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Blood cancer leaders recognised in Queen’s Birthday Honours

Wednesday 10 June, 2020

The Leukaemia Foundation is today congratulating Professor Andrew Roberts, Dr Joy Ho and Distinguished Professor Patricia (Patsy) Yates for their appointments as Members of the Order of Australia (AM) in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Prof Roberts is a member of the Blood Cancer Taskforce, while Dr Ho and D/Prof Yates have contributed towards the work of the Taskforce through their roles on the Accelerating Research and Supportive Care working groups respectively.

Prof Roberts’ award recognises his contributions to advancing the understanding and treatment of blood cancers, and service to haematology and community cancer organisations.

Prof Roberts is joint leader of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute’s Cancer Research and Treatments theme, a clinical haematologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, the Haematology Lead for Research and Education at the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, and the Metcalf Chair of Leukaemia Research at the University of Melbourne.

The Queen’s Birthday Honours also recognised Prof Roberts’ significant research contributions to the development of a new class of anti-cancer medicine that is now used to combat certain types of leukaemia. Professor Roberts led world-first trials in Melbourne of the BH3-mimetic drug venetoclax showing it could safely kill leukaemia in chronic lymophytic leukaemia (CLL) patients. Venetoclax is now accessed by thousands of patients in Australia and around the world.

Sydney-based haematologist Dr Ho was recognised for significant service to medical research, to haematology, and to professional bodies.

Dr Ho is a Clinical Professor at the University of Sydney and a Senior Staff Specialist, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. She has an extensive history working in myeloma, with interests in molecular pathophysiology, immunolopathology and clinical trials.

Brisbane-based D/Prof Yates was honoured for significant service to tertiary education, to cancer and palliative care nursing, and to medical research.

D/Prof Yates is the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health at QUT, Brisbane. A registered nurse, D/Prof Yates is also Co-Director of QUT’s Centre for Healthcare Transformation and holds visiting appointments as Lead Researcher for the Cancer Nursing Professorial Precinct at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Director for Queensland Health’s statewide Centre for Palliative Care Research and Education, and Visiting Fellow at Princess Alexandra Hospital. She is also a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Health Outcomes and Policy Research, University of Pennsylvania, and the current President of the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care.

Australia’s Blood Cancer Taskforce, formed last year, includes 29 of Australia’s leading blood cancer experts and stakeholders. With the help of several working groups, the Taskforce is currently working to deliver the country’s first National Strategic Action Plan for Blood Cancer with an aim to progress towards a goal of zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035.

Leukaemia Foundation General Manager of Blood Cancer Partnerships Tim Murphy said the Queen’s Birthday Honours for Prof Roberts, Dr Ho and D/Prof Yates was recognition of their significant individual efforts to improve the lives of people living with blood cancer.

“The development of venetoclax and its progression to clinical use was an outstanding triumph for blood cancer treatment in Australia, offering a tablet replacement for chemotherapy for many patients here and worldwide. Professor Roberts’ role in this incredible world-first innovation cannot be understated,” he said.

“Professor Roberts truly champions the role of research in continuing to improve treatment and care provided to people living with blood cancer, and his contributions highlight the immense potential of Australian blood cancer research and clinical trials and the need to further invest in these areas.

“The Leukaemia Foundation would also like to sincerely congratulate Dr Ho and D/Prof Yates for this formal recognition of for their important medical research and education work, and thank them for applying their invaluable wealth of knowledge and expertise to the fight against blood cancer. We are extremely grateful to both Dr Ho and D/Prof Yates for shining a spotlight on this complex set of diseases through the range of communities, groups and institutes they are involved with.

“We are privileged to have all three of these dedicated professionals helping us to deliver the National Strategic Action Plan, which provides a blueprint to help tackle key issues facing the blood cancer community.”

The Taskforce was established in September 2019 with the support of Federal Health Minister, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, and followed the release of the first-of-its-kind State of the Nation: Blood Cancer in Australia report which identified the true size, scale and impact of blood cancer today and into the future.

Find out more here about the report and the Leukaemia Foundation’s response My Life Counts – a summary of key findings, statistics and recommendations for reducing the impact of blood cancer in Australia.

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