NSW Premier's Awards for our cancer researchers

9 December 2021
Recognition for cancer research impact
Our cancer researchers were acknowledged for their excellence at the 2021 NSW Premier's Awards.

University of Sydney researchers were successful in four out of the five categories of the NSW Premier’s Awards for Outstanding Cancer researchers including the 2021 Outstanding Cancer Researcher of the Year.

The awards honour the achievements of the individuals and teams that work across the cancer research sector to lessen the impact of cancer.

Professor Jacob George, who was named 2021 Outstanding Cancer Researcher is a renowned liver specialist and research scientist delivering high-impact research on liver cancer, the diseases that lead to it and associated clinical cancer care.

Liver cancer is the second fastest growing cancer type in Australia and the fastest growing cause of cancer deaths by percentage. Two-thirds of people diagnosed with liver cancer have viral hepatitis, which can be treated to reduce the risk of liver cancer developing.

Professor George is making pioneering contributions to the development of a whole-of-system approach to liver cancer control, including reducing variations in care, using the Cancer Institute NSW model of research translation. These include:

  • generating new population-level insights into the link between viral hepatitis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of primary liver cancer, in western Sydney
  • testing and implementing a shared-care model of HCC surveillance, and trialing its efficacy and effectiveness
  • disseminating research insights to promote system-wide change.

Professor George is the Robert W. Storr Chair of Hepatic Medicine at the University of Sydney and is based at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research’s Storr Liver Centre. He received a prize of $50,000 from the Cancer Institute NSW.

Three other researchers and their teams were also recognised with prestigious awards:

Professor Georgina Long received the Wildfire Highly Cited Publication, for a highly cited publication that has a significant impact on the cancer field.

This year, the publication is: Combination nivolumab and ipilimumab or nivolumab alone in melanoma brain metastases: a multicentre randomised phase 2 study (Lancet Oncol. 2018 May;19(5):672–to681).

The report was authored by Professor Long together with a prestigious Melanoma Institute Australia team including Professor Richard Scolyer, Associate Professor Alexander Menzies, (both also at University of Sydney) and Maria Gonzalez and Jarem Edwards.

Originally published in 2018, it has now been cited 427 times around the world – showing its vital role in improving outcomes for people with advanced melanomas.


Associate Professor Emily Blyth received the Outstanding Cancer Research Fellow - Early Career Fellow:

Associate Professor Blyth was recognised for her research on cellular therapies for cancer – driving better treatments for people with blood cancers. 

One stream of her research involves the development and clinical implementation of adoptive T cell therapies for blood cancers, such as leukaemia. 

T cell therapies are a type of immunotherapy, which is a treatment that uses the body’s own immune cells to fight cancer cells. Associate Professor Blyth has specifically researched manufacturing T cells to target acute myeloid leukaemia. She has led a clinical trial of this technology that has recently completed recruitment.

Associate Professor Ricky O'Brien Outstanding Cancer Research Fellow - Career Development Fellow 

This fellowship award acknowledges Associate Professor O’Brien’s outstanding work in progressing imaging technologies for cancer. Associate Professor O’Brien is the Deputy Director of the ACRF Image-X Institute, at the University of Sydney, a centre for innovation in radiation therapy and cancer imaging technologies.

Associate Professor O'Brien's fellowship is directly benefiting people with cancer, by delivering shorter scan times and better image quality. Together these can contribute to more accurate results and faster treatments. Changes to scans, such as lower pre-treatment imaging doses, also have the potential to make scans safer for patients.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet introduced the Awards, thanking every cancer researcher across the state for their contribution.

Related articles