Pancare Scholarships & Awards Program
Pancare recognises that fostering an engaged clinical research community is a major factor in developing research programs and clinical trials that will progress the therapies and best-practice care for those impacted by upper gastrointestinal (GI) cancers into the future. In line with Pancare’s ‘Supporting Future Leaders’ pillar in its Research Strategy, Pancare funds a range of Scholarships and Awards for emerging leaders in the field of upper GI cancer research.
The aim of the Pancare Scholarships & Awards Program is to engage early-career researchers in accelerating world-leading research and clinical trials that will deliver results that improve outcomes and quality of life for those living with upper GI cancer, their carers and families.
The Pancare Scholarships & Awards Program includes regular awarding of funds to emerging researchers with high-quality projects that have best chance of positively impacting the lives of those who are affected by pancreatic, oesophageal, stomach, liver and biliary cancers.
2021 Pancare Foundation Scholarships Announced
The Pancare Foundation proudly welcomes a new pair of Pancare Scholarship winners for the 2021 award round.
Dr Michael Kuan-Ching Lee, a medical oncologist from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the University of Melbourne, has been awarded the 2021 Onwards & Upwards Damien Woodruff Scholarship, to continue his PhD studies on targeting alternative splicing as a new therapeutic strategy for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.
Ms Antonia Cadell, from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, has been awarded the 2021 Phil Sly Research Scholarship. Through her PhD research, Antonia aims to establish the significance of subcellular “JNK” activity in pancreatic cancer and determine whether the novel therapeutic agents capable of specifically targeting oncogenic JNK activity in triple negative breast cancer will also be relevant for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
Pancare Foundation continues to deliver significant investment in research for better treatments and better lives for Australians impacted by pancreatic and upper gastrointestinal cancers with this year’s scholarships delivering $180,000 in much needed support for early-career researchers.
Pancare is offering two scholarships in its 2021 application round, including the Phil Sly Research Scholarship and introducing the inaugural Onwards & Upwards Damien Woodruff Scholarship. Pancare is also raising the value of both awards on offer in 2021, each award now totalling $75,000 over three years.
Phil Sly Research Scholarship
The Phil Sly Research Scholarship was first awarded in 2013 to honour the life of Phil Sly, who was an entrepreneur, building developer, racehorse owner, philanthropist and cancer survivor. He battled colorectal cancer, liver and lung metastases with the same determination as applied to all aspects of his life. Phil was a supporter and friend to the Pancare Foundation from its early days. He believed in fostering world-class research to improve the management of pancreatic, liver, biliary, oesophageal and stomach cancers. This scholarship acknowledges his generosity, passion and inspirational approach to life.
The Pancare Foundation offers the Phil Sly research scholarship to support a dedicated PhD candidate to achieve success in important research related to pancreatic, liver, biliary, oesophageal or stomach cancers.
Funds for the Phil Sly Research Scholarship have been graciously donated by the Sly family and through Pancare’s Heidelberg Corporate Golf Day.
2013 – Dr Venessa Chin, Garvan Institute, NSW. Biomarker and Targeted Novel Drug Development in Pancreatic Cancer
2021 – Antonia Cadell, Garvan Institute, NSW. Dissecting the role of subcellular JNK activity in pancreatic cancer.
New Onwards & Upwards Damien Woodruff Scholarship
The newest Pancare Foundation Scholarship has been named in honour of Damien Woodruff, a bank executive, family man and pancreatic cancer survivor. After suffering vague symptoms for several months, Damien developed jaundice, which triggered a relatively early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in January 2015. This early diagnosis meant that he was able to opt for a Whipple procedure for the best chance of a cure. Following surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, Damien lived his “new” best life with family and friends for almost four years.
Despite the adversity ahead of him and his family, Damien would always say ‘onwards and upwards’ to shift his mindset and move past the hurdles of their cancer journey. Damien desperately wanted to defy the odds to become a five-year survivor, but that wasn’t to be as Damien’s journey with pancreatic cancer sadly ended in January 2019.
For the Woodruff family and Damien’s legacy, early detection is the most important breakthrough Australia needs when it comes to making progress in the fight against pancreatic cancer. In addition to more Australians being aware of the symptoms of the disease, Damien would be hoping that through research an early detection test would be available to everyone. It’s one of the ways we can improve the survival rate for future generations. The Pancare Foundation offers the Onwards & Upwards Damien Woodruff Scholarship to support a dedicated PhD candidate to achieve success in high-quality research related to pancreatic cancer – with a focus on early diagnosis or supportive care for patients, carers and families.
Funds for the Onwards & Upwards Damien Woodruff Scholarship have been graciously donated by Insurance Advisernet and raised through Pancare’s Festival of Sport event.
