New blood cancer centre to improve outcomes for patients

A/P Andrew Wei

The Alfred and Monash University are set to establish Australia’s first dedicated blood cancer research centre, thanks to a $1.2 million grant from the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF).

The ACRF Blood Cancer Therapeutics Centre, based at The Alfred, will be home to the latest technology available in blood cancer research and will enable researchers to dramatically improve outcomes for patients with blood cancer.

Each year, 11,500 Australians are diagnosed with blood cancer, including leukaemia, myeloma and lymphoma. Sadly, these debilitating diseases - which account for one in 10 cancers diagnosed nationally - claim 4000 lives every year.

Associate Professor Andrew Wei, haematologist at The Alfred and Monash University, said the new centre would enable researchers to find out more about these cancers – including why some treatments work for some people  and  in others don’t - and develop new ways to treat them.

“Many of our patients with various forms of blood cancer have had great success in clinical trials, which use new and unique drug combinations.

“Utilising the most up to date technology available, this new centre will enable us to discover more effective therapies, track patient treatment responses up to 1000 times more closely, and improve therapies to get better outcomes overall for patients.

“Blood cancers are relatively neglected when it comes to research. Thanks to this grant, Monash University and The Alfred will be at the forefront of blood cancer research – it is the only way we can improve outcomes for people diagnosed with blood cancer,” Associate Professor Wei  said.

Mary McKenzie is one such patient who owes her life to the clinical trials that will be available to more people through the new centre. Five years ago, Mary was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia and after several treatments failed, took part in a drug trial at The Alfred.

“My chances of survival were really low, but here I am now five years later and I’m better than I’ve been in years. The trial saved me,” she said.

“Having the opportunity to go on the trial gave me hope there was still something they could do. This opportunity should be available to everybody.”

The Blood Cancer Therapeutics Centre will collect and analyse samples from across the country. It is one of only four projects nationally to receive an ACRF grant this year.

“This project encompasses a virtuous cycle of drug discovery, validation, personalised molecular monitoring and improvement of new treatment combinations. It is something ACRF feels has the potential to become a flagship success,” said Australian Cancer Research Foundation CEO Professor  Ian  Brown.