Prof Andreas Strasser, PhD
Alan W Harris Chair of Cancer Biology
Joint Head of Division
Molecular Genetics of Cancer Division
The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
Andreas Strasser is noted for his seminal studies on the control of apoptosis, the cell death program essential for development and homeostasis. He demonstrated that impaired apoptosis can provoke autoimmune disease and cancer and render tumour cells refractory to many anti-cancer therapeutics. He established that mammalian cells possess two distinct pathways to apoptosis, one triggered by ligation of cell surface "death receptors" and the other, called BCL-2-regulated (intrinsic or mitochondrial) pathway, by cytokine deprivation and diverse cytotoxic insults. He demonstrated that BH3-only members of the BCL-2 protein family are critical initiators of apoptosis, including the deletion of auto-reactive lymphocytes. These discoveries have major biological implications and have fuelled the development of novel therapeutic strategies for cancer, autoimmunity and degenerative diseases, with the BCL-2 inhibitor, ABT-199 (venetoclax), currently in phase 3 clinical trials for cancer treatment and accorded Breakthrough Therapy Designation by the FDA.