Pioneering work attracts VCA cancer fellowships

By Rob Clancy, staff writer

Two Hudson Institute researchers at different stages of their careers have won sought-after Victorian Cancer Agency (VCA) Fellowships.

Dr Catherine Carmichael has been awarded a Victorian Cancer Agency Mid-Career Research Fellowship to improve outcomes for Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML).
Dr Catherine Carmichael

Blood cancer specialist Dr Catherine Carmichael received the VCA Mid-Career Research Fellowship for her research into Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML), while Dr Claire Sun was awarded the VCA Early Career Research Fellowship to further her search for new therapeutic targets for childhood cancers.

Dr Carmichael recently identified a critical new role for a protein called SNAI1 in more than half of all cases of AML, which is an aggressive group of blood cancers resulting from uncontrolled growth of immature blood cells in the bone marrow.

“Each year about one thousand Australians are diagnosed with AML,” Dr Carmichael said. “However less than 30 per cent of patients will survive past five years.”

“Improving outcomes for AML patients is an area of critical importance and unmet need.” she said.

New strategies for treating AML

“This project will develop new strategies for treating AML patients based on inhibiting SNAI1 and its downstream mechanisms of AML development.”

Dr Carmichael receives a Mid-Career Research Fellowship worth $697,292 over four years.

Dr Claire Sun has been awarded Victorian Cancer Agency Early Career Research Fellowship to identify new therapeutic targets for paediatric cancers.
Dr Claire Sun

Dr Sun is working on a data-driven approach to identify and progress new therapeutic targets for paediatric cancers, which are the single biggest cause of death in children.

It is vital research which recognises the fact that childhood cancers are biologically distinct from adult tumours, though treatments for these cancers were mostly developed for adult patients.

“Not surprisingly, such treatments don’t work well and often cause significant damage.” Dr Sun said.

Child-specific cancer models

“Working in the Victorian Paediatric Cancer Consortium Next Generation Precision Medicine Program with a range of partners including the Zero Childhood Cancer program, our aim is to identify new therapies tailored for children’s cancer using child-specific cancer models.”

“Using big data and artificial intelligence computational analyses to discover child-specific targeted therapies, I will then develop a web-based portal to publicly share data that will aid in the development of new drugs and clinical trials for children with cancer.” she said.

Collaborators | (Catherine Carmichael) RMIT, WEHI, Monash Health, Monash University

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