Professor Mel Greaves has been knighted in the New Year honours list 2019 for his pioneering and hugely influential research into childhood leukaemia.
Professor Greaves, or Sir Mel, as he can now be known, has carried out groundbreaking work to understand the hidden natural history and causes of childhood leukaemia during a 35-year career at The Institute of Cancer Research, London – leading to advances in diagnosis, treatment and potentially prevention.
He has also been a pioneer in identifying that cancers undergo a form of Darwinian evolution that leads to drug resistance – an insight which has opened up an exciting new field of cancer research and treatment.
In 2018, he published a landmark review in Nature Reviews Cancer which pulled together research data from right across his career to propose when, how and why the most common form of childhood leukaemia develops.
He argued that acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is caused through a combination of genetic mutation and lack of exposure to common infections at an early age – and that this means the disease should, in future, be preventable.
Professor Greaves is now raising money for a new research programme, at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), designed to test whether childhood leukaemia can indeed be prevented.
Professor Greaves’ knighthood for services to children’s leukaemia research comes after his receipt of the Royal Society’s prestigious Royal Medal in 2017 – following in the footsteps of previous pre-eminent winners including Charles Darwin, Michael Faraday and Francis Crick.