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Friends R4

Friends-R-4 After a wonderful hard working member of our Rotary club, Dowell Mitchell, returned from the 2007 Murray to Moyne bike ride, raising funds for our ROCAN (Ovarian Cancer Research Project) he dropped in to our president elect, Dr Murray Verso, to pick up some incidental cholesterol results. Two hours later he was in­ the Royal Melbourne Hospital suffering from Acute Myaloid Leukaemia. After seeing the dreadful side effects of the chemotherapy treatment, we decided to ‘do something’ that would benefit him and all other Leukaemia and Lymphoma sufferers. So with the advice and guidance of the Leukaemia Foundation, we agreed to enlist the support of the Australian Rotary Health Research Foundation (ARHRF) in funding a 3 year, $180,000 Research Project at Peter Mac.

This study, led by Associate Prof Ricky Johnstone, is to 'Design and test new combination therapies for the treatment of Leukaemia and Lymphoma', thus Friends - R - 4 (FR4) was formed.

For further information please visit the official FriendsR4 website or visit ­

For those who wish to understand a little more about the medical background to the research being conducted by Ricky Johnstone, please read on

Anti-cancer (chemotherapeutic) drugs impart their clinical effects by effectively killing cancer cells growing within the patient. The major area of focus within Dr Johnstone’s laboratory is to determine how newly developed anticancer drugs kill tumor cells and how the tumor cells may circumvent the activity of these drugs rendering them ineffective in the clinic. A specific focus of the research is developing new drugs, and new combinations of drugs to treat cancers of the blood (i.e. leukaemias and lymphomas).

Over the last 8 years the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre have been heavily involved in the development of a new class of drugs called histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi). The Centre has been working out how these drugs can kill leukaemia and lymphoma cells and have identified the molecular processes that lead to resistance of the tumor cells to these agents. Importantly, the Centre has taken its studies from the laboratory into the clinic and early phase clinical trials using HDACi have produced very encouraging results. Indeed in a recent study the Centre observed a 60% response rate in patients with cutaneous T cell lymphoma treated with a HDACi called panobinostat. These are very encouraging results and indicate that panobinostat may be a therapeutically beneficial agent for the treatment of various leukaemias and lymphomas.

Update from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

1 September 2008

Multiple Myeloma Project Update­

In the last 3 months the Johnstone laboratory has been investigating the effects of combining new therapeutic agents to kill multiple myeloma cells. Using a series of multiple myeloma cell lines we have found that combining histone deacetylase inhibitors with a compound called ABT-737 results in rapid and robust death of these tumor cells, while treatment with either agent alone is far less effective. Over the next few months we will complete these pilot studies that should provide proof-of-principal that the combination treatment is far superior than single agent activity. Moreover, we have just developed the most advanced mouse model of human multiple myeloma. This model will allow us to perform sophisticated pre-clinical studies to assess the therapeutic benefit of our combination studies. These experiments are designed to test the efficacy and safety of the combination and will hopefully act as a precursor to clinical trials in humans.

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