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Understanding the complexity of cancer

Photo credit: Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Professor Mark Dawson

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Cancer Research Centre, University of Melbourne

NHMRC Project Grant
Clinical Medicine and Science
2016
$1,135,290

Each year, more than 1,000 Australians are diagnosed with the blood cancer acute myeloid leukaemia and more than 70 per cent will die within five years.

Professor Mark Dawson is a clinician-scientist, meaning he both treats blood cancer patients and leads cutting-edge cancer research in the lab. After working as a doctor for some time, Professor Dawson wanted to know why some patients responded better to treatment than others.

‘I needed to train to become a scientist to be able to understand the molecular basis for this disease and the molecular causes that lead to a person responding or potentially not responding,’ Professor Dawson said.

Professor Dawson’s research is focused on acute myeloid leukaemia and works with teams at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the University of Melbourne’s Cancer Research Centre to improve our understanding of the drivers of this blood cancer.

‘We know more about cancer than we’ve ever known. Technology has really enabled us in this endeavour. We have the ability to sequence people’s genomes and understand what is driving their cancer at a depth that was previously unimaginable,’ he said.

Receiving the prestigious Metcalf Prize in recognition of leadership in research, Professor Dawson has helped create a new blood cancer drug which is now the subject of more than 20 clinical trials around the world.

He discusses his NHMRC-funded research with us.

Some footage courtesy of Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre