A little girl’s legacy: Olivia Lambert Team Leader appointed

29 Aug 2018

Olivia Lambert was a bright and happy little girl with an infectious smile and a fun-loving spirit. Diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma at age two and a half, she fought the disease bravely for six years. Her legacy and spirit continue with the appointment of Dr Joshua McCarroll as the Olivia Lambert Team Leader.

With unflinching determination and courage, Olivia spent most of her short life undergoing multiple rounds of intensive chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Periods of remission offered some hope but in July 2010 came the devastating news that following routine scans, Olivia’s doctors advised that she had once again relapsed and there was nothing more that could be done in Australia to extend her life.

Existing on barely three hours’ sleep a night, Olivia’s parents embarked on a campaign searching for answers from specialists around the globe. A breakthrough came in a new and radical antibody treatment being offered at Greifswald University Hospital in Germany. The estimated cost of this clinical trial together with the cost of the family relocating to Greifswald for a nine-month period was around $300,000.

Faced with this cost, the Olivia Lambert Foundation was established to provide financial support to Olivia and her family and more broadly, the families of other children suffering neuroblastoma or other aggressive forms of cancer.  In the ensuing seven years, the foundation assisted 24 families with almost $250,000, but in late 2016 the decision was made by the Trustees to wind up the foundation and donate the residual funds to support the newly-created Olivia Lambert Team Leader role, which has been awarded to Dr Joshua McCarroll from Children’s Cancer Institute.

“We would like to pass on our heartfelt congratulations to Josh.”

The donation of residual funds to Children’s Cancer Institute has fulfilled a long-standing dream of Olivia’s mum, Kirsty, who in 2008 envisioned immortalising Olivia by forming a charity to raise much-needed funds for neuroblastoma research. Now, ten years later, Olivia’s legacy and spirit will continue with the appointment of Dr Joshua McCarroll as the Olivia Lambert Team Leader, an outcome which Kirsty is thrilled and excited by, saying:

“We would like to pass on our heartfelt congratulations to Josh.  It sounds like he is a highly regarded and very skilled researcher. We can’t wait to hear more about Josh’s research plans.”

Oilvia Lambert with her family

A new role

Dr McCarroll will be the first research Team Leader at Children’s Cancer Institute. The role was created after our recent strategic planning highlighted the importance of developing our own most promising young scientists and bringing outstanding new research talent to the Institute.

We plan to appoint two Team Leaders annually, following a rigorous, highly competitive selection process. This year many extremely high-quality local and international applications were received. A selection panel, including external scientists of the highest standing from around Australia, interviewed a short-listed group.

One of the two candidates selected was Dr Joshua McCarroll, and with the support of the Olivia Lambert Foundation, he became Olivia Lambert Team Leader on 1 August. This exciting position will provide long-term security for a successful mid-career researcher to continue leading his own research. 

Dr Joshua McCarroll, Olivia Lambert Team Leader 

The second successful candidate is currently in Belgium researching the role of genomic changes in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. You’ll hear more about him when he takes up his Team Leader role in our Blood Cancers Theme in January 2019.

Dr McCarroll

Dr McCarroll obtained his PhD in 2005 and joined Children’s Cancer Institute in 2007 after postdoctoral training in the United States. He was subsequently appointed Project Leader and Cancer Institute NSW Career Development Fellow in our Tumour Biology and Targeting Program, and has made significant contributions to understanding cancer biology and the use of drug delivery to silence cancer genes using nanotechnology.

Since joining the Institute, he has attracted numerous Fellowships, awards and prizes, competitive (including NHMRC) grant funding, published multiple papers in high-quality journals and supervised Honours and postgraduate students. He has won the Institute award for outstanding service to the organisation in pursuit of its vision and mission.

His team will work in our Cancer Nanomedicine Theme, with a focus on solid tumours including neuroblastoma and brain cancer.

Dr McCarroll is extremely grateful for the generous support of his new position by the Olivia Lambert Foundation. “As a survivor of childhood cancer myself,” he said, “I feel privileged to be given an opportunity to continue the fight to improve patient outcomes for cancers with a poor prognosis.”

Research is the answer

Childhood cancer devastates families and changes lives forever. Our research wouldn’t happen without the inspiration and support of families like Olivia’s. With their help and yours we will achieve our mission of finding a cure for childhood cancer.

Find out how you can help.