2021 – Dr Michael Kuan-Ching Lee, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre / University of Melbourne Centre for Cancer Research. The Role of Alternative Splicing as a New Therapeutic Modality for Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma
Cancer Australia Priority-driven Collaborative Cancer Research Scheme
Additional to the Pancare Scholarships & Awards Program, Pancare actively supports Cancer Australia’s Priority-driven Collaborative Cancer Research Scheme (PdCCRS) with collaborative funding for early-career projects to support research that reduces the impact of cancer on the community and improves outcomes for people affected by cancer.
Pancare is currently supporting a 2019 PdCCRS Project Grant scheme (Dr Kara Vine-Perrow, University of Wollongong) and will support the new 2021 PdCCRS Early Career Research stream, for which funding will begin in 2022.
Experienced investigators as well as Early Career Researchers with less than 7 years post-PhD or post-MBBS are eligible to apply for the PdCCRS Early Career grants, with a prerequisite NHMRC Ideas Grants Scheme application submitted.
View more information about 2021 PdCCRS awards for commencement of funding in 2022 on Grants Connect, which includes the 2021 PdCCRS Research Priorities and a Grant Round Description.
Past Pancare Scholarship & Award Winners
Scholarship winner: Dr Ashleigh Poh
Institution: La Trobe University and The Olivia Newton John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI)
Project: Targeting HCK in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma to restrict tumour growth and metastasis.
Cancer type: Pancreatic
Dr Ashleigh Poh’s jointly funded PdCCRS project defined the therapeutic benefit of targeting a protein known as Haematopoietic Cell Kinase (HCK) in pancreatic cancer. The HCK enzyme is expressed in a type of immune cell known as a macrophage, which are a major component of pancreatic tumours. The more HCK activity a macrophage has, the more it is able to promote tumour growth. Dr Poh’s work hypothesised that the inhibition of HCK would reduce pancreatic cancer progression and spread by impairing the ability of macrophages to promote tumour growth. Publication of this research is expected in 2021.
This scholarship resulted from a key collaboration between Pancare, Cancer Australia and the Cure Cancer Foundation through Cancer Australia’s PdCCRS grant funding program.
Scholarship winner: Dr Venessa Chin
Institution: Garvan Institute of Medical Research, NSW
Project: Biomarker and Targeted Novel Drug Development in Pancreatic Cancer
Cancer type: Pancreatic
A Medical Oncologist now at the Kinghorn Cancer Centre at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, Dr Venessa Chin completed her PhD work within the Personalised Cancer Therapeutics group at the Garvan Institute for Medical Research. Dr Chin was the inaugural winner of the Phil Sly Research Scholarship in 2013, which supported her project which used genomics to inform therapeutic discoveries in pancreatic cancer. The project included a meta-analysis, in vitro and in vivo analyses of rationally-selected drug targets as well as an analysis of real-time metastasis formation in the pancreas.
Dr Chin used her Phil Sly Research Scholarship funds to support her contributions to several high-impact publications, including seminal articles in Cochrane Reviews, Expert Reviews in Molecular Medicine and the World Journal of Gastroenterology. This important body of work is continuing to deliver the research framework for positive outcomes for those affected by pancreatic cancer.
Scholarship winner: Dr Kai Wang
Institution: The University of Melbourne, Vic
Project: Inhibition of PAKs suppresses tumour progression, improves survival and enhances effects of chemotherapeutic agents.
Cancer type: Pancreatic
Dr Kai Wang was awarded the Moshe Sambor Research Scholarship in 2015 for his work on pancreatic cancer at the University of Melbourne. Ultimately completing his PhD in 2019 with support from the award, Dr Wang produced five high-impact research publications and delivered several international presentations.
P21-activated kinases (PAKs) are down-stream effectors of KRAS oncogene, which predominately drives the development of pancreatic cancer. Dr Wang investigated the role of PAKs in tumour biology and therapeutic regimens. He discovered that inhibition of PAKs can suppress tumour progression, improve survival in mouse models and enhance the effects of chemotherapy agents. He also showed that PAKs were potentially involved in the body’s immune response against cancer cells. His work is continuing in Melbourne and has led to the discovery of new medicines being developed to fight pancreatic cancer.
Following his PhD graduation, Dr Wang returned to China and continued his general surgical training in a Hangzhou, First People’s Hospital, Zheijang Unveristy.
Dr Wang said, “Study and living experience in University of Melbourne was a part of valuable and precious memory in my life. I do appreciate the Pancare Foundation for giving me the Moshe Sambor Scholarship to support my PhD research in pancreatic cancer. I firmly believe that research project investment could re-shape our management of cancer.”
This award was made possible by Mr Perry Sambor, businessman, advocate of Victoria’s racing industry and Founding Director of the Live Life Foundation. This award honoured Perry’s late father, Moshe, who battled with stomach cancer.
This award enabled a talented clinician-scientist, Dr Wang, to undertake three years of research in Australia as part of a PhD degree, which has gone a long way to improving outcomes of patients with pancreatic, liver, biliary, stomach and oesophageal cancers.
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