Ashleigh Hope and Dr Samantha Wade will join the Stars of Wollongong as a teacher and star respectively.

The IHMRI faces joining 2021 Stars of Wollongong

Two researchers from the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI) will be joining the annual Stars of Wollongong event, raising money for Cancer Council NSW.

Dr Samantha Wade and Ashleigh Hope will join as a ‘star’ and a ‘teacher’ respectively.

The pair works closely together under Dr Kara Vine-Perrow in the Targeted Cancer Therapeutics Research Laboratory, but will be competing against each other for the dance-off.

Samantha said while she has little dance experience, she thinks her competitive nature will put her above the rest and help boost her lab’s profile.

“I don’t have much dance skill, but I do like to win. When I try something new I usually go all in because I like to make sure I am good at it. I’m sure there will be some friendly competition, but I’m glad there will be a familiar face to alleviate some nerves,” she said.  

“I also think this is going to be a really good platform to raise awareness around our research, given that Ashleigh and I are both in the cancer research field. To link up with Cancer Council is really beneficial.”

Ashleigh, who is a professional dancer outside of her research role, said she is excited to see her two worlds collide for a worthy cause.

“I think it’s really cool that I get to combine my two loves of dance and cancer research into something that can benefit the community. It’s a really fun way to get involved with community outreach as well and let the people know about the research we’re doing here at IHMRI,” said Ashleigh.

Samantha and Ashleigh’s research looks into new ways of treating cancer through an implantable device, which can be loaded with chemotherapy drugs to target tumours without the harmful side effects.


Samantha has worked alongside numerous collaborators for the past six years to design and patent the device to be used in treating pancreatic cancer, which is currently in the pre-clincial stage.

“We focused on pancreatic cancer because it has such a low survival rate, and using traditional chemotherapy has been ineffective. We need to look at using old drugs in new ways,” Samantha said.

Ashleigh completed her Honours at IHMRI in 2020 and is due to begin her PhD in the spring semester. She currently works as a research assistant and hopes this exposure will help her as she enters the next stage of her career. 

“Not only do I want to work with the community to help get what we’re doing out there, but I think it will help with my scientific communication skills which is so important for career development, especially this early on.”

Their selection for Stars of Wollongong follows their success during NSW Women’s Week, where Ashleigh received the Dr Margaret Gardiner Award for Medical Research, and Samantha was named NSW Young Woman of the Year by Premier Gladys Berijiklian.

Stars of Wollongong is open to the whole community and will be held at WIN Entertainment Centre in Wollongong on Saturday 5 June.

The money raised from this event will go towards Cancer Council NSW and their world-class cancer research, prevention programs, advocacy, and support services to help those affected by cancer.

You can donate to Samantha’s fundraising, and Ashleigh’s partner Stu Butler, on the Cancer Council website.

Media contact

Lizzie Jack, Media and Content Coordinator

t: 4221 5432 e:

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