Prof Roger Reddel

Breakthroughs in cancer molecular genetics

Director of the Children’s Medical Research Institute and Head of its Cancer Research Unit

Sir Lorimer Dodds Professor, Sydney Medical School.

Roger’s laboratory at CMRI has made significant breakthroughs over the past two decades in the molecular genetics of cancer. Cells normally die, but when they don’t it is because of a process called ‘immortalisation’. This allows cancer cells to divide an unlimited number of times.

Research Success

Roger’s research strives to develop treatments that work by blocking immortalisation, and seeks to identify signs of cellular immortalisation for early detection of cancer.

His group is internationally recognised for their research on the enzyme telomerase and Alternative Lengthening Telomeres (ALT), which almost all cancers depend on for their unlimited growth - 85% of cancers depend on telomerase and 10-15% require ALT.

The team has identified a molecular marker for ALT and is developing a blood test to detect ALT-positive tumours. They have also identified molecular subunits of telomerase, which could lead to the development of better telomerase blockers.

“There are now clinical trials using telomerase blockers,” he 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.”

Fringe to mainstream

Roger’s involvement with Cure Cancer Australia began in 1992 when he received a research grant for his work studying the mechanisms that make cancer cells immortal.

At the time, the notion was a fringe idea with only a handful of laboratories thinking immortalisation had any validity. But thanks to Roger’s work, it has been a mainstream concept since around 2000.

Roger’s success has been widely recognised. He was awarded the Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence in Biomedical Research (2007); was elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (2010) and received the NSW Premier’s Award for Outstanding Cancer Researcher of the Year (2011). In 2017 the Royal Australasian College of Physicians awarded him the Neil Hamilton-Fairley award for his contribution to the study of cancer.

Roger is the Sir Lorimer Dods Professor, Sydney Medical School - University of Sydney, directs CMRI’s CellBank Australia, and co-directs The ACRF International Centre for the Proteome of Human Cancer (ProCan).

He 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 Cure Cancer Australia Research Committee and contributes to the rigorous selection process of the grant program.

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