Children’s Cancer Institute is thrilled to announce that Professor Maria Kavallaris – a leading childhood cancer researcher and a pioneer of nanomedicine in Australia – is to be appointed a Member of the Order of Australia. She will be included in the 2019 Australia Day Honours List for her significant service to medicine, and to medical research, in the field of childhood and adult cancers.
Maria is Head of the Tumour Biology and Targeting Program at Children’s Cancer Institute and Founding Director of the Australian Centre for NanoMedicine at the University of New South Wales, Sydney.
One of the first scientists to join Children’s Cancer Institute when its laboratories opened in 1984, Maria is internationally recognised for her research in cancer biology and therapeutics. She has made a number of world-first discoveries in understanding how cancer cells become resistant to commonly-used chemotherapy drugs, and how such resistance can be reversed. Maria is also known for her innovation in driving multidisciplinary research in cancer nanomedicine, a relatively new field in Australia, and has made great progress in the use of nanotechnology for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
As a cancer survivor, Maria has first-hand experience of the harsh side effects of chemotherapy and has made it her goal to develop new cancer treatments that are not only more effective, but also less toxic. A major focus of her work involves finding ways to deliver chemotherapy and gene therapy specifically to cancer cells, leaving healthy cells unharmed.
‘It’s a huge honour to receive this award and I feel extremely privileged,’ says Maria, who in 2017 received the Premier’s Science and Engineering Award for Leadership in Innovation in NSW, and in 2015 was named one of the AFR/Westpac 100 Women of Influence as well as one of the inaugural Knowledge Nation 100.
‘To be able to make a difference to the lives of children with cancer and their families by developing better treatments and improving survival rates is very humbling. Even if you can save one child’s life, that’s an incredible feat.’
‘Every time a child dies of cancer, I realise we have so much more work to do. Fortunately, because of the team and technology we have here at Children’s Cancer Institute, we are well-positioned to continue to have an impact on survival rates.’