Leukaemia Foundation of Australia
Investing in finding leukaemia treatments
Leukaemia is the eighth most common cancer in Australia, and more than 4800 people will be diagnosed with leukaemia this year.
The Leukaemia Foundation of Australia has been a strong supporter of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute’s quest to find new treatments for leukaemia. The foundation has partnered with the institute to support talented young scientists for the past six years, supporting 11 institute scientists studying various aspects of blood cancer, particularly understanding how disturbances in the cell death pathway are linked to cancers.
This year, PhD student Ms Natasha Anstee received a $120,000 grant from the Leukaemia Foundation to undertake her postgraduate studies. She will study the role of pro-survival protein Mcl-1 in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).
AMLs often express high levels of Mcl-1 and this is associated with a poor response to treatment and a poor prognosis. Ms Anstee will be testing the response of leukaemias that overexpress Mcl-1 to conventional and new treatments.
“Several pharmaceutical companies are currently directing a lot of effort towards developing Mcl-1-specific drugs, with a view to improving treatment for AML and other tumours expressing high levels of Mcl-1,” said Miss Anstee. “I will be comparing the efficacy of such drugs with that of existing drugs in laboratory models that have been developed at the institute.” Ms Anstee said that, despite progress being made over the past several decades in treating AML, there is a need to develop new therapies for the disease.
“AML is one of the most common forms of acute leukaemia, and despite recent advances, AML still has a poor prognosis, with only 23 per cent of patients surviving five years after diagnosis. We hope that this research will contribute to the development of new, more targeted therapies that will improve the survival rate in AML patients.”