Lumen - The University of Adelaide Magazine The University of Adelaide Australia
Lumen Winter 2013 Issue
previous page next page
Download PDF Format | Lumen Archive | Editorial Contact

A life changing legacy

Sometimes two lives intersect with no obvious link but the repercussions are felt far and wide.

Such is the tenuous connection between the late Veronika Sacco - a Hungarian immigrant and self-made woman - and a young South Australian researcher by the name of Jacqueline Noll, who is dedicating her life to helping cancer patients.

On paper, the two have nothing in common.

Veronika died in March 2010, aged 94. Her life story was a remarkable one. Despite excelling at school in her native country and mastering seven languages, her early days in Australia were character building, to say the least. Newly divorced and with a young child to support, she was forced to walk the streets of western Sydney lugging suitcases of soap which she sold door to door.

Through sheer will, intelligence and a head for finances, Veronika put herself through university and gained an accountancy qualification, which paved the way for a stimulating career and opened many other doors - to culture, music, art and business.

Education changed Veronika's life. In death, her legacy will no doubt make a difference to countless others.

In her will, Veronika left a generous sum to the Florey Medical Research Foundation in honour of the University of Adelaide's most famous alumnus.

"She researched thoroughly where she chose to give and she was very impressed with the work of Howard Florey and his Nobel Prize," said her good friend and executor of her will, Fred Bennett.

"Just the possibility of another Nobel Laureate arising out of her bequest was also compelling," Mr Bennett said.

For young scientist Jacqueline Noll, being the first recipient of the Veronika Sacco Clinical Research Fellowship under the auspices of the Florey Medical Research Foundation is "an absolute honour".

The 27-year-old researcher, who has a First Class Honours degree in Biomedical Science and a PhD from the University of Adelaide, will spend the next three years investigating new treatment strategies for a type of bone marrow cancer known as multiple myeloma.

Multiple myeloma occurs where abnormal plasma cells in the bone marrow multiply too fast and prevent the normal production of other blood cells, such as red and white cells.

The disease causes bones to break down, resulting in excruciating pain, fractures, recurrent infections and kidney failure.

About 15 per cent of patients die within three months of diagnosis and even with treatment, the average survival rate of multiple myeloma sufferers is approximately five years. There is no cure.

Dr Noll's research is focused on learning more about how the cellular composition of bone marrow is altered by the presence of multiple myeloma tumours.

"If we can identify key changes in the bone microenvironment we may be able to develop novel treatment strategies to limit the progression of the disease," Dr Noll said.

"Approximately 1400 people are diagnosed with multiple myeloma in Australia each year, an increase of 44 per cent in the past 25 years. Despite recent advances in treatment strategies, the 10-year survival rate is only 17 per cent," Dr Noll added.

The Florey Fellowship will enable Dr Noll to establish herself as an independent researcher in a field of cancer research which has not traditionally received much attention.

"I have always been interested in cancer research and I hope that one day my work will lead to better and improved therapies for cancer patients. The work of Howard Florey is incredibly inspirational and this is a wonderful opportunity for me to strive towards greater things," she said.

Chairman of the SA Division of the Myeloma Foundation, Ian Driver, who is currently in remission from the disease, said the work of researchers such as Dr Noll was critical to patients.

"Dedicated scientists like Dr Noll are doing some wonderful research, both to find a cure or just make our lives more bearable. Finding a cure is a long process but we are hanging in there," he said.

story by Candy Gibson and Catriona Neil-Dwyer

 Jacqueline Noll
Photo by Chris Tonkin

Jacqueline Noll
Photo by Chris Tonkin

Full Image (83.61K)

Veronika Sacco

Veronika Sacco
Full Image (50.73K)


Media Contact:
Ms Kim Harvey
Alumni Relations and Communications
230 North Tce Adelaide SA 5000
Business: +61 8 8313 3196
Fax: +61 8 8313 5808