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First dedicated blood cancer research unit for NZ

Media Advisory
University of Auckland
13 August 2014

First dedicated blood cancer research unit for NZ

New Zealand’s first dedicated Leukaemia and Blood Cancer Research Unit was opened at the University of Auckland this week.

The unit will focus on innovative research into the causes and treatment of blood cancers and related conditions and is part of an integrated cancer centre in the Auckland Academic Health Alliance - an alliance between the University of Auckland and the Auckland District Health Board.

Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand provided more than $1 million initial funding towards the research unit and also supports the Marijanna Kumerich Chair in Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research within the Unit at the University.

The inaugural holder of the chair is Professor Stefan Bohlander who joined the University of Auckland late last year from the University of Marburg in Germany. Professor Bohlander gave his inaugural lecture on ‘Understanding Leukaemia’ at the University’s Faculty for Medical and Health Sciences after the launch of the unit.

At the opening of the Unit, Professor Peter Browett, (the head of Molecular Medicine at the University, a clinician in haematology, and a board member of LBCNZ), said it was a good month for blood cancer patient wellness and care with the earlier opening of the new Haematology ward at Auckland Hospital and “now this fantastic new research unit at the University”.

“This new unit fits well with the University’s responsibility for serving the community, and it has been the community’s desire to have research into this very important disease,” said the Dean of FMHS, Professor John Fraser. “The research work done already has saved many lives.”

He acknowledged the commitment and vision of Leukaemia and Blood Cancer NZ, chief executive, Pru Etcheverry, in establishing the Unit, and the family of Marijanna Kumerich for their generous support. He also thanked the Board members of LBC for their ongoing commitment to improving the care of leukaemia and blood cancer patients.

It is estimated that more than 10,000 people in New Zealand are living with blood cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma or a related blood condition. These conditions can affect anyone at any age at any time and little is known about their causes, but the disease is on the rise in New Zealand.

LBC board chairman, Tony Wilding, said the strategy of investment in research has been one of LBC’s key contributions since it was established in 1977.

“Our aim is to care and cure, and this research unit is a significant step in our patient centred model,” he said. “When people ask us what causes blood cancers we have been unable to answer that question, but this research will look closely at that question and treatment options.”

“It is also fantastic to have one of the world’s leading geneticists, Professor Stefan Bohlander, as inaugural holder of the Marijanna Kumerich Chair,” he says.

The establishment of the research unit is seen as a big step forward into research into blood cancers and related conditions, and is expected to provide a key link in translation of research findings into treatments for New Zealanders with these illnesses.


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