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Australian researchers honoured by American cancer academy

03 November 2014
Key Researchers
Prof Suzanne Cory
Honorary Distinguished Research Fellow
Professor Don Metcalf in front of a microscope
Australian cancer researchers Professor Don
Metcalf (pictured) and Professor Suzanne Cory are
inaugural American Association for Cancer
Research (AACR) Academy Fellows.
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute cancer researchers Professor Don Metcalf and Professor Suzanne Cory have been inducted to the first class of fellows of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Academy.

Professor Metcalf and Professor Cory were the only Australian researchers inducted as fellows of the AACR Academy, for their significant contributions to the study of blood and blood cancers. One hundred and six cancer researchers will be inducted to the inaugural class of AACR Academy Fellows, as part of the 2013 AACR annual meeting in Washington DC, US, on 5 April 2013.

Known as the ‘father of modern haematology’, Professor Metcalf has devoted his career to studying how the body generates blood cells, particularly immune blood cells.

His most important discovery was identification of CSFs (colony stimulating factors), hormone-like proteins that are essential for white blood cell development. CSFs are now widely used in clinical medicine, predominantly in boosting infection-fighting white blood cells in cancer patients who have undergone chemotherapy. To date, Professor Metcalf’s discovery has benefited more than 10 million cancer patients worldwide.

Professor Metcalf is continuing to study the development of blood cancers in the institute’s Cancer and Haematology division, despite officially retiring in 1996. His work on the control of blood cell formation has revolutionised the understanding of many diseases of blood cells and their treatment.

Professor Cory is the president of the Australian Academy of Science and was director of the institute from 1996 to 2009. She is honorary distinguished professorial fellow in the institute’s Molecular Genetics of Cancer division and a vice chancellor’s fellow of the University of Melbourne.

She has had a career-long scientific partnership with her husband and fellow researcher Professor Jerry Adams. In the 1970s, they pioneered recombinant DNA technology in Australia and made significant contributions to molecular immunology.

In the 1980s, Professor Cory and Professor Adams switched their attention to the genetic errors that provoke lymphomas and leukaemias. They showed, as did others, that the chromosome translocation associated with Burkitt’s lymphomas activates a cancer-causing gene (oncogene) known as myc, which promotes cell expansion. While in their unit, Professor David Vaux – then a PhD student– made the surprising discovery that bcl-2, the oncogene activated by chromosome translocation in human follicular lymphoma, stops cells from dying.

Today, the research by Professor Cory, Professor Adams and their senior colleagues remains focused on the pathways that control cell death. Their aim is to help devise new ways to improve cancer therapy by exploiting the natural cell death machinery.

Institute director Professor Doug Hilton said he was very proud to see the work of institute scientists honoured by the AACR Academy. “It is very rewarding to see our researchers being recognised among the most influential cancer researchers from around the world,” Professor Hilton said. “It is a testament to the significant contribution that Australians can make to the global effort to understand and find new and improved treatments for cancer.”

The AACR Academy has been created to recognise and honour scientists whose major scientific contributions have propelled significant innovation and progress against cancer. Future classes of fellows shall consist of no more than 11 individuals, in honour of the 11 founding members of the AACR.

Further information:

Liz Williams
Media and Publications Manager
P: +61 3 9345 2928
M: +61 405 279 095
E: williams@wehi.edu.au

WEHI Authors
Prof Suzanne Cory
Honorary Distinguished Research Fellow
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