Aspiring scientists awarded for research into junk DNA and starving cancer cells to death
February 9, 2015
The Balnaves Foundation has once again shown its commitment to curing childhood cancer by awarding two aspiring researchers at Children’s Cancer Institute the Balnaves Young Researcher of the Year Award 2014.
The two recipients have been awarded $100,000 each, for their innovative projects that could change treatment and survival rates for two of the most common types of childhood cancer.
Dr Jennifer Lynch’s project focuses on targeting an aggressive sub-type of paediatric leukaemia via cellular genetic regulators called long noncoding RNAs – which were previously thought of as nothing more than ‘junk’ DNA. However, recent research reveals noncoding DNA it is in fact not ‘junk’ at all – it actually plays a major role in regulating the levels of genes – and Dr Lynch plans to dig deeper in to this therapeutic goldmine.
In a first for Children’s Cancer Institute researchers, Dr Denise Yu’s project aims to identify new targets for neuroblastoma – the most common solid cancer found in infants – by targeting cancer cell metabolic pathways to try and ‘starve’ the cells to death.
Neil Balnaves AO is one of Australia’s most renowned philanthropists and is supporting the next generation of childhood cancer researchers with The Balnaves Foundation’s Young Researcher’s Fund.
Unique to the Institute, the Fund is based on recognising the novel ideas of early career researchers and is designed to provide them the opportunity to diversify their thinking and try something different – which stems from Balnaves’ belief that young, fresh minds are the most likely to achieve a breakthrough.
About Children’s Cancer Institute
Originally founded by two fathers of children with cancer in 1976, Children’s Cancer Institute is the only independent medical research institute in Australia wholly dedicated to research into the causes, prevention and cure of childhood cancer. Forty years on, our vision remains unchanged – to save the lives of all children with cancer and to eliminate their suffering. The Institute has grown to now employ more than 220 researchers, operational staff and students, and has established a national and international reputation for scientific excellence.
Our focus is on translational research, and we have an integrated team of laboratory researchers and clinician scientists who work together in partnership to discover new treatments which can be progressed from the lab bench to the beds of children on wards in our hospitals as quickly as possible. These new treatments are specifically targeting childhood cancers, so we can develop safer and more effective drugs and drug combinations that will minimise side-effects and ultimately give children with cancer the best chance of a cure with the highest possible quality of life.
We are currently leading the establishment of the Zero Childhood Cancer national child cancer personalised medicine program for children with the most aggressive cancers, in partnership with the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network. This program will revolutionise the way treatment decisions are made, with the aim of improving survivorship for those children at highest risk of treatment failure from their disease.