Third-year PhD student, Jixuan (Jessie) Gao, won First Prize in the Open Senior Division of the 44th Annual Tow Health and Medical Research Early Career Awards last Friday. Jessie’s PhD project investigates a protein called ABCE1, which is associated with poor outcome in patients with childhood cancer, neuroblastoma.
Jessie found ABCE1 makes neuroblastoma cells grow faster and increases their ability to metastasise, ie spread throughout the body. Her results indicate it increases total cellular protein synthesis, enabling neuroblastoma cells to multiply rapidly. Jessie’s work suggests targeting protein synthesis may be a new way of treating high-risk neuroblastoma.
Jessie was thrilled to receive a travel grant as part of her prize.
“The grant gives me an opportunity to travel to a conference overseas and learn about new ways of researching children’s cancers. I hope the knowledge I bring back will ultimately lead to a cure and a world free of neuroblastoma,” she said.
A Best Poster Prize was awarded to Kimberley Hanssen, who’s just completed her UNSW Honours year at Children’s Cancer Institute.
Best poster prizes at scientific meetings are very competitive. The Tow Award is Kim’s third poster prize this year, having won the Poster Competition at the St Vincent’s Campus Research Symposium in September and the ASMR NSW Scientific Meeting in June. This just underlines her research’s significance, and her talent and hard work.
Kim investigated a protein called MRP1 (Multidrug Resistance-associated Protein 1) which sits in the outer membrane of cancer cells and makes them resistant to a broad range of chemotherapy drugs. MRP1 acts as a chemical pump, ejecting drugs from cells before the drugs have time to act. Kim has helped develop an inhibitor of MRP1 which blocks this pump, trapping drugs inside cancer cells and causing them to die.
Opportunities to present research
Both students appreciated the opportunity to present their research at The Tow Awards, held annually at Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick, Sydney. Other presenters included health care providers and medical researchers from the three hospitals on the Randwick campus (Prince of Wales, Sydney Children’s and Royal Women’s) and from Neuroscience Research Australia.
The Tow Awards promote communication between researchers and clinicians with the aim of enhancing translation of research discoveries from “bench to bedside”. They’re named after Dr Wally Tow who started them back in 1972.
Meetings like this help our honours and PhD students hone their presentation skills and share their enthusiasm for scientific research. Find out more about studying with us.
Top image: Professor Terry Campbell, Deputy Dean of UNSW Faculty of Medicine, presents Jessie Gao with the Tow Prize for Best Oral Presentation in the Open Senior Division, 2016.