The Leukaemia Project is based at the Victorian Cancer Cytogenetics Service, which is one of Australia’s largest cancer chromosome testing laboratories. The research focus is the genetics of acute myeloid leukaemia and myelodysplastic syndromes.
Leukaemia is cancer of the bone marrow. Leukaemia, like any cancer, is caused by abnormal changes in the genes of the cancer cells. Genes carry the information that makes us who we are, and when they’re working properly there’s a delicate balance of chemical reactions in
every cell. But changes to the structure or balance of the genes can cause cancer.
Chromosomes are tightly wound strings of genes, so large changes to the chromosomes can cause cancer by upsetting the balance of the genes. These are the types of changes we study. There’s not necessarily any change to the gene structure.
Chromosome analysis is a test that most leukaemia patients will have as part of their care. Finding abnormal changes in the chromosomes of leukaemia cells can help work out the best treatment.