Immunologist making a difference for asbestos sufferers awarded

26/07/2022 | 3 mins

A molecular immunologist from The University of Western Australia with a distinguished track record in researching asbestos related cancer has been presented with a prestigious award by the Asbestos Diseases Society of Australia (ADSA).

“The scientific journey is one of both revelation and disappointment and never in equal measure, but our failures drive us forward as powerfully as our successes.”

Professor Richard Lake, UWA

Professor Richard Lake, an Adjunct Professor in Cardiovascular and Respiratory Science at UWA, has been presented with the Emeritus Professor Eric G Saint Memorial Award 2022 in recognition of his nearly four decades of research in tumour immunology focussed on mesothelioma.

Rose Marie Vojakovic AM, Counsellor and Head of the ADSA Advisory Service, said Professor Lake was a humble and dedicated researcher who had made an incredible contribution to the treatments patients are receiving today for mesothelioma.

Richard Lake award CARD

Image: Professor Lake with Rose Marie Vojakovic AM after receiving his award

A founding member and now Acting Director of the National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases, Professor Lake is an expert in cancer genetics and molecular biology, with particular expertise in mouse models and mesothelioma.

He was a founding member of the Translational Tumour Immunology Group and has taught undergraduate and postgraduate medical and science students throughout his research career, with his advice and scientific expertise frequently sought by postgraduate students, colleagues and collaborators.

He’s also published more than 100 research papers, many in the field of mesothelioma. His New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) publication Advances in Malignant Mesothelioma is the most highly cited review, with more than 1200 citations, of the disease published to date.

Professor Lake cloned and analysed the mesothelin promoter, using its tissue specific properties to generate mouse models of mesothelioma, and was part of the team that demonstrated that soluble mesothelin-related protein could be used as a blood test to aid the diagnosis of mesothelioma. 

In a direct development from his laboratory studies, Professor Lake initiated, with his clinical colleagues, a trial of a novel CD40 activating human IgG2 antibody – the first use of the drug in Australia and in mesothelioma, and one of the first trials of the combination of cytotoxic chemotherapy with CD40 activation as a therapeutic strategy.

Professor Lake’s research has explored the interaction between the immune system and cancer and his team has made striking discoveries that have helped the development of combination therapies that are now being introduced for patient care.

“I’m grateful to the ADSA for this award that recognises the fantastic work of my colleagues and that I am happy to have played some small role in.” Professor Lake said. 

“The scientific journey is one of both revelation and disappointment and never in equal measure, but our failures drive us forward as powerfully as our successes.”

Media references

Liz McGrath, UWA Media, 0433 795 509

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