The Leukaemia Project researches the causes of leukaemia, particularly leukaemias that are caused by environmental factors such as radiation exposure or chemical toxins, including chemotherapy.

Project Paper Thin  is a promotional film to promote the Leukaemia Project. It is based on the true story of Sadako Sasaki, a Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor who died from leukaemia.


The story of Sadako is a symbol of innocent victims of war. Sadako was two years old when her home town was hit by the atomic bomb of 1945. The story goes that whilst undergoing treatment, her friends gave her papers to create a thousand cranes. The legend being that once a thousand paper cranes are made, the creator is given a single wish. Sadako passed before the goal was completed but her story serves as an inspiration to all.


Director/Producer: Elizabeth Duong
Assistant Director: Nicholas Domazet
Assistant Producer: Camille Tuazon
Composer: Daniel Hernandez
Animator: Alex Stojkovski


Sadako’s Spirit: Christina Evans
Sadako: Leandra Devika
Little Sadako: Amelie Lu


The Leukaemia Project is based at the Victorian Cancer Cytogenetics Service, which is one of Australia’s largest cancer chromosome testing laboratories. The research focus is the genetics of acute myeloid leukaemia and myelodysplastic syndromes.

Leukaemia is cancer of the bone marrow. Leukaemia, like any cancer, is caused by abnormal changes in the genes of the cancer cells. Genes carry the information that makes us who we are, and when they’re working properly there’s a delicate balance of chemical reactions in
every cell. But changes to the structure or balance of the genes can cause cancer.

Chromosomes are tightly wound strings of genes, so large changes to the chromosomes can cause cancer by upsetting the balance of the genes. These are the types of changes we study. There’s not necessarily any change to the gene structure.

Chromosome analysis is a test that most leukaemia patients will have as part of their care. Finding abnormal changes in the chromosomes of leukaemia cells can help work out the best treatment.


Why Support The Leukaemia Project?
The Leukaemia Project focuses on what is often referred to as “complex karyotype” leukaemia, which means that the chromosomes are very abnormal. Highly abnormal chromosomes go hand-in-hand with the most severe cases, so it makes sense to look for patterns in the chromosome abnormalities to find the causes and ultimately cures for these patients.

Gene structure is one of the keys to understanding cancer. The advanced technologies now available make this easier every year, and it’s the focus of most cancer research nowadays.

But chromosome structure is usually overlooked, meaning that a lot of potentially important information is missed. The research team’s publications highlight the importance of studying the abnormal chromosomes in leukaemia cells. This is one of the few projects worldwide that is looking for answers in the organisation of leukaemia chromosomes.

You can learn more about our research on our Understanding Leukaemia webpage on the St Vincent’s Hospital website.

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