Featured in Burwood Scene, July 3, 2013.
I met Professor Derek Hart at Concord hospital eight months ago when he decided the time had come to tell the community what his Group at the ANZAC Research Institute were doing. Professor Hart’s research has been based on the dendritic cell, a new class of white blood cells in the immune system that “talks” to and commands other blood cells. They are the generals in the blood stream that decide whether to allow or reject drugs and cancers.
A long time into the interview as I was struggling to come to grips with what he was telling me, I finally asked the big question. “Are you talking about the potential of an anti-cancer vaccine?”
His answer: “yes”.
I absorbed the enormity of that then asked “does that mean there would be no need for chemotherapy?”
“It will be good for mop up.”
Professor Derek Hart is a Rhodes Scholar whose work is focussed on blood cancers. His research at Oxford confirmed the discovery of the dendritic cell – by american Professor Ralph Steinman, who was awarded a nobel Prize in 2011, two days after his death from pancreatic cancer.
In the past two years, Professor Hart, his Associate Professor wife, Georgina and their team, have proven that these cells can be isolated, taken out, retrained and put back into the blood stream to fight cancer or accept transplants from the inside.
His “Group” are approaching human clinical trials. This will be one of the few medical breakthroughs in history to go from discovery to clinical trial under the one team in a collaboration that extends to Concord, Royal Prince Alfred and Westmead hospitals.
I left that interview shell-shocked as the implications for mankind dawned. If I had $5million, I would have gone back with a cheque and said “take it – get on with it, thank you very much”.
Reality kicked in! What can one community newspaper do? The task was to start with a group of people who could help and advise. Bendigo Bank stepped up and in its largest community project Australia-wide, will promote the appeal in every Sydney branch with a starting target of $185,000, before expanding nationally for $5million.
Derek and Georgina Hart live in the inner west. Their daughter goes to school here. It is fitting that the ANZAC Research Institute Medical appeal be launched here.
We are seeking your support. With donations, posters in your business, fund raisers or by providing advice and ideas. Please be involved.
By Belinda Noonan.