The future of childhood cancer research beckons.
25 July, 2012
In an announcement today, two Children's Cancer Institute Australia (CCIA) researchers were awarded prestigious Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowships to fund their groundbreaking childhood cancer research over the next four years, representing a combined $1.4 million worth of funding.
Dr Tao Liu, Group Leader of the Histone Modification Group, will receive nearly $700,000 for his research into neuroblastoma, the most common solid tumour found in children under the age of five. His project aims to investigate the role that a protein, called SIRT2, plays in increasing the action of an oncoprotein called N-Myc.
“Through previous research, the presence of N-Myc has been proven to play a significant role in the development, progression and drug resistance of neuroblastoma tumours,” says Dr Liu. “N-Myc is evident in 20-25% of neuroblastoma cases and the majority of children with this oncoprotein will die.”
Dr Liu will also look at drugs that can potentially stop the action of the SIRT2 protein, which would consequently degrade the N-Myc oncoprotein, and lead to effective treatment of these high-risk cases of neuroblastoma.
Dr Jenny Wang, Project Leader of CCIA's Cancer and Stem Cell Biology Group and a recipient of the Balnaves Foundation's Young Researcher's Fund grant last year, has been awarded over $700,000 for her research which focuses on the role that leukemic stem cells play in AML patients who relapse.
“While survival rates for AML have steadily improved over the past decades, about 40% of children in remission will relapse and these children are very likely to die,” says Dr Wang. “Evidence points towards leukemic stem cells acting as the drivers of AML relapse, and elimination of these cells is believed to be key for achieving complete remission.”
Dr Wang's research project aims to unravel the underlying biology of leukemic stem cells and identify new ways to treat AML more effectively and eliminate these cells, which has the potential to significantly reduce the rate of relapse and improve the overall survival rates for children suffering from AML.
“These Fellowships are highly competitive and this is the first time that the Institute has been successful in our submissions,” says Professor Murray Norris, Deputy Director of CCIA. “To receive two in one year is a great achievement for CCIA, and a reflection of the high-calibre of work undertaken by Doctors Liu and Wang.”
A total of 209 mid-career fellowships were announced today by the Federal Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Senator Chris Evans, who said the scheme is designed to increase the opportunities for highly qualified mid-career researchers to work in Australia, rather than overseas.