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Understanding of lung cancer to be boosted

November 27, 2015

Lung researcher Dr Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat from the ACRF Stem Cells and Cancer division at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute has won a competitive $1.225 million Viertel Fellowship for an ambitious research program to advance our understanding of lung development and cancer.

Dr Asselin-Labat’s research addresses some of the most critical issues in lung development, repair and cancer. The findings will help explain what happens in underdeveloped lung in premature infants, how to improve lung repair after injury or disease, and identify better markers/drug targets to detect or treat lung cancer more effectively.

The five-year fellowship will support Dr Asselin-Labat in her research of the key regulators of lung stem cells and cancer. “My research is dissecting the biological processes that form the lung during embryonic development and the role and maintenance of stem cells in the adult lung,” she said.

Among Dr Asselin-Labat’s long-term goals is the development of better treatments for premature babies. “One of the most critical problems in premature babies is acute respiratory distress and that can lead to chronic lung disease,” she said. “Unfortunately, there is still a lot we need to do to improve treatment for babies that are born prematurely with underdeveloped lungs.

“By better understanding how the lungs develop and the critical genes responsible for development and repair, we will be able to see new treatments emerge that help these children to survive and avoid the long-term respiratory problems that often plague their later years.”


Dr Asselin-Labat began her research in breast stem cells and cancer, and her research findings included a discovery that explained how oestrogen and progesterone are linked to increased risk of breast cancer. She was also part of the research team that first identified breast stem cells and their ‘daughter’ progenitor cells. She is now using this strong background to further understanding of lung stem cells, their involvement in ‘normal’ development, and how they can go awry in cancer.

The original news article was published on the WEHI website. Image of Dr Asselin-Labat courtesy of WEHI.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation has supported WEHI by providing three grants, totalling AUD 5.5million towards cutting edge cancer research equipment and technology.

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