Leader in childhood cancer research a Eureka Prize finalist
July 28, 2017
Professor Michelle Haber AM, of Children's Cancer Institute and UNSW, was today announced as a finalist for the 2017 Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science, sponsored by CSIRO.
Professor Haber is a global authority in childhood cancer research, setting the agenda for this field in Australia. She is the driving force behind Zero Childhood Cancer, a world-leading initiative that brings together clinicians and researchers from every paediatric oncology and child cancer research facility nationwide.
“The challenge in curing each child of cancer is that the precise genetic and biologic makeup of each child’s cancer is different. That’s why I’m excited about the Zero Childhood Cancer personalised medicine program that we’ve established – the single largest initiative in the country ever for children with cancer.
“Scientists from Children’s Cancer Institute and clinicians from Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network will soon open a national clinical trial for every child in Australia with the worst cancers, involving genomic profiling and individual chemotherapeutic drug testing in the laboratory, to provide the best possible treatment for each child in real time,” she said.
Professor Haber is thrilled to be selected as a Eureka finalist for her leadership in medical research toward a cure for childhood cancer, a disease that over 950 children and adolescents in Australia are diagnosed with each year.
One of the greatest testaments to Professor Haber’s leadership is her commitment to expansion of scale, research capacity and scientific excellence for Children’s Cancer Institute, located in the Lowy Cancer Research Centre at UNSW Sydney.
Professor Grant McArthur, Executive Director, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre and Head of the Cancer Therapeutics Program at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre supported Professor Haber’s nomination for the Eureka Prize.
“Professor Haber is an inspirational leader of innovation without peer. She has remarkable capacity to lead complex translational research programs that has seen direct translation of basic science discoveries into clinical application including the devastating childhood cancer neuroblastoma,” he said.
Professor Haber has a long history in childhood cancer research, having been the inaugural postdoctoral scientist appointed at Children’s Cancer Institute when it opened in 1984, and has worked there ever since. She is now Executive Director, as well as leading one of the Institute’s research programs to identify molecular targets and develop new cancer therapies.
“I’m delighted to have led the Institute as Executive Director since 2003. Ours is the only research institute in Australia wholly dedicated to childhood cancer research.
“I’m particularly proud of the talented researchers who come to work each day in the lab to realise the vision of the Institute’s founders, two fathers of children with cancer. We’ve seen childhood cancer go from being almost a death sentence barely 50 years ago, to today where survival rates are around 80%, and that has been achieved solely through medical research.”
“Despite the advances that have been made, some childhood cancers still have dismally low survival rates, and even the children who survive their disease often have serious long term side effects due to the drugs used to treat them. It is these children with the most aggressive cancers who stand to benefit most from the innovations offered by the Zero Childhood Cancer national personalised medicine program” she said.
Professor Haber will attend the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes Award Dinner on Wednesday 30 August when the winners will be announced.
About Zero Childhood Cancer
The Zero Childhood Cancer Program is a national initiative of Children’s Cancer Institute and The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network. The Program is led by scientists and clinicians from Children’s Cancer Institute and Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick and is one of the most exciting childhood cancer research initiatives ever undertaken in Australia, to tackle the most serious cases of infant, childhood and adolescent cancer.
Participating hospitals and research centres include:
- NSW – Children’s Cancer Institute
- NSW – Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick
- NSW – The Children’s Hospital at Westmead
- NSW – John Hunter Children’s Hospital
- NSW – Kids Research Institute, Westmead
- NSW – Garvan Institute of Medical Research
- QLD – Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital
- QLD – The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute
- SA – Women’s and Children’s Hospital
- SA – South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute
- SA – Centre for Cancer Biology
- VIC – Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne
- VIC – Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute
- VIC – Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
- WA – Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, Perth
- WA – Centre for Childhood Cancer Research, Telethon Kids Institute
More at www.zerochildhoodcancer.org.au
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.