Improving outcomes after a bone marrow transplant

Professor David Gottlieb is a world leading expert in cellular therapies for blood cancers like AML. He aims to reduce the complications that are currently involved with bone marrow transplants and improve overall health outcomes.

Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (or AML) is a devastating form of blood cancer that can affect both adults and children. Bone marrow transplants can potentially cure AML but are often associated with life threatening complications.

Professor David Gottlieb is a Professor of Haemotology and a senior researcher at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research. He is a world leading expert in cancer therapies such as bone marrow transplants, and is being funded by Cancer Council to develop new ways of preventing complications and maximising health outcomes for this treatment.

I hope my research will contribute to improving treatment of blood cancers, especially making them simpler, more effective and more tolerable for people affected by cancer.

Blood cancers target the bone marrow where the many different types of blood cells are formed. To stop these cancers, all the diseased bone marrow needs to be removed. However, this process also kills off the immune system, which means people affected by cancer are extremely vulnerable to attack from serious viral, bacterial or fungal infections.

What Cancer Council funding has allowed me to do is to generate new treatments that we have applied directly to people affected by cancer, and in a number of those people, these have provided direct clinical benefit.

Professor Gottlieb and his team are currently working to quickly boost the immune system of people post-transplant by giving them an infusion of their own immune cells that have been supercharged to target common infections. With the support of Cancer Council, this new treatment protocol is currently being trialled at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital in patients diagnosed with AML with promising results.

If proven safe and effective, this new technique will give AML patients who have a bone marrow transplant a lower risk of complications and better chance of survival. It may also enable bone marrow transplants to be given earlier giving people the optimal chance for the disease to be cured.

Excitingly, this new technique may also be effective in treating other cancers including lymphoma and myeloma, offering new hope and better treatment outcomes for the many thousands of Australians diagnosed with blood cancers each year.

Research is about constantly identifying new questions to answer. A combination of curiosity, academic activity and caring for people in a real and meaningful way really drives me forward with my research. I am continually motivated by the fact that my day to day work can, and does, improve patient outcomes.

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