The Specialized Center of Research, established at WEHI in 2001 under Professor Jerry Adams, was the first facility of its type funded by the Society outside the United States.
While the impact of leukaemia and lymphoma and associated malignancies of the blood remains profound, they are now treated more effectively thanks to advances in basic science leading to better drugs and clinical therapies.
For cancers of the blood, the five-year survival rate has more than tripled over the past forty years. Even more dramatically, fifty years ago childhood leukaemia was almost certainly a death sentence. Yet today, the five-year survival rate for children is beyond 70%.
Outlining the Centre's research, Professor Adams says, "Our bodies make billions of blood cells every day. To make room, billions of other worn out or faulty blood cells must destroy themselves on cue. If this healthy process of programmed cell death goes awry and not enough cells die, then a leukaemia or lymphoma may develop. Our Centre is investigating how this inbuilt cell death process or 'apoptosis' normally regulates blood cell numbers and how it is overwhelmed in malignant blood cells."
He emphasises that the Centre's scientists are excited by the prospect of developing a new approach for the treatment of these malignancies, by exploiting the natural cell death process to kill tumour cells more effectively.
"We hope to do this by developing drugs that directly target key molecules that regulate apoptosis in effect, to switch on the cell death program within the tumour cells."
Professor Adams continues, "Progress towards the goal will be greatly boosted by the continued strong support from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society."
Contact: Brad Allan