MEDICAL specialists across the world are increasingly looking to Ballarat to lead the way in how to change the approach cancer-like disease Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis in both clinical and research fronts.
Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute continues to shift the focus on the rare disease, predominantly impacting children, from being considered a cancer to being an immune system disorder.
FECRI honourary director George Kannourakis said this has the potential to save patients from intense chemotherapy.
The latest work from Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute will be published in international medical journal Acta Paediatrica in what Institute honourary director Professor Kannourakis said was a nod to the lab as a key leader on LCH.
FECRI holds the only Australian-based LCH research program. The rare disease has been a key interest for Professor Kannourakis, clinically and in research, for more than three decades.
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The Institute's latest work, led by Dr Jenee Mitchell, reviews how immune cells form lesions in patients in LCH and how this inflammation causes tumours.
Professor Kannourakis said LCH attacks multiple organs and can cause death in young children and disability in older children and adults.
"Up to now, people have described LCH as a cancer, It behaves like a malignancy but we think it's probably more the immune cells go astray and cause a tumour," Professor Kannourakis said.
"The contribution comes from a subset of lymphocytes, which fight off infection and viruses and get rid of foreign material from the body.
"The subset becomes inactive and dysfunctional...Now we're looking at what triggers this and what better ways there are of treating LCH without intensive chemo.
"If we can find how the immune cells go astray, we can block and treat LCH early."
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South Australian winemaker Daniel Redman has become a key champion for FECRI after learning of the Institute's focus on LCH. His young son has the disease.
Professor Kannourakis, an oncologist and haematologist, has worked with researchers and clinicians around the world on the condition. His work has helped shape FECRI's immunology-based research.
"It's a relatively rare disorder and a lot of people don't see many LCH cases, especially in adults, so they tend to touch base with me and most are happy to give samples for research," Professor Kannourakis said.
"We can do research with LCH samples from years ago because our tissue bank can keep living cells from patients 20 years ago, we're making some headway into LCH."
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