Professor Mel Greaves recognised for work in childhood cancer research

Professor Mel Greaves recognised for work in childhood cancer research
Professor Mel Greaves ©Joe Dunckley

Professor Mel Greaves, of the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London, has been awarded the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, USA, for his groundbreaking research into the childhood cancer leukaemia.

The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Prize, which was established in 2016, was awarded to Greaves in recognition of his pivotal role in furthering our understanding of genetic and environmental factors in leukaemia, a common childhood cancer.

Since 1984, he has been with the ICR and has spent his career trying to understand leukaemia and ways in which to prevent it.

What has Greaves’ research revealed?

In a recently published landmark paper, Greaves revealed for the first time the likely cause of most cases of the disease in children.

His research concluded that acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is caused through a two-step process of genetic mutation and exposure to infections, meaning it may be preventable with treatments to stimulate the immune system in infancy.

Earlier in his career, Greaves and his team on the molecular genetics of childhood leukaemia uncovered the pre-natal origin of the disease in the womb, as well as shedding light on its possible infectious causes.

“A privilege to work on children’s leukaemia”

Speaking to the ICR, Greaves said: “I was delighted, surprised and honoured to receive the MSK award, not least because I am neither a clinician scientist nor an American.

“It’s such a privilege to work on children’s leukaemia. Progress in understanding the biology of leukaemia and its treatment has been hugely successful, but there’s still more to do, not least, for me, seeing if we can prevent this cancer.”

About children’s leukaemia

Leukaemia is the most common form of cancer in children and teenagers, and accounts for one out of three cancers.

Early symptoms of childhood leukaemia include:

  • Bruising and bleeding;
  • Stomach pains and poor appetite;
  • Bone and joint pain;
  • Anaemia; and
  • Trouble breathing.


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