Young Researchers Awarded Significant Funding To Combat Childhood Cancer (06/09)
18 June, 2009: Two young researchers at CCIA were today awarded significant funding from the Balnaves Foundation to further their promising research into childhood cancer.
Presenting the awards at a ceremony at NSW Parliament House, Minister for Science and Medical Research, The Hon. Jodi McKay MP, congratulated recipients Dr Joshua McCarroll and Dr Marcia Munoz.
Founder of The Balnaves Foundation and former Executive Chairman of Southern Star, Neil Balnaves, said he was proud to assist talented scientists like Drs McCarroll and Munoz pursue such important scientific questions.
“It gives me great pleasure to know the Balnaves Foundation Young Researchers’ Fund is identifying promising talent and allowing young scientists to pursue new ideas to combat childhood cancer,” Mr Balnaves said.
Dr Joshua McCarroll’s research focuses on brain cancer, the most common cause of cancer death in children.
“Despite recent advances in surgery and drug treatments, the prognosis of children with brain cancer is dismal,” said Dr McCarroll who was trained in NSW, Massachusetts and Minnesota.
“Patients who relapse, often suffer toxic side effects of treatment while their tumours frequently develop drug resistance.
“I intend to use a relatively new technique, RNA interference, which can switch off genes by using nano-sized particles to carry in genetic ‘silencers’.
"The difficulty is these nano-particles often have trouble distinguishing between normal cells and cancer cells.
“I believe I have a way of making it easier for the gene silencers to work, by attaching molecules which allow the brain cancer cells to be marked out more clearly,” Dr McCarroll said.
By silencing the genes that regulate cell survival and drug resistance, Dr McCarroll’s work has the potential to improve the treatment and long term survival of childhood brain cancer patients as well as other difficult to treat cancers.
Dr Marcia Munoz also received funding towards her research focusing on neuroblastoma, which accounts for 15 per cent of all cancer related deaths in children
The long-term survival of children within high-risk neuroblastoma is less than 40 per cent, so there is an urgent need for the development of better treatment therapies,” said Dr Munoz who trained in Venezuela and Sydney.
“Tumours create their own inflammatory environment that helps them to thrive.
“In neuroblastoma, the cancer cells can pump out substances into the surrounding tissue that contribute to this inflammation.
“By better understanding this process, it should be possible to come up with new and improved therapeutic strategies,” Dr Munoz said.
Professor Murray Norris, Deputy Director, CCIA said these awards allow fresh young minds brimming with ideas to take risks and hopefully make advances towards the CCIA’s vision to save the lives of all children with cancer and eliminate their suffering.
NOTES TO EDITOR
The Balnaves Foundation
The Balnaves Foundation is a private philanthropic organisation established in 2006 by Neil Balnaves to provide philanthropic support to charitable enterprises across Australia. Dispersing over $2 million per annum, the Balnaves Foundation supports eligible organisations that aim to create a better Australia through education, medicine and the arts with a focus on young people, the disadvantaged, and Indigenous communities. The Balnaves Foundation has provided a $500,000 gift over three years to Children's Cancer Institute Australia (CCIA) to establish the Balnaves Foundation Young Researcher's Fund.
The long-term goal of the fund is to increase the number of researchers at CCIA who are competitive for major national research funding such as from the NHMRC, Cancer Institute NSW or Cancer Council. This will ensure sustainability of competitive research funding for CCIA and help CCIA grow the childhood cancer researchers of tomorrow.
PR & Communications, Children’s Cancer Institute Australia
Ph: (02) 9385 8879 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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