UNSW cancer researcher Dr Angelica Merlot has won the 2019 NSW Young Woman of the Year award for her achievements and research into treatments for pancreatic and brain cancer.
The 29-year-old UNSW Scientia Fellow, who is based at the Children’s Cancer Institute, focuses her research on developing new anti-cancer drugs that target drug resistance and suppress cancer spread.
"This award will continue to raise the profile of the world's deadliest cancers and is something I hope I can continue throughout my career," said Dr Merlot, who was presented with the honour today at a ceremony in Sydney as part of the first NSW Women’s Week. "There are so many people affected by cancer and it is wonderful to be acknowledged for the work the researchers do behind the scenes."
Dr Merlot’s cancer biology projects work to better understand the mechanisms by which cancer cells grow and adapt to their environment, why drugs become less effective and the development of nanoparticles to improve drug delivery.
“Some of the advances we are seeing in cancer are our understanding of the tumour itself – how it consists of more than just cancer cells but other important cells that help the cancer adapt and survive. A major area of advancement is immunotherapy and our understanding of the interactions of the immune system with cancer. Immunotherapy helps boost your immune system to attack the cancer to maximise patient outcomes,” says Dr Merlot. “We are understanding more about the genetics of the disease and, with personalised medicine, we are hopeful that we can improve survival rates.”
'We are understanding more about the genetics of the disease and, with personalised medicine, we are hopeful that we can improve survival rates.'
Pancreatic cancer has some of the lowest survival rates, often diagnosed late and at advanced stage, with 92% of patients dying within five years of diagnosis.
“I am still in shock and it is so wonderful to be acknowledged for work in this field. I hope to be able to encourage more women to study medicine and pursue careers in medicine and cancer research," says Dr Merlot, who, in 2018, was named as Australia’s youngest ever National Health and Medical Research Council Grant recipient.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Women Tanya Davies presented Dr Merlot and five other outstanding women with awards across six categories.
“I would like to congratulate all the incredible women who have deservedly been recognised as winners and finalists. Your achievements are paving the way generations of women to come,” Ms Berejiklian said.
Mrs Davies said this year’s awards program attracted an unprecedented number of nominations and more than 9000 votes. The NSW Women of the Year Awards is a NSW government program celebrating the outstanding contribution made by women across the state to industry, communities and society.
For more information or biographies for winners and finalists click here.