From mouse to man in mesothelioma – a story of hope from the tragic legacy of blue asbestos
Jul 20, 2018 12:30 PM
Professor Anna Nowak - UWA School of Medicine
From mouse to man in mesothelioma – a story of hope from the tragic legacy of blue asbestos

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Wittenoom Gorge supplied blue asbestos to the rest of the world, and left behind a tragic legacy of people affected by mesothelioma, a rapidly fatal cancer of the lining of the lung. Even today, people who lived in Wittenoom for as little as a few weeks when they were children are diagnosed with this disease. Until now, there have been few effective treatments for mesothelioma.

This talk will tell the 20 year story of how immunotherapy went from the ‘fringes’ of cancer treatment to now providing new hope for people with mesothelioma, and the ongoing work that the Perth-based National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases is doing to fight this devastating disease.

Professor Anna Nowak is a medical oncologist at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and a professor within the School of Medicine at the University of Western Australia. As well as her medical qualifications, Anna holds a PhD in tumour immunology. She treats and researches two invariably fatal cancer types: mesothelioma and malignant brain tumours. Anna has recently taken on the position of Director at UWA’s National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases (NCARD) which is a Centre for Research Excellence funded by the key national body for medical research, the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC). NCARD comprises around 35 scientific staff, and has an international reputation for mesothelioma immunology, biomarkers, and translational clinical trials. Anna completed a post-doctoral fellowship in clinical trials and quality of life research, which has given her a unique perspective that truly bridges laboratory bench to patient bedside. She has been a principal investigator on a number of local and international clinical trials, and has recently had very promising results from a combined chemotherapy/immunotherapy trial called DREAM, with the involvement of another NCARD clinician-scientist, focused on mesothelioma. It is hoped that this trial can be taken into the next phase.

She is passionate about patient-doctor communication, mentoring, and women in oncology and science. Anna was recently named the WA Cancer Council’s Cancer Research of the Year.