Researcher Spotlight: Professor Roger Reddel

Researcher Spotlight:

Professor Roger Reddel

Meet Professor Roger Reddel BSc (Med) MBBS PhD FRACP FAA - a molecular biologist, molecular geneticist and an internationally regarded expert on cancer cell immortalisation.

Roger Reddel in the lab.jpg

Prof Reddel, who received a Cure Cancer Australia grant early in his career in 1992, is now Director of Children's Medical Research Institute (CMRI), and the Sir Lorimer Dods Professor, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney. He also heads CMRI's Cancer Research Unit, directs CellBank Australia, and co-directs the ACRF International Centre for the Proteome of Human Cancer (ProCan).

Cure Cancer Australia backs fringe idea

Roger’s involvement with Cure Cancer Australia began in 1992, when he received a Cure Cancer Australia research grant soon after his return from the US. At the time, Roger was at the early stages of looking into the mechanisms that make cancer cells immortal.

When Roger started investigating this concept it was very much a fringe idea and there were only a handful of laboratories in the world which thought it had any validity. Since around 2000, the ‘immortality of cancer cells’ concept has become mainstream.

Preventing Cancer Cell Growth by blocking immortalisation

Professor Reddel's research remains focused on the molecular genetics of immortalisation, the process that allows cancer cells to divide an unlimited number of times. The aim of this research is to develop new forms of cancer treatment that prevent cancer cell growth by blocking immortalisation. Overall his research aims to help develop anti-cancer treatments that would work by blocking immortalisation, and tests for detecting signs of cellular immortalisation for early detection of cancer.

Roger and his group are internationally recognised for research on the enzyme telomerase and for discovering ALT (Alternative Lengthening of Telomeres), which together contribute to unlimited growth in up to 95% of cancers. His team has made additional seminal findings regarding ALT and the manner in which it is repressed in normal (non-cancer) cells, and identified a molecular marker for ALT that is being developed as a blood test to detect ALT-positive tumours.

In recent years Roger’s team has identified particular molecular subunits of telomerase which could lead to the development of better telomerase blockers. “There are now clinical trials using telomerase blockers,” Roger says. “So in the near future, many patients may be able to benefit from this treatment - but if they have ALT, their doctors will know not to waste their time as it would be ineffective.”

Prof Roger Reddel

Prof Roger Reddel

International recognition

Prof. Reddel was awarded the Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence in Biomedical Research in 2007, was elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 2010, and in 2011 received the NSW Premier's Award for Outstanding Cancer Researcher of the Year. He serves on editorial boards of a number of international cancer research journals, and on national and international scientific advisory panels.

Roger is a lead researcher on the $10 million ACRF 30th anniversary grant awarded in 2015 for the establishment of ProCan.

This facility will enable the analysis of tens of thousands of samples of all types of cancers from all over the world. It will also allow scientists in Australia to develop a library of information to advance scientific discovery and enhance clinical treatment worldwide. The end result will be rapid and more accurate development and initiation of the most appropriate cancer treatments for each individual patient.

Roger was a Director of Cure Cancer Australia for 11 years, and Chair of its Research Committee from 2011 to 2014. He remains a valued member of the Research Committee and contributes to the rigorous selection process of Cure Cancer Australia’s grant program.

Professor Reddel discussing the importance of early-career cancer research