Associate Professor Rosemary Sutton is the Joint Research Manager for the Molecular Diagnostics Group at Children’s Cancer Institute. Since joining the Institute in 2001, she has led minimal residual disease (MRD) diagnostic testing for more than 2000 patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).
‘Coming here in 2001 was absolutely the right move for me,’ Rosemary says. ‘It’s been very fulfilling to be able to do such worthwhile work.’
Rosemary, Michelle and their group provide advanced diagnostics for hospitals throughout Australia, using MRD technology developed here at the Institute to measure the level of residual disease in patients treated for ALL, both to determine future risk of relapse and to monitor for the first signs of relapse.
The Molecular Diagnostics Group has been involved in multiple clinical trials since 2002, when the first trial of MRD technology in children with ALL was launched in Australia and New Zealand. The trial, which used MRD to identify which children were at highest risk of relapse, led to a doubling of cure rates for high-risk ALL. Today, treatment decisions for all children and many adults diagnosed with ALL or relapsed ALL are based on MRD testing.
Rosemary has been involved in 12 clinical trials utilising MRD technology for a variety of purposes. ‘I find it really exciting to be involved in clinical trials,’ she says. ‘I can see we’re making a difference to patients being treated right now, as well as analyzing their data to improve treatments for future patients. We’re working towards extending the utility of this technology too, so it benefits children with other leukemias as well.’