Bequest for asbestos disease research

Professor Doug Henderson AO

Professor Doug Henderson AO Research Fund

A bequest to researchers at Flinders University honours the life and contribution of Emeritus Professor Doug Henderson AO, and continues the legacy of the world-renowned authority in pathology and his research into asbestos-related diseases.

Known for his kind and patient manner, Flinders University researcher Professor Henderson was an internationally recognised pathologist with a focus on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of asbestos-related diseases.

He was the world expert on the deadly cancer mesothelioma – an aggressive cancer of the cells that line the lungs and the chest wall cavity, often caused by asbestos exposure.

Professor Henderson was regularly called on to provide his professional opinion in legal cases, including High Court cases, helping thousands of victims as they struggled to come to terms with their diagnosis.

A surgical pathologist at Flinders Medical Centre, Professor Henderson’s expertise on diseases of the pleura and asbestos-related disorders led to him advising a range of international bodies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), as well as the International Mesothelioma Panel.

In 1999 and 2000, Professor Henderson was called upon by the World Trade Organisation Disputes Resolution Panel for the dispute between Canada and the European Communities on the importation of chrysotile asbestos. He also contributed to the Asbestosis Committee convened by the College of American Pathologists and the Pulmonary Pathology Society.

In 2006, he was awarded a Distinguished Fellow Award by The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia. In 2010, he was awarded the Distinguished Pathologist Medal of the Australasian Division of the International Academy of Pathology. Professor Henderson was awarded an Office in the Order of Australia (AO) in 2015 for his services to medicine, especially in the field of asbestos-related disorders.

Aged 76, Professor Henderson passed away in 2018 leaving a bequest in his Will to support lung cancer and mesothelioma research at Flinders University. To continue the legacy of his incredible life’s work, the Professor Doug Henderson AO Research Fund was established.

The fund supports the work of Associate Professor Sonja Klebe (PhD(Med) ’01) whose clinical trial of localised therapy for mesothelioma is the first of its kind in the world.

With a special focus on lung disorders, Associate Professor Klebe worked with Professor Henderson for 18 years.

The fund has also supported the creation of a new research role – the Prof Doug Henderson AO Postdoctoral Research Associate in Asbestos Associated Disease – in Flinders University’s College of Medicine and Public Health.

Taking up the role in November 2019, Dr Ashleigh Hocking (PhD(Med) ’19) is continuing the work of Professor Henderson through her research on malignant mesothelioma.

‘My research is focused on a sub-population of immortal cells within mesotheliomas that can “fuel” tumour growth and withstand standard treatment regimens such as chemotherapy,’ says Dr Hocking. ‘Through this research, I hope to expand our knowledge of these cells so we can create more effective treatments for patients.’

She says, ‘I’m very grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the field of research that I feel passionate about, and that Professor Henderson himself dedicated so much of his life towards.’

The Asbestos Victims Association of South Australia says Professor Henderson made a significant difference to the lives of hundreds of local asbestos victims, particularly those with the aggressive and currently incurable lung cancer mesothelioma.

‘Doug was passionate about so much more than just diagnosis and treatment. He focused a huge amount of time and effort on ground-breaking research into how to better treat and eventually cure these terrible diseases,’ says Kat Burge, President of the Asbestos Victims Association.

‘He was a great man who made a profound difference to the lives of the hundreds of asbestos victims he treated, and countless more people around the world who benefited from his research efforts.’

The late Emeritus Professor Doug Henderson AO is survived by his children Axel and Alida, and his partner Associate Professor Sonja Klebe, who is committed to continuing his research legacy and finding effective treatments for asbestos-related diseases.

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You can play an important role in shaping a positive future for our community by leaving a donation for education or research in your Will. To learn more contact Mark Goldsmith 0421 818 130,

Posted in
2020 Encounter magazine

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