Professor Michelle Haber was appointed the inaugural post-doctoral scientist at Children’s Cancer Institute in 1984. She became Director of the Institute in 2000, and has been Executive Director since 2003. She holds a conjoint appointment as Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at UNSW Australia.
Michelle has dedicated her entire professional life to improving clinical outcomes for children with cancer. She is one of Australia’s leading translational researchers and has become the face of Australian childhood cancer research internationally. She is world-renowned for her research into the childhood cancers neuroblastoma and leukaemia, which has led not only to key advances in our understanding of these diseases, but also to new clinical approaches that have improved survival rates.
‘Seeing our science make a difference, knowing we are giving hope and changing outcomes, is tremendous motivation,’ says Michelle, who stresses that implementing her research results into clinical trials is paramount. ‘Genuine translation of research outcomes into benefits for kids with cancer is absolutely key to me.’
Michelle is best-known for defining new molecular targets (genes and proteins that drive the growth and aggressive behaviour of cancers) as well as developing new therapies that attack those targets. Highlights of her career to date include working with Professors Norris and Marshall to implement minimal residual disease testing in children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) which led to a doubling of the survival rate of children with high-risk ALL, and driving the development of Zero Childhood Cancer (ZERO), Australia’s first national child cancer personalised medicine program, which is improving outcomes for children with a range of high-risk cancers.
As Head of the Experimental Therapeutics Group, Michelle’s current research focuses on developing effective treatments for children with neuroblastoma, and extending these treatments to other childhood malignancies including brain tumours, leukaemias and sarcomas. She is also actively involved in developing a number of new research areas arising from the world-leading ZERO program.
In 2007, Michelle was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for her services to science in the field of research into childhood cancer, to scientific education and to the community. The following year, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from UNSW for her eminent service to the cancer research community. In 2014, she received the Cancer Institute NSW’s Premier’s Award for Outstanding Cancer Researcher of the Year, in 2015 was appointed an inaugural Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences and in 2022 was elected to the distinguished Australian Academy of Science.
2012, NHMRC Ten of the Best
2011, Winner, NSW Science and Engineering Award for Biomedical Sciences
2007, Member of the Order of Australia, 2007