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University of Sydney wins five Premier’s Awards for Outstanding Cancer Research

8 August 2016

Five University of Sydney scholars have won 2016 Premier's Awards for Outstanding Cancer Research. 

The top award of Outstanding Cancer Researcher of the Year was won by Professor John Simes, Director of the University of Sydney’s NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre and Sydney Catalyst Translational Research Centre.

The Premier's Awards recognise NSW researchers who dedicate their lives to making a difference to people with cancer.

Professor Simes established the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre in 1988 and leads a team of 150 researchers across the globe. The Clinical Trials Centre is a recognised centre of excellence in clinical trials research.

“In his role at the Clinical Trials Centre alone, Professor Simes has played a leading role in over 130 multicentre trials with over 80,000 patients,”
NSW Cancer Institute CEO, Professor David Currow

“In his role at the Clinical Trials Centre alone, Professor Simes has played a leading role in over 130 multicentre trials with over 80,000 patients,” said Professor David Currow, Chief Cancer Officer and CEO of the Cancer Institute NSW.

“These trials have led to major advances in care for patients with cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes as well as significant improvements in neonatal care.”

The award for Outstanding Cancer Research Fellow of the Year was won by Dr Zaklina Kovacevic, a Sydney Medical School postdoctoral pathology researcher.

Dr Kovacevic’s research is revealing the secrets of NDRG1, a gene that inhibits the spread of many cancers, including prostate, breast, colon, lung and highly aggressive pancreatic cancer.

Stopping the spread of metastatic or spreading cancers is a major clinical and research challenge because they claim the majority of all cancer-related deaths.

The precise mechanism of NDRG1's action remain unclear but harnessing its power is vital to researchers who are developing better treatments for people living with cancer.

Dr Andrew Chen won the Rising Star PhD Student Award for research revealing that nicotinamide, a form of vitamin B3, can prevent up to a quarter of non-melanoma skin cancers in high-risk patients.

Dr Andrew Chen is a University of Sydney Postgraduate Research Fellow. The new finding has the potential to be rapidly translated into clinical practice, thereby reducing the burden and cost of non-melanoma skin cancer, the world's the most common cancer in fair-skinned people.

Dr James Wilmott won the ‘Wildfire' Highly Cited Publication Award for a publication revealing a fast, accurate method for detecting V600E BRAF mutations in patients with late stage melanoma.

Dr Wilmott is a University of Sydney Research Associate and Postdoctoral Researcher at the Melanoma Institute Australia.

Some patients with late stage melanoma have only days to live without treatment and cannot wait for routine molecular testing results.

Clinical use of the novel V600E BRAF mutant-specific antibody test could become be a valuable addition to conventional mutation testing and allow V600E mutant metastatic melanoma patients to be rapidly triaged and treated with lifesaving drugs.

Associate Professor Daniel Catchpoole and his team at The Kids Research Institute won the Big Data, Big Impact Grant Stage 2 Award to recognise research aiming to improve the health of children with rare diseases.

Their research is helping clinicians make sense of complex biomedical data and develop more personalised treatments for children with rare cancers, such as childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) and neuroblastoma.

Dr Catchpoole is a Conjoint Associate Professor at Sydney Medical School and Group Leader of The Biospecimens Research and Tumour Bank at The Kids Research Institute. His team includes Associate Professor Paul Kennedy, Dr Quang Vinh Nguyen, Professor Simeon Simoff, Associate Professor Jinyan Li, Professor Toni Robertson, Dr Nikola Bowden, Dr Geoffrey McCowage, Dr Jeff Christiansen and Dr Tuck Wah Leong.

For more information about all the winners, visit 2016 Premier’s Awards for Outstanding Cancer Research

Dan Gaffney

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