beads fighting cancer

research at the RBWH

The three main research buildings at the Herston site
research 2 smaller
The Clive Berghofer building was named in honour of a Queensland philanthropist who has donated many millions of dollars to medical research.

The RBWH is home to world class research facilities and many ground breaking (and life changing) discoveries have been made here, or under its umbrella.  RBWH researchers developed a system for measuring a baby’s oxygen levels in the uterus which helps avoid brain damage at birth.  It was at the RBWH that the vaccine for prevention of cervical cancer was developed and research at the RBWH has changed the way burns are treated.  Its burns unit leads the world with a less than 2% mortality rate.    

In late 2021, 700 research projects and 220 clinical trials were being conducted at the RBWH.  Research continues into everything from detection and treatment of most forms of cancer, to making an artificial ear with a 3D printer, to a patch to deliver vaccine without an injection, as well studies into a broad range of medical conditions such as heart disease, stroke and mental health.  Research into treatment of Covid 19 was added to the long list in 2020.

history of research at the RBWH

1876 – Research at the hospital discovered that filariasis, an infectious disease that causes massive swelling of body parts, is caused by microscopic parasitic worms.  Its discoverer, Joseph Bancroft, had the dubious privilege of the worm later being named Fiaria Bancofti, in his honour.

1898 – The hospital pioneered the treatment of typhoid by using cold water baths, which cut the death rate in half.

1930s – Researchers identified that people who worked outdoors with rolled up sleeves had a significantly higher incidence of skin cancer, which in turn lead to the realisation that sun exposure was a key factor.  

1933 – Doctors at the hospital discovered the link between kidney disease and exposure to lead in childhood.

1939 – Sister Elizabeth Kenny, a nurse at the hospital, began her ground breaking work with the treatment of polio.  She  advocated hydrotherapy and movement of the limbs rather than immobilisation, and her methods were eventually adopted around the world.

1943 – Doctors worked out how to make an early form of penicillin.

1958 – A link was established between a form of anaemia and a chemical in tap water.

1970s – Use of seat belts in cars became compulsory because of research into road accident trauma carried out by one of the hospitals neurosurgeons,  Kenneth Jamieson.

1986 – Researchers proved the effectiveness of high dose radio therapy for prostate cancer.

1990 – HPV vaccine for the prevention of cervical cancer was developed by Professors Ian Frazer and Jian Zhou.