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UNSW cancer researchers receive funding boost

UNSW research assessing the impact of genomic testing on women with a high-risk of developing breast cancer has received major backing in the latest round of funding from the Cancer Council NSW.

The research, led by Associate Professor Bettina Meiser, was one of five UNSW-linked projects across leukaemia, breast and rare cancers to win grants worth more than $1.7 million.

Associate Professor Meiser, from UNSW's Prