Spotlight on Professor Catherine Cole

Did you know that PMH Foundation funds Professorial Chairs in a variety of disciplines at the hospital?

Thanks to the generosity of the Perron Charitable Trust, PMH Foundation funds Winthrop Professor Catherine Cole’s position as the Stan Perron Chair of Paediatric Haematology and Oncology.

Professor Cole, pictured above with one of her patients Mokshya, works on the cutting edge of key research projects to improve outcomes for children living with cancer and blood disorders like Mokshya, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukeamia in 2012.

Much of Professor Cole’s work is related to the Children’s Oncology Group, a research cooperative based in North America of which Princess Margaret Hospital researchers have been members since 1992.

As part of this cooperative, WA researchers are involved with a number of clinical research projects while conducting basic biological research examining the causes of cancer in order to help design better treatment options.

“The Chair has been terrific because it has allowed the Department to have a more defined academic bent and program within the unit, so the whole team are enormously grateful,” Professor Cole said.

“It’s an exciting time in oncology research because we’re at the point where we’ve got the most out of our traditional therapies and now we need to think more cleverly about how to treat cancer. To date we’ve had the same group of drugs that act by killing cancer cells and damaging other normal cells around them, which is what causes children to lose their hair and become prone to infections.

“Now we’re entering an era of more cleverly designed drugs aimed at the genetic abnormality in the cancer cells, which means fewer side effects on cells nearby. And we’re increasingly taking into account the importance of our own immune system to fight off cancer cells in small numbers at the beginning or end of treatment cycles. Looking at newer drugs to help assist the immune system to better ‘mop up’ those cancerous cells will be a greater focus of our practices in the next decade.”

In collaboration with their colleagues at the Telethon Kids Institute, Princess Margaret Hospital’s Department of Haematology and Oncology researchers are continuing research which focuses on brain tumours and infant leukaemia treatment outcomes.

Professor Cole and her team are also in the process of collating data from two recent major projects, one examining the care of children living with haemophilia, and the other studying a growing cohort of WA children living with the blood disorder sickle cell disease.

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