Erdi-Snowdome/ VCA Collaboration – Funded Fellow Heads Up New Monash Health Facility

Monash University and Monash Health are excited to announce that renowned haematologist Associate Professor Jake Shortt (Eva and Les Erdi / Snowdome Foundation / Victorian Cancer Agency collaboration-funded Fellow) will lead haematology research in a newly created role at the Monash Health Translational Precinct (MHTP).

Associate Professor Shortt is clinical lead for leukaemia and myelodysplasia at Monash Health and prinicple investigator on a number of leukaemia and bone marrow disorder studies within the clinical trials unit.

“My scientific research focuses largely on lymphoma, leukaemia and myeloma and with our increased understanding of what drives these diseases at a molecular level, we can now rationally target the survival pathways and abnormal genetic programs operating within cancer cells.” said Assoc Professor Shortt.

Most recently, Associate Professor Shortt’s research has involved combining drugs that work on epigenetic pathways with immune-modulators. “If the DNA of a cell is its hardware, epigenetic pathways constitute the software, and software is re-programmable with drugs,” he explained. “Epigenetic drugs can change or kill cells in such a way that they become more visible to the immune system and therefore you can prime a patient’s tumour and immune system concurrently to gain major therapeutic responses.”

“It is no exaggeration to say we have seen miraculous responses in the clinic at Monash, using approaches gleaned from our laboratory-based research.”

Until recently a Senior Research Fellow at Peter Mac, Associate Professor Shortt has relocated to MHTP to be at the ‘coal face’ of translational research, allowing him to conduct basic scientific research in tandem with clinical trial activity. “It is a very exciting time in haematology and cancer biology at the moment,” said Associate Professor Shortt.

“We are seeing a revolution in our understanding of tumour biology at the genomic and epigenetic level.  Concurrently there has been a paradigm shift in the therapeutic application of immuno-oncology.”

In his new role at MHTP, Associate Professor Shortt plans to further develop his pre-clinical and translational research rationally, applying targeted therapies within appropriate genomic and epigenetic contexts.

“This new role will better allow me to link these concepts with clinical trial activity and from a broader perspective I would like to develop Haemato-Oncology at Monash into an internationally competitive program, building the academic reputation of both the Haematology department and Haematology research at the School of Clinical Sciences.”

“The major advantage Monash Health and the MHTP has over other cancer hospitals is its proximity to patients, and I feel I am taking my science to where the patients are, in an area of real growth and potential.”

“I’m really excited about the prospects at Monash—being embedded in a state-of-the-art facility with a really positive and progressive group of clinician scientists is a recipe for success,” added Associate Professor Shortt.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to stake a claim in the future of haematology and cancer medicine in Victoria.”

From Snowdome’s point of view, Jake said “I have leveraged considerable additional research support with an initial 5 year tenure. Obviously this gives me a prime opportunity to develop investigator initiated early phase clinical trial and biomarker activity in the epigenetic and malignant haematology space – commensurate with the ultimate goals of the Snowdome Foundation.” Jake was awarded the Eva and Les Erdi / Snowdome Foundation Fellowship for New Targets in Haematological Malignancies in 2014.

We wish Jake all the very best for the continuation of his very important work.