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Uncovering the secrets behind leukaemia treatment resistance

Dr Ashley Ng - Leukaemia Foundation Breakthrough Fellowship Recipient

Innovative research seeks to pioneer the future of blood cancer care by lifting the molecular lid on how blood cancer resists current medicines.

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is a type of blood cancer, which sees the body produce dangerous numbers of immature white blood cells.

It is estimated about 394 Australians will be diagnosed with ALL in 2023 and effective treatments are incredibly important to save more lives from this cancer.

A type of ALL, called Philadelphia chromosome-positive B-cell ALL (Ph+ B-ALL), currently has very low survival rates and we urgently need new approaches to its treatment.

Supported by Tour de Cure, one of our inaugural Breakthrough Fellowship recipients, Dr Ashley Ng, is leading advanced research to improve our understanding of treatment-resistant ALL and develop new ways of beating it.

A new approach

Dr Ng believes that “breakthroughs in acute leukaemia therapy require innovative approaches” and it’s this mindset that’s set the scene for his research.

Dr Ng’s research project aims to:

  • Increase the understanding of changes that occur to cancerous ALL cells
  • Use cutting-edge methods to understand what molecular factors lead to changes that cause the disease to be resistant to current standard treatment or lead someone to relapse
  • Develop and test new potential therapies where ALL is resistant to current standard treatments.

This exciting research focuses on understanding the biology of blood cancers, promising precision medicine and novel therapies, three of the key priority areas of the Leukaemia Foundation’s National Research Program.

Ultimately, Dr Ng’s research represents new hope and treatment options for families facing ALL, particularly young Australians diagnosed with high-risk ALL who don’t respond well to standard treatment.

Supporting the best to bring better outcomes sooner

Being awarded a prestigious Leukaemia Foundation Fellowship means the future is even brighter for this talented researcher and clinician. “I seek to build on my leadership role in the Australian blood cancer ecosystem, enhancing my national and international reputation in blood cancer research with the Leukaemia Foundation Fellowship,” says Dr Ng.

Dr Ng’s research project, Igniting Progress in B-ALL: Elucidating Resistance Mechanisms and Pioneering Therapies, will be conducted over five years at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

The Leukaemia Foundation is grateful to our inaugural Breakthrough Fellowship partner, Tour de Cure, for their generous funding of Dr Ng’s life-saving work.

About Dr Ashley Ng

Dr Ashley Ng is a distinguished clinical haematologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, haemato-pathologist, and clinician researcher at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. He is a leading expert in blood cell development, leukaemia research and leukaemia therapy and has made significant contributions to the field.

Dr Ng has authored over 60 publications and research articles in leading journals.

He was recently awarded the prestigious Metcalf Prize in Stem Cell Research by the National Stem Cell Foundation and is a past recipient of the 2011-2013 Leukaemia Foundation Cure Cancer Postdoctoral Fellowship.

About the Leukaemia Foundation Fellowship Program

The Leukaemia Foundation Breakthrough Fellowships are the flagship funding initiative of our National Research Program.

This new prestigious program represents our unwavering commitment to investing in the next generation of our country’s brightest researchers and clinicians. By investing in the best, we’ll deliver improved outcomes for Australians with blood cancer and save more lives.

Just like the Leukaemia Foundation, our Breakthrough Fellowship recipients are taking bold steps as leaders in Australia’s blood cancer ecosystem. They are established researchers who have made significant contributions to the way we treat and care for people living with blood cancer. These fellowships ensure talented change-makers are taking the next steps in their careers to help transform the lives of people facing blood cancer.

Now read more about the exciting work of Dr Ashwin Unnikrishnan, the winner of our other inaugural Breakthrough Fellowship.