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Fellowships to help unlock cancer secrets

Feb 24 2014

Dr Matthew Dun

Three University of Newcastle cancer researchers have been recognised with Cancer Institute NSW Early Career Fellowships, totalling more than $1.5 million.

Dr Matthew Dun, Dr Allison Boyes and Dr Lei Jin, who work in collaboration with the Hunter Medical Research Institute, have been awarded funding through the prestigious fellowship program to explore new ways to prevent, detect, treat and better manage cancer.

Awarded a $600,000 fellowship, Dr Dun will investigate new therapies for Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML), the most common and deadly type of adult leukaemia, which has a survival rate of 15 per cent for patients diagnosed over the age of 60.

“Most patients die due to leukaemia recurrence (or relapse), which is normally difficult to treat as the recurrent cells are resistant to commonly-used drugs,” Dr Dun said.

“To improve patient outcomes, better diagnosis and the development of novel therapies are required. This research will explore exciting new compounds our laboratory has identified for their potential to kill AML cells. We will also use powerful new technologies to identify new ‘druggable’ targets in AML. This project will move us closer to our goal of a cure for AML.”

Dr Lei Jin, who received a $592,000 Cancer Institute NSW fellowship, will explore novel approaches to the treatment of melanoma.

“Pro-survival signalling within melanoma cells is a major reason why metastatic melanoma is resistant to treatment,” Dr Jin said.

“In this project, we aim to clarify the role of a protein called RIPK1 in activation of pro-survival signalling in melanoma cells, to test its effect on melanoma cell growth and responses to treatment, and to establish whether it is therapeutic. Success of this research will provide information to develop novel approaches in the treatment of melanoma.”

Using a $500,000 fellowship, Dr Allison Boyes will test online support for cancer patients.

“This study will rigorously test if online one-to-one peer support improves blood cancer survivors’ psychosocial well-being, and if the addition of online multimedia self-management information is more effective than online peer support alone,” Dr Boyes said.

“If effective, the online support program could be integrated into the suite of support services already offered by peak cancer organisations.”

University of Newcastle Acting Deputy-Vice Chancellor (Research), Professor Nick Talley, said the University was committed to fostering the next generation of research talent, particularly in areas with scope for real innovation for the benefit of the community.

HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.