The Wilson family donate a further $3.5 million to provide blood cancer patients with life saving genomic testing

The Wilson family has extended their generous philanthropic donation to the Snowdome Foundation, providing an additional $3.5 million for the Wilson Centre for Blood Cancer Genomics housed at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.  

 This is the philanthropic family’s second major gift. In 2017, The Wilsons announced a major gift of $5.5 million to establish the Centre. The Wilson family have now donated more than $9 million to the Snowdome Foundation to provide Australian blood cancer patients with access to genomic testing, giving patients a more accurate diagnosis to determine the best course of treatment.  

Blood cancers; leukaemia, myeloma and lymphoma can impact anyone regardless of age, health or gender. We can’t prevent it so we need to find better ways to treat it. Genomic testing is the first step in finding a better and personalised way to treat these cancers. 

 In four years, the Wilson Centre for Blood Cancer Genomics has provided over 4000 patients from across Australia with free genomic testing and has supported Fellowships and research collaborations resulting in world-first breakthroughs in the understanding of blood cancer treatment resistance. 

Patients who have directly benefitted include 25-year-old Ash, who saw his doctor regarding irregular tiredness and fevers, got a blood test, and was told to head straight to emergency. He was diagnosed with aggressive leukaemia and started chemotherapy immediately. He was being prepared for a bone marrow transplant, a treatment that carries a 10 per cent risk of death but usually provides the best outcome for his type of leukaemia. 

 However, sophisticated molecular testing of Ash’s blood cancer sample at the Wilson Centre changed the course of his treatment. The genomic testing confirmed his cancer was a rare subtype that usually responds well to chemotherapy alone and, with close monitoring, Ash could safely forgo a bone marrow transplant and the related risk. 

 Ash is now in remission and his treatment pathway serves as an example of world class personalised medicine. “I am incredibly grateful to the Wilson family for their generosity – my genomic test saved me from a gruelling bone marrow transplant and may have saved my life,” Ash says.  

Dr David Westerman, Head of Haematopathology at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre says: “Advances in technology and research have brought about remarkable changes to the way we diagnose and subsequently treat blood cancer. Understanding the molecular characteristics of a tumour is the foundation for patient care”. 

“We can now look at the genetic makeup of a person’s cancer and choose a treatment accordingly, and these advances have been accelerated through the generosity of the Wilson Family.” 

Pennie Callaghan from the Wilson Family says: “Four years ago my parents, Bruce and Christine wanted to make a meaningful impact to blood cancer patients by donating $5.5 million to the Snowdome Foundation to create the Wilson Centre for Blood Cancer Genomics.   

“As a family, we want to continue to help Australians affected by blood cancer. The world class research, diagnostic testing and educational opportunities that come through the genomic centre all lead to lives saved.  

“Philanthropy is critical in continuing our search for better treatment options for blood cancer patients. We also hope this gift might inspire others to invest in this way, giving the Centre long term sustainability.” 

 Adding to this, Kirstee Macbeth, Chief Executive of the Snowdome Foundation said: “We know what a truly remarkable place the Wilson Centre is, one that is committed to faster and more effective outcomes that have had a real and measurable impact. Complex diagnostic testing, translational research and educative opportunities provide patients with the best chance to receive tailored treatment for their specific cancer.   

 “We are incredibly proud and honoured to work together with the Wilson family and the team at Peter Mac to ensure that blood cancers become manageable conditions”. 

Ash doing well with regular follow up

 Main image: Left to right: Sasha & James Wilson, Guy & Pennie Callaghan, Bruce Wilson, Elina & Andrew Wilson.