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Cancer Council grant success

Posted: 08th March 2019

The year 2008 was a busy one for Louise Purton. With her husband, fellow researcher Carl Walkley and their 4-month old son, she moved back to Melbourne from Harvard, where she had spent three successful years. During that time, she made an important discovery about how the bone marrow microenvironment (the body’s factory for the production of blood cells) can influence blood cell diseases.

Once in Australia, the couple bought a house, established their research laboratories at SVI and spearheaded a successful fundraising drive to raise money for new equipment for their research.

Just 2 years later, Louise took a 12 week break from work to have her second son. This didn’t slow her down for long. With Sam safely ensconced in the St Vincent’s childcare facility, she jumped headfirst back into the lab, taking breaks in her busy day to breastfeed the baby.

As for any couple with two small children, the following years were busy and tiring – coping with disturbed sleep, complications of childcare arrangements and childhood illnesses recycled between two small boys. For Louise, when combined with the relentless pressure to stay on top of the field and publish in world class journals, this led to difficulties in securing funding for her work.

Generous support from philanthropy, via SVI supporter Colin North, and through a philanthropic Foundation, helped her through a difficult funding period.

The assistance has paid off in spades, with Louise subsequently awarded multiple grants from the National Health and Research Council and from Cancer Council Victoria.

Today she has been announced as recipient of a grant from Cancer Council Victoria, which will fund her work aimed at finding better therapies for people with a type of cancer of the blood.

Her project focuses specifically on myelodysplastic syndromes – people with this malignant blood cell disease have limited treatment options, with the only cure a stem cell transplant, which unfortunately most people cannot have. 

Louise says, “At times during my career I have felt like I'm climbing a mountain with a heavy pack on my back – but I believe that the outcome of medical research is worth the sacrifice. I am very grateful to have been awarded funding from Cancer Council Victoria who are important funders of innovative work in cancer research, prevention and support.”