Professor David Ziegler awarded prestigious scientific award

06 Sep 2023

Leading childhood cancer researcher and paediatric oncologist Professor David Ziegler will receive the prestigious Jian Zhou Medal from the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences in an official award ceremony on Thursday 12 October 2023.

Prof Ziegler is Leader of the Brain Tumour Group at Children’s Cancer Institute where he heads up a group dedicated to finding new, more effective therapies for children with some of the deadliest childhood cancers.

At the Institute he set up Australia’s first research investigating the fatal brain stem tumour Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). His most recent research has led to four clinical trials being established for DIPG, including a first-in-child study, testing different ways of attacking the cancer.

As head of the neuro-oncology program at Sydney Children’s Hospital and clinical trials program at the Kids Cancer Centre, David established the first Australian early-phase clinical trials platform to get new children’s cancer therapies into the clinic faster.

“Children are not just little adults. Their cancers are different, and we really need the separate research and clinical trials specific for children with cancer,” says David.

A Conjoint Professor at The University of New South Wales, Prof Ziegler has also played a key role in the development of the Zero Childhood Cancer Program (ZERO), which works with each children’s hospital throughout Australia to bring precision medicine to every child with cancer.

“We can analyse every gene in that cancer and get a result back to clinicians within a few weeks, allowing each child to get the best diagnosis, the best prognostic information and the best treatment options,” he says. He aims to make this standard of care available to all the 1,000 children diagnosed with cancer in Australia each year.

“In 10 years’ time I’d like to be out of a job. I’d like to know that we’re really reaching at 100 per cent cure rate, that there will be no child at diagnosis who is told we don’t have any treatment option.”

The medal is named in honour of Professor Jian Zhou who coinvented the cervical cancer vaccine with Professor Ian Frazer. It is awarded annually by the Academy of Health and Medical Sciences for impact in translational medical research.

Jian Zhou Medal selection committee chair Professor Ian Frazer AC says, “Through his work with patients, in the lab, and in research leadership, Professor Ziegler is transforming children’s cancer treatment.” 

AAHMS launched the Jian Zhou Medal in 2020 to recognise rising stars in Australian health and medical science. The award is made possible by a generous donation from the Frazer Family Foundation and the medal is designed and minted by the Royal Australian Mint.

Find out more about the medal here.

Watch David speak about his work here