Philanthropy funding keeps cancer researchers in the Illawarra
The Illawarra Cancer Carers continue to play an important role in advancing cancer research in the Illawarra, providing salary support for two Research Assistants at IHMRI. In doing so they have kept local talent, Chelsea Penney and Ross Turner, in the Illawarra to continue their research.
Both Chelsea and Ross are University of Wollongong (UOW) Alumni, completing their honours degrees in 2020 and 2019 respectively. Chelsea under the supervision of Senior Professor Marie Ranson and Ross with Professor Ronald Sluyter.
“I began working in the cancer research space during Honours in 2019, studying the immune systems of people diagnosed with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma,” said Ross.
After graduating Ross was appointed as a Research Assistant to continue this work. He also began working part-time as an Oncology Biobank Manager at the Illawarra Cancer Care Centre, a position he still holds.
Support provided this year by the Illawarra Cancer Carers, has seen Ross move into Dr Kara Vine-Perrow’s lab to work on a potentially game-changing treatment for pancreatic cancer.
“I will be involved in developing a humanised mouse model of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) to determine the safety and effectiveness of immunotherapy/chemotherapy-loaded implants to treat PDAC”, said Ross.
PDAC is the most prevalent type of pancreatic cancer and for most proves fatal. Patient outcomes are incredibly poor due to lack of early diagnosis and limited response to treatments.
For Chelsea, it was a passion for biology that inevitably led her to a career in medical research. After completing her Honours in Medical Biotechnology, Chelsea continued her work investigating various drugs to target specific mutations observed in gastric cancer in Professor Ranson’s lab. She also joined the Vine-Perrow lab one day a week to assist the team with their work focused on targeted drug delivery.
A recent donation by the Illawarra Cancer Carers, will see Chelsea’s time at IHMRI extended until the end of the year to work on a new project. Collaborating with Dr Ann-Katrin Piper, Chelsea is also investigating therapeutics for glioblastoma (GBM) a deadly brain cancer with a less than a 15% survival rate.
“This project will use patient-derived cell lines to trial a new chemotherapy regimen for GBM patients that is already used to treat other cancer types including colorectal and gastric,” said Chelsea.
“The exciting aspect of this study is that if we see responsiveness to the FOLFIRI treatment regimen, there is potential for a phase II clinical trial to commence as FOLFIRI is already an FDA approved treatment regime for other cancers,” added Chelsea.
IHMRI is incredibly grateful for the ongoing support the Illawarra Cancer Carers provide. Their funding allows our research team to retain local talent and expand cancer research, which in turn will help saves lives in the future.
Emily O’Keefe, Marketing and Communications Manager
t: 02 4221 3620