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Scope 36 - Clinicians join fight against cancer and asthma

1 June 2008

Last year we were very fortunate to welcome two clinicians to the Malaghan team, Dr Robert Weinkove and Dr Noriyuki Enomoto.  

Dr Weinkove is a highly-skilled haematologist who did his medical training at the University of Cambridge and the University of London and came to the Malaghan Institute following clinical work in London and Leeds in the UK, and Hanover, Germany.  While treating leukaemia and lymphoma cancer patients using bone marrow transplants, Dr Weinkove developed a strong interest in the immune system.  Part of the reason that bone transplants work is that the new (donor) immune system recognises the patients' cancerous cells as foreign and destroys them.  However, bone marrow transplantation has its inherent drawbacks and there is an urgent need for the development of better immune therapies that can cure established cancers.  The current focus of Dr Weinkove's PhD research is chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, the most common blood cancer in New Zealand.  Working in conjunction with the Wellington Blood and Cancer Centre, Dr Ian Hermans and Professor Franca Ronchese, Dr Weinkove plans to harness a rare blood cell type called natural killer T cells to improve the ability of a patients' immune system to fight their leukaemia.  

Dr Enomoto's speciality area is pulmonary medicine.  Following his medical training at Asahikawa Medical College, Japan, Dr Enomoto completed a PhD at Hamamatsu University School of Medicine, looking at the development of a dendritic-cell vaccine against Listeria monocytogenes infection. Dr Enomoto chose to continue his career at the Malaghan Institute after reading about the exciting vaccine research being undertaken by the Cancer Immunotherapy Group and is now working alongside Prof Franca Ronchese on a project that hopes to identify a natural treatment for bronchial asthma.

With its certified GMP laboratory capable of manufacturing human cellular vaccines, world-class researchers and facilities, and the skills of top clinicians such as Dr Weinkove and Dr Enomoto, the Malaghan Institute is ideally poised to translate its research findings from the laboratory bench into the clinic.