CCIA Executive Director recognised for excellence in biomedical science and receives NSW Australian of the Year nomination
24 November, 2011
Executive Director of Children's Cancer Institute Australia (CCIA), Professor Michelle Haber AM, was honoured last night at the NSW Science and Engineering Awards for research excellence in biomedical sciences. To further cement Prof Haber as a remarkable scientist and tireless advocate for medical research, she was also one of four finalists in NSW for the 2012 Australian of the Year award, at a ceremony held at the Taronga Centre in Mosman last night.
“I'm absolutely thrilled,” says Prof Haber. “It's a great honour to receive a NSW Science and Engineering Award, and to receive this award on the same night as being a finalist for Australian of the Year in NSW, is truly wonderful.”
Dedicating her career to eliminating the suffering associated with childhood cancer, Prof Haber was appointed one of three inaugural scientists of CCIA in 1984, then known as the Children's Leukaemia and Cancer Research Unit, based at Sydney Children's Hospital. Her research expertise is in the application of molecular and cellular biology to the diagnosis and treatment of childhood malignancies.
“As head of the Experimental Therapeutics Program at CCIA, my research has focused on understanding the genetic basis of resistance to anti-cancer drug therapy,” explains Prof Haber. “This has led us to understand the action of key genes which are responsible for treatment failure in aggressive childhood cancers, and then to design strategies to block the action of these rogue genes.
“Working together with my long-term colleagues, Professor Murray Norris, Deputy Director of CCIA and Professor Glenn Marshall, Director of the Cancer Centre at Sydney Children's Hospital and CCIA Program Head, we have seen, as a direct result of our research, improved survival rates for high risk children with acute leukaemia, as well as new drug development and the design of an international clinical trial for relapsed neuroblastoma.
“I'm also keenly involved in discovering new small molecule drugs for improved childhood cancer treatment, that will not only be more effective but safer than current cancer treatments. We, at the Institute, are very well positioned to move forward in this area with the recent establishment of the ACRF Drug Discovery Centre for Childhood Cancer, which can screen thousands of small chemical molecules every day, to identify potential new drugs. Before this technology, it would take a researcher one year to achieve the same result. We are particularly delighted that we have just signed an industry deal to take the first of our drugs through to clinical trial,” says Prof Haber.
Prof Haber led the research team that successfully discovered the role of the Multidrug resistance-associated protein (MRP) gene in treatment failure of the aggressive childhood cancer, neuroblastoma, and has authored a number of seminal publications addressing the role of this and related genes in high impact journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine and Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
She is currently President of the international Advances in Neuroblastoma Research Association, and is Chief Investigator, together with colleagues Norris and Marshall, on one of only nine National Health and Medical Research Council Program Grants, the most prestigious form of medical research funding in the country, to commence at the beginning of next year.
“CCIA has made remarkable progress over recent years,” says Prof Haber. “I am absolutely confident that we can find the answers to the causes of childhood cancer, how to prevent it, how to best treat it and how to cure it in the foreseeable future.”
PR & Communications, Children's Cancer Institute Australia
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