Professor Anthony Reeve’s work in cancer genetics for more than two decades has made him a world-leading scientist. His latest award is the University of Otago’s 2005 Distinguished Research Medal. In 2002 he was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to medical science. In 1997, he was the inaugural recipient of the Sir Charles Hercus Medal for excellence in biomedical and health sciences. He belongs to numerous New Zealand and international cancer and genetics-related societies and associations. He sits on the editorial boards of several medical, cancer and genetics journals. He is the head of the Cancer Genetics Laboratory at the University of Otago’s Department of Biochemistry, and is also director of the Otago Genomics Facility and chairman of the scientific advisory board and a director of Pacific Edge Biotechnology Ltd.
Recent research published in the Lancet journal, which builds on years of ground breaking research by Prof Reeve and his team on Wilm’s tumour, has identified why the incidence of Wilm’s tumour in Asians is only one quarter to a half of that in Caucasian populations. His team discovered that these tumours are not the result of some genetic mutation, rather a separate epigenetic molecular mechanism, which is a process where certain genes are marked for activity during embryonic development, is implicated in up to half the cases involving Caucasian children. This mechanism is absent in Asians. Understanding why the mechanism exists in Caucasians may lead to a potential clinical target. Colorectal cancer, one of the most common in New Zealand, is also being investigated by Prof Reeve and his team using gene expression profiling to identify genes or patterns of gene expression that determine the clinical behaviour of the cancer. Gene expression profiling has the potential to assist doctors in deciding which cancer patients are unlikely to respond to conventional treatments and therefore should receive more expensive drugs