FUNDING of $8 million, over eight years, has brought one of the world’s most promising early-career cancer researchers to Canberra to further studies on cancer immunotherapy research.
Dr Marian Burr, who is “leading research” in the cancer immunotherapy field, according to ANU vice-chancellor Prof Brian Schmidt, will continue her research at ANU’s John Curtin School of Medical Research as part of a fellowship from the Snow Medical Research Foundation (Snow Medical).
The money will support Dr Burr to expand on her research, which looks into how the human immune system can hunt down and eradicate cancer.
“The Snow Fellowship provides a tremendous opportunity for me to focus on unlocking the power of cancer immunotherapy—an emerging treatment which uses the power of a patient’s immune system to help hunt down and destroy cancer,” Dr Burr says.
“Cancer immunotherapy is revolutionising the treatment of many cancers and is leading to dramatic improvements in survival.”
Dr Burr will use her fellowship to build on her current research examining “immune checkpoint inhibitors”—or ICI. This therapy activates T cells in the patient’s own immune system to find and eliminate cancer.
“It’s like shining a spotlight on the cancer cells which the T cells then see and target. ICI therapy can lead to long-term complete remission, even in patients with very advanced cancers,” Dr Burr says.
“What is so exciting is the incredible potential immunotherapy has to wipe out cancer that has spread to different parts of the body. And for some cancers that’s a complete game-changer.
“Using cutting-edge technologies, my team will build on our recent discoveries to enhance immune targeting of aggressive cancers—such as lung cancer, melanoma and leukaemia, and to better understand the mechanisms cancer cells use to hide or shield themselves from the immune system.”
Prof Schmidt congratulated Terry Snow for bringing one of the world’s most promising early-career cancer researchers to ANU and Canberra—an outcome that he says will not only benefit Australia but the world.
“Cancer is a killer, and it has been a terrible killer for many years. But in Marian, cancer has a formidable enemy, and the work she will undertake as part of this research program will give hope to many both now and in the future,” he says.