Professor Michelle Haber has won the 2014 Cancer Institute NSW Premier's Award for Outstanding Cancer Researcher of the Year for her ground-breaking translational research, which has led to increased survival rates for children with cancer.
It is one of five awards given to UNSW-affiliated academics at a gala event in Sydney last night.
Professor Haber is a UNSW Medicine alumnus and Executive Director of Children’s Cancer Institute at the UNSW Lowy Cancer Researcher Centre. She is best known for her research into neuroblastoma, the most common solid tumour of young children, and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, the most common malignancy in children.
The top honour is the third to be won by academics from UNSW’s Lowy Cancer Research Centre. The centre’s former director, Professor Philip Hogg, won the award in 2009 and Head of the Adult Cancer Program, Professor Robyn Ward, in 2007.
"I am really thrilled to receive this award," said Professor Haber. "It is not just a testament to my own achievements, but to those of my long-term colleagues, Professors Glenn Marshall and Murray Norris, who have been with me on this journey of developing better treatments for children with cancer over the past 25 years, my research team at Children's Cancer Institute, and our clinical and research collaborators nationally and internationally."
UNSW researchers took out four other awards:
Professor Rob Sutherland AO Make A Difference Award – UNSW Conjoint Professor Michael Friedlander
Big Data, Big Impact Grant Phase 2: Drs Jason Wong, Luke Hesson and Associate Professor John Pimanda from UNSW’s Lowy Cancer Research Centre and Dr Joe Thurbon from Intersect
Cancer Institute NSW’s Outstanding Cancer Research Fellow – Dr Claire Wakefield, Kids’ Cancer Alliance, UNSW
Rising Star PhD Award – Ursula Sansom-Daly, Kids Cancer Centre, Kids’ Cancer Alliance, UNSW
In acknowledging all winners across eight categories, the CEO of the Cancer Institute NSW, Professor David Currow said: “In particular, it is an honour to recognise the work of Professor Haber whose work is changing the lives of many children diagnosed with cancer. Her work on personalised medicine is not only changing how we treat cancers across the spectrum but also how children’s medical research is looked at across many disciplines.”
Professor Haber’s neuroblastoma research has led to major advances in basic cell and molecular biology, resulting in new clinical approaches and the development of potential new therapies, which are increasingly translating into international clinical trials. Her most recent work has broadened into common adult malignancies, where some of her key neuroblastoma findings appear to have important implications for the understanding and treatment of diseases such as ovarian cancer.
For the past 12 months, with the support of clinicians in every paediatric oncology facility in the country, Professor Haber has been developing a national childhood cancer personalised medicine platform. It will provide the opportunity for all Australian children diagnosed with high-risk malignancies to have their tumours subject to molecular profiling and precise testing of how likely they are to respond to specific molecular targeted drugs.
“Michelle is a true leader in the field of cancer research and her ability to inspire others at the Children’s Cancer Institute has been fundamental to its success,” said UNSW Dean of Medicine, Professor Peter J Smith, who nominated Professor Haber for the Cancer Institute award.
He also congratulated the other UNSW winners: "These awards highlight the breadth and depth of UNSW Medicine's expertise in cancer research."
Media contact: Catherine Arnott, Media & Communications Advisor, CCI, 0432 405 155