds
 Canola prices are currently strong, selling for approximately $900 a tonne.(ABC Rural: Jane McNaughton)

Mr Broadbent said farmers who wanted to support the campaign could donate grain at receival sites in Lakaput, Lake Bolac and Ballarat.

“A farmer can donate 100 kilograms or 100 tonnes, whatever they feel they can donate,” he said.

“Hopefully, it will help get some much-needed funds for cancer research.”

Two men in a field shaking handsTwo men in a field shaking hands
Michael Broadbent and Professor George Kannourakis are teaming up to raise money for cancer research.(ABC Rural: Jane McNaughton)