Blood cancers

Blood cancers

Microscopy image
Blood cancers are abnormally growing cells that arise from cells in the blood system. Leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma are common types of blood cancer.

Our researchers are working to understand why blood cancers arise, and developing better treatments. Our goal is to improve the survival of people with blood cancer.

Our blood cancer research

Smiling researcher
Clinician scientist Dr Mary Ann Anderson is focussing
on new treatments for blood cancers

WEHI’s research into blood cancer spans from investigating the molecules that drive blood cancers through to drug development and testing, and involvement in clinical trials.

We particularly focus on:

  • Defining the genetic and molecular changes that cause blood cancers
  • Uncovering how blood cancers become resistant to treatment
  • Discovering molecular targets in blood cancers
  • Developing and testing new drugs to treat blood cancers
  • Undertaking pre-clinical and clinical studies of new therapies for blood cancer.

WEHI’s blood cancer research spans more than 60 years and has underpinned the development of new medicines that have improved treatment for millions of patients.

Key discoveries made by WEHI’s blood cancer researchers include:

What are blood cancers?

Microscopic image of leukaemia in bone marrow
Blood cancer cells (red) hiding in bone marrow

Cancers arise through genetic changes in cells that make them divide and grow uncontrollably.

Blood cancers arise from changes in cells of the blood system, often either developing blood cells or immune (white blood) cells. They cause illness by depriving other cells of the space and nutrients they need to function properly.


Our research focuses on a number of different types of blood cancers:

  • Leukaemia: cancers of immature blood-forming cells
  • Lymphoma: cancers of lymphocytes (and immune cell type) that invade lymphatic tissue such as the lymph nodes or spleen as well as the bone marrow.
  • Myeloma: cancers of antibody-producing plasma cells that arise in the bone marrow
  • Myeloproliferative diseases: cancer-like diseases in which too many mature blood cells are produced in the bone marrow


Support for people with blood cancers

Our researchers are not able to provide specific medical advice specific to individuals. If you have cancer and wish to find out more information about clinical trials, please visit the Australian Cancer Trials or the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry, or consult your medical specialist.

The following organisations provide support for people with specific cancer types and their carers:


Professor Warren Alexander

Professor Warren Alexander photographed at the Institute
Laboratory Head; Joint Leader, Cancer Research and Treatments Theme

Dr Mary Ann Anderson

Dr Mary Ann Anderson in the lab
Mary Ann
Clinician scientist

Dr Ashley Ng

Ashley Ng
Clinical Translational Research Fellow

Professor Andrew Roberts

Professor Andrew Roberts in the lab
Laboratory Head; Joint Leader, Cancer Research and Treatments Theme
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Venetoclax timeline of discovery

Starting with a landmark discovery in 1988, follow the story of how Institute research has driven development of a breakthrough anti-cancer drug. 

Associate Professor Edwin Hawkins with imaging equipment

Associate Professor Edwin Hawkins and his team have answered the longstanding question of how leukaemia survives chemotherapy, bringing the world closer to more effective blood cancer treatments.​