Australia’s first clinic to identify families at risk of blood cancer

February 19 2019

Australia’s first multi-disciplinary blood cancer clinic to screen families at risk of leukaemia and lymphoma will be established in Adelaide thanks to a $1.3 million Federal Government grant awarded to UniSA and SA Pathology researcher Dr Chris Hahn and his team.

Blood cancer breakthrough

UniSA Adjunct Senior Research Fellow Dr Chris Hahn discusses the establishment of Australia’s first blood cancer clinic to screen families at risk of leukaemia and lymphoma.

Using the latest DNA sequencing technologies, Dr Hahn, from the Centre for Cancer Biology, will lead a multidisciplinary team of haematologists, geneticists, genetic counsellors, research nurses and research scientists to identify families carrying genetic mutations that increase their risk of developing blood cancers.

Leukaemia and lymphoma – 10 per cent of which are inherited – are the sixth most common cancers in Australia, behind breast, prostate, colorectal, melanoma and lung cancer.

“Hereditary cases of blood cancers are devastating for families,” Dr Hahn says.

“By identifying genetic mutations in families affected by leukaemia or lymphoma, medical specialists will be able to better monitor individuals at risk, counsel those affected and help improve cancer outcomes by early detection.

“Bone marrow transplantation can potentially cure individuals with blood cancer. Knowing the predisposing mutation will also enable us to screen for family members as potential bone marrow donors and rule out those carrying the mutation.”

Dr Hahn says identifying new genes or pathways leading to the development of blood cancers opens the possibility for testing new drugs as they become available.

“The more we know about genetic mutations the more likely we can identify the ‘Achilles heel’ of a family’s mutation that might be targeted by drugs or other therapies,” he says. Ultimately, our aim is to personalise the treatment, so it is tailored for each patient to achieve the best possible treatment outcomes.”

The Australia Familial Haematological Cancer Clinic (AFHCC) will have access to the largest collection of families with blood cancers in Australia on which to base their research, carried out within the new Royal Adelaide Hospital.

Dr Hahn discusses his research in more detail here:

Notes for editors

Dr Hahn is an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at UniSA and a member of the Centre for Cancer Biology, an alliance between the University of South Australia and SA Pathology. His team was awarded $1.3 million by the National Health and Medical Research Council in late 2018.

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