Leading childhood cancer researcher receives Order of Australia
January 26, 2019
Children’s Cancer Institute is thrilled to announce that Professor Maria Kavallaris – a leading childhood cancer researcher and a pioneer of nanomedicine in Australia – is to be appointed a Member of the Order of Australia. She will be included in the 2019 Australia Day Honours List for her significant service to medicine, and to medical research, in the field of childhood and adult cancers.
Maria is Head of the Tumour Biology and Targeting Program at Children’s Cancer Institute and Founding Director of the Australian Centre for NanoMedicine at the University of New South Wales, Sydney.
One of the first scientists to join Children’s Cancer Institute when its laboratories opened in 1984, Maria is internationally recognised for her research in cancer biology and therapeutics. She has made a number of world-first discoveries in understanding how cancer cells become resistant to commonly-used chemotherapy drugs, and how such resistance can be reversed. Maria is also known for her innovation in driving multidisciplinary research in cancer nanomedicine, a relatively new field in Australia, and has made great progress in the use of nanotechnology for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
As a cancer survivor, Maria has first-hand experience of the harsh side effects of chemotherapy and has made it her goal to develop new cancer treatments that are not only more effective, but also less toxic. A major focus of her work involves finding ways to deliver chemotherapy and gene therapy specifically to cancer cells, leaving healthy cells unharmed.
‘It’s a huge honour to receive this award and I feel extremely privileged,’ says Maria, who in 2017 received the Premier’s Science and Engineering Award for Leadership in Innovation in NSW, and in 2015 was named one of the AFR/Westpac 100 Women of Influence as well as one of the inaugural Knowledge Nation 100.
‘To be able to make a difference to the lives of children with cancer and their families by developing better treatments and improving survival rates is very humbling. Even if you can save one child’s life, that’s an incredible feat.’
‘Every time a child dies of cancer, I realise we have so much more work to do. Fortunately, because of the team and technology we have here at Children’s Cancer Institute, we are well-positioned to continue to have an impact on survival rates.’
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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 is to save the lives of all children with cancer and improve their long-term health, through research. The Institute has grown to now employ nearly 300 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.