A lasting legacy through leukaemia research

09 Apr 2019
A lasting legacy through leukaemia research

Legendary Olympian and former South Australian Governor, Marjorie Jackson-Nelson has toured SAHMRI to see first-hand the life-changing leukaemia research she’s helping support through the fund named in honour of her late husband, Peter Nelson.

The dual Helsinki Olympics gold medallist was shown around “the cheesegrater” by Dr Laura Eadie, who was recently awarded the Peter Nelson Leukaemia Research Fellowship.

Dr Eadie says the fellowship will support her search for targeted treatment options with less side effects for sufferers of T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (T-ALL). 

“Through support from the Peter Nelson Leukaemia Research Fellowship Fund we hope to create a repository of cells which will allow us to experiment and evaluate the success of different targeted therapies for T-ALL,” she said.

“Our hope is that through this funding we will be able to provide clinicians with a suite of new and re-purposed approved drugs, which will be able to effectively treat the different genetic lesions associated with T-ALL and ultimately, help future patients diagnosed with the disease.”

This was Mrs Jackson-Nelson’s first visit to SAHMRI. She says she left feeling confident the future of leukaemia research was in safe hands.

“I’m incredibly proud of the research that we’ve been able to fund through the Fellowship in South Australia and would like to congratulate Dr Eadie on being the latest successful recipient,” she said.

The Peter Nelson Leukaemia Research Fellowship Fund was established by “The Lithglow Flash” in memory of her late husband, Peter, who died from acute myeloid leukaemia in 1977.

 “The thing about leukaemia is that it can strike children and the elderly and those in the prime of their life like my late husband—it doesn’t discriminate,” she said.

“Even survivors are in constant fear of relapsing. It’s an insidious disease.

“I started the fund myself and for eight years travelled the country sharing our story and encouraging donations from passionate Australians who are keen to make a difference.

“As the fund grew, so did my group of dedicated volunteers who helped handwrite letters, organise events and seek donations.

“To think that now, more than 40 years later, we’ve funded 10 research projects is pretty amazing. I know Peter would be incredibly proud.”

T-ALL is a genetically complex and high-risk disease affecting people of all ages but is most common in children. It’s typically treated with high-dose, multiagent chemotherapy. It’s an aggressive cancer that progresses quickly, with a poor prognosis that is even worse in adults than children.

The Peter Nelson Leukaemia Research Fellowship Fund was established to support young researchers in accredited research departments with the ultimate goal of finding cures for leukaemias. In 2011 the Fund was entrusted to Cancer Council SA to administer and maintain on Marjorie’s behalf.