Quick Question | Leukaemia Foundation

Quick Question

 Tim HughesJudith Trotman
NameProfessor Tim HughesProfessor Judith TrotmanProfessor Andrew GriggProfessor David JoskeAssociate Professor Jake ShorttProfessor Mary Ann Anderson
What is your area of speciality?I am a haematologist with a special interest in chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). I spend half my time conducting research in CML and half my time devising, conducting and analysing clinical trials in CML and running my CML clinic.Haematology, with a focus on the broad spectrum of lymphoproliferative disorders.Clinical HaematologyHaematology, with particular interest in lymphoma, chronic myeloid leukaemia, supportive care, and survivorship.Haematology - both research and clinical practice with broad interest in malignant haematology.I am a general haematologist but these days I focus on lymphoma and leukemia with a special interest in B cell lymphoma / leukemias. I also have a strong research interest in clinical trials and translational medicine.
Why did you choose to do the work you do?I love the mix of research and clinical medicine. It is very satisfying to make discoveries about your chosen speciality and to see those discoveries having an impact on the way patients are treated and monitored.When I started a long time ago – the emergence of allogeneic transplantation.Initially, because it seemed such a wonderful and cohesive body of knowledge.I love science and technology and haematology brings this to the clinic. It's also a specialty where you can really help people who are facing very tough challenges.The combination of clinical and laboratory work helps to keep me grounded in why we do what we do but also offers the opportunity to help people on a larger scale.
What would surprise people about your work?Most of our research involves studying the blood and bone marrow from patients with CML who have donated their samples for research, usually as part of a clinical trial. Without these samples our research would grind to a halt. Being able to look at the type of blood cells we find in CML and the way they respond to different drugs is helping us to develop a “personalised” approach to treating patients. We have been collecting and studying these samples for over two decades and now have over 80,000 samples available for further research!The amount of paperwork! Plus the considerable time spent reviewing diagnostic material and monitoring disease response and tolerance.I can be serious at times behind my often jocular facadeHow many meetings there are! More seriously… how brave Australians are when facing cancer.I don't think people have any idea how quickly the field is moving at the moment. The advances in technology and treatment are progressing at a great pace and the exciting thing is trying to bring the two together.The more we know the more we realise we need to know.
What do you think has been the single biggest breakthrough in your field in the last decade?The demonstration that “life-long” therapy for CML is not always required – some patients, perhaps the majority can be rendered “treatment-free” and remain in remission long-term. This has changed the way we approach CML therapy today.Biologic therapies - targeting a specific feature of the cancer cell - whether they are antibodies or enzyme inhibitors.The impact of better detection of residual leukaemia/lymphoma on transplant decisions.Glivec (well, the last two decades.) This last decade, Ibrutinib (Imbruvica). Immuno-oncology - both in blood and solid organ cancers - treatments that 'uncloak' cancer cells so the immune system can eradicate.Venetoclax - one word.
Where can we expect to see the next big breakthrough?We are very excited about the next wave of therapy which will probably involve the use of even more precisely targeted therapy so we can achieve our ultimate goal of destroying the leukaemic cells without damaging the healthy cells. They are already here - at the Leukaemia Foundation's Blood Cancer conference we are surrounded by patients living longer and living well thanks to many live saving agents on clinical trials, and now increasingly the PBS. The next breakthrough needed is to address the financial sustainability of modern haematology care. We are now actively determining the safety and efficacy of many biologic combinations but at current prices combination therapies will not be affordable unless they can be given for a finite period of time.When Essendon make the Grand Final next year.About three hours ago! Because things are happening so rapidly now in Haematology, with so many promising new avenues of research for better, more patient-friendly cancer treatment.They are happening all the time.Personalised medicine in the form of immunotherapy and targeted small molecules.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?Hiking, camping and photography.Running and family BBQs. Occasionally I indulge in a Netflix binge, but that is getting rarer. Hiking, growing vegetables, photography, anything to do with sport.Busking and playing guitar with my blues band, and walking with my wife (preferably in Europe!)Spending time with my wife and kids, watching the All Blacks and trying to get out for the odd run. Catching up on sleep? But I also really enjoy eating and cooking.

These researchers were keynote speakers at the Leukaemia Foundation’s Blood Cancer Conference.

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