Researcher Interview: Dr. Andrew Wei, Alfred Hospital

Dr. Andrew Wei, head of the acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) program at The Alfred Hospital, describes his passion for blood cancer research as ‘my mission in life is to cure acute myeloid leukaemia’. AML is a disease where little progress has been made on advancing treatments, especially in elderly patients and those resistant to chemotherapy. Currently, AML treatments include chemotherapy and stem cell transplants and if unsuccessful, patients are generally offered palliative care. At the Alfred, if these treatments are not successful, Dr. Wei’s aim is to explore as many clinical trials as possible which offer ‘hope’ for patients with AML.

Andrew graduated from Melbourne University in 1993 and received his PhD from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in 2005. Since 2008, Dr. Wei has been working at The Alfred Hospital and has been involved with 18 clinical trials including 3 national trials focused on AML. Andrew understands these trials cannot happen without the generous donors and grants that support Research Fellows, Clinical Trial Research Nurses and Coordinators.

Dr. Andrew Wei measures his success by ‘how many people that I cure’. He is passionate about increasing the current success rates for AML through the introduction of novel therapies. While Dr. Wei believes it is a ‘privilege’ to be able to treat patients with leukaemia, he has worked tirelessly to enable Australians with blood cancer to access new treatments through clinical trials. Without Andrew’s efforts, Australians may have had to wait many years to access new treatments offered through clinical trials.

Current AML research includes studies with epigenetic therapies initiated at the Alfred or in collaboration with internationally led studies. Dr. Wei is very optimistic about the future and is confident that with continued support there will be a number of revolutionary new therapies that will become a reality for Australian patients with AML in the near future.

In 2012/13, the Snowdome Foundation provided over $100K to fund a Clinical Research Fellow at the Alfred Hospital to assist Dr. Andrew Wei with three AML clinical trials. At the completion of these trials, 200 patients will have received new AML therapies, including Epigenetic targeted drugs that would otherwise not be available to patients in Australia.