Cancer Researcher receives high accolade
30 March 2010
Professor Roger Reddel has been elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, one of the highest accolades bestowed on scientists in Australia.
Roger Reddel is the Lorimer Dods Professor and Director of Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI), which organises Jeans for Genes Day in August each year to raise funds for CMRI's research into cancer, epilepsy, birth defects, and gene therapy.
Professor Reddel is a world-leading authority on cell immortalisation. In 1995, Reddel and PhD student Tracy Bryan at Children’s Medical Research Institute discovered Alternative Lengthening of Telomeres, or ALT, in human cells. Their discovery that ALT is used by a substantial proportion of cancers was published in Nature Medicine in 1997 and has generated widespread scientific interest.
“Professor Reddel has made significant contributions that have shaped the directions of Australian and international science and contributed to the welfare of our nation” said Caroline Giddings, the Academy’s spokesman. “Election to the Academy recognises Roger’s outstanding achievements, seminal contribution to scientific knowledge in cancer biology and his exemplary contribution to the global scientific community” said Associate Professor Frank Martin, President of the CMRI Board of Directors.
Every time normal cells multiply, their chromosome ends (called telomeres) shorten slightly. Eventually the telomeres become so short that the cells stop any further proliferation. This is a very important, natural barrier against normal cells becoming cancerous. Cancer cells overcome this barrier by finding ways to prevent telomere shortening. For about 10-15% of all cancers, the cells use ALT to prevent telomere shortening, allowing them to become immortal and go on multiplying indefinitely.
Professor Reddel's team, together with Australian and international collaborators, have found that the types of tumours that commonly use ALT include some of the most aggressive and difficult to treat, such as glioblastoma multiforme (the most common form of brain tumour in adults), osteosarcomas (bone cancers), and soft tissue sarcomas (cancers of the connective tissues).
Last November, Professor Reddel and Dr Jeremy Henson, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Reddel’s team published a paper in Nature Biotechnology that described a sensitive, accurate and rapid assay for detecting ALT activity in tumours, and showed that it could be used as a blood test for diagnosing the presence of ALT-positive tumours. “We expect that this test will be a valuable tool for diagnosing tumours and monitoring the success of cancer treatments, and that it will greatly speed up the search for new medicines that attack cancer cells by blocking ALT ” said Professor Reddel.
The work of Professor Reddel and the other world-class researchers at Children’s Medical Research Institute is made possible by a community of supporters and Jeans for Genes®. You can support this work by getting involved in Jeans for Genes Day, Friday 6th August, 2010.