Meet Cure Cancer’s Dr Laurence Cheung
A Senior Research Officer in Leukaemia and Cancer Genetics, Dr Laurence Cheung is a living example of what it means to make your mark in the world. With the support of The Make Your Mark Foundation, Dr Cheung pursues his groundbreaking research into curing children's leukaemia with a vision towards a cancer free future.
Based at the Telethon Kids Institute in Perth, Dr Laurence Cheung is a living example of what it means to make your mark in the world. A Senior Research Officer in Leukaemia and Cancer Genetics, Dr Cheung is working towards the immeasurable goal of achieving a cancer-free future for children.
‘To me, as a researcher, I always think that we just work in the lab on our own. I often forget the importance of connecting with the community and letting them know about our research, so that we can keep getting their support,’ says Dr Cheung.
A vital role in the community
Originally a pharmacist by trade, Dr Cheung’s professional path differs from most independent researchers. Graduating from Curtin University in 2000, he worked as a pharmacist for nine years before deciding to pursue his PhD in the areas of haematopoiesis and paediatric leukaemia, completing these studies in 2014. Even during his career as a pharmacist, Laurence has always been committed to improving the health of everyone in the community.
‘Ultimately I just wanted to make a difference, and obviously as a pharmacist you have the chance to improve the health outcomes of the patient. But I wanted to take things further,’ he shares. Following the completion of his PhD, Dr Cheung received a grant from Cure Cancer, kick starting his journey as an independent cancer researcher.
A career-defining breakthrough
Dedicating one’s life to research in any field is no easy or guaranteed path, and Dr Cheung notes that a career in cancer research comes with its own unique challenges. This has never discouraged him, and his vision for a cancer-free future for all children motivates him to carry on his vital work each day.
‘As a PhD student I learnt a lot, and faced lots of failures and challenges,’ he says. ‘When I finished my PhD I wanted to establish a preclinical model to investigate how the leukaemia cells communicate with other cells in the bone marrow. It took me about 3-4 years to develop a model to look at this.’
Of all his research work to day, Dr Cheung takes great pride in a paper he and his team published in 2018, which provided a breakthrough in the study of children’s leukemia at the time.
‘We identified that the leukemia cells actually produce a signal or a protein that communicates with the bone-eating cells in the marrow, telling them to eat the bone away. By using a treatment commonly used in adults for osteoporosis, they can actually stop the bone-eating cells eating the bone away during the leukaemia development,’ he says.
‘This was a really significant finding from my perspective.’