Genomic Childhood Cancer Risk
Dr Mark Pinese joined Children’s Cancer Institute in 2019, having previously worked at the Garvan Institute on the largest genomics program ever carried out in Australia. In January 2022, he became Team Leader in the newly formed Genomic Childhood Cancer Risk Group, which aims to develop our understanding of why some children get cancer, and if childhood cancer can be predicted.
‘We think of cancer as a disease of old age yet, paradoxically, even very young children can get cancer,’ Mark explains. ‘Why does this happen? If we can understand why a child gets cancer, we might be able to identify children at risk, so we can detect it early and treat it early to get the best results. Perhaps we can even prevent it from developing in the first place.’
Mark recently set up a large study (the PREDICT study, funded by the Luminesce Alliance) which aims to examine the genome of every child with cancer in NSW, as well as the genomes of their parents, to investigate the genetic basis of childhood cancer. Through generating reports for participating families about their risk of childhood cancer, Mark hopes to help them understand why their child has developed cancer, and potentially how to prevent it in the future.
Mark’s move into childhood cancer research was prompted by an experience he had as a member of a team working on rare disorders in adults. ‘One day we were asked if we could use some of our methods to help a child with cancer who had no treatment options left. It was an eye opening moment… I realised we had incredible potential to use these tools and technology to make a difference to someone in a hopeless situation. I found myself gravitating towards childhood cancer research from that moment.’
Mark holds a highly competitive NHMRC Emerging Leadership Fellowship, and is a Conjoint Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of NSW.
2020-2024, NHMRC Emerging Leadership Fellow
2020, Cure Cancer Researcher of the Year Award, 2nd runner-up
2019, Best Presentation Prize, ABACBS/GIW Annual Conference
2017, Nigel Swanston Prize, AGTA Annual Conference