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World first treatment for leukemia being developed in Australia

Two Australian research groups are undertaking pioneering studies into the causes of leukaemia, potentially leading to patients receiving new drug treatments as early as next year.

Led by Dr Andrew Wei and Professor Shaun Jackson from The Australian Centre for Blood Diseases/Alfred Hospital and Dr Louise Purton and Dr Maria Askmyr from St Vincent's Institute, the groups are among a handful world-wide investigating the impact of the bone marrow microenvironment on leukaemia development and progression a relatively new field of study.

"Armed with our understanding we're planning to be among the first in the world to use the new class of drugs to treat leukaemia patients in 2010" Said Dr Wei.

The Leukaemia Foundation today announced that Dr Wei's and Dr Purton's teams were part of 39 Australian research groups to receive grants in 2009, which were largely funded through donations to the annual World's Greatest Shave, being held this year between 12 14 March.

Leukaemia Foundation of Australia Chief Executive Officer, Peter Cox, said the Foundation funded the best Australian scientists with the best research ideas.

"In 2009, we are funding $3.1 million dollars worth of research nationally."

"The Leukaemia Foundation recognises innovative researchers such as Louise Purton and Andrew Wei think outside the box. They're tackling a new frontier in blood cancer research and we're delighted to be able to support potentially ground-breaking research, particularly if it means Australian patients have access to new treatments sooner," said Mr Cox.

"Some blood cancers, such as leukaemia and myeloma, still have the worst survival rates of any cancer while some of our best treatments are extremely toxic, so it is essential we develop better treatments as well as cures," he said.

"However, we are limited financially in the number of projects we can fund, which is why we encourage Australian's to continue to support our efforts to find a cure and take part in the World's Greatest Shave in March."


Contact: Tiffany Simpson
Research Australia

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