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Ms Robyn Schenk

PhD Scholarship

Researcher:         Ms Robyn Schenk
Institute:              Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical
                              Research (WEHI)  
Project title:         Determining the role of the pro-survival
                              Bcl-2 family 
member A1 in lymphoma
                              and leukaemia
Disease focus:     Blood cancers 
Annual Funding:  $40,000
Funding period:  2014-2017

Project summary 

Researchers from the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research’s Molecular Genetics of Cancer (MGC) Division are investigating the cell death program known as apoptosis.

Led by Professor Andreas Strasser and Professor Jerry Adams, the MGC Division is particularly interested in proteins from the BCL-2 family, which are the critical regulators of apoptosis. 

Recently*, the Herold group, which is part of the MGC Division, developed a world-first laboratory model to study a key protein from the Bcl-2 family, called A1 (or BFL-1). They also created a drug-like molecule that can inhibit the A1 protein and are assessing the impact and potential therapeutic benefits of targeting the protein. 

Building on these breakthroughs, PhD student Robyn Schenk is studying the role of A1 in both the initiation and progression of lymphoma and leukaemia. Robyn also is looking at the potential of treating blood cancers using the drug-like molecule developed at WEHI. 

“A1 is a protein that promotes cell survival, particularly in blood cells, and is thought to play a critical role in leukaemia and lymphoma development as well as chemotherapy resistance,” said Robyn. 

“However, as yet we don’t know a lot about the function of A1 or at which stage of tumour development it plays a critical role. So this research project will provide us with a better understanding and the prospect of treating blood cancers by targeting this protein.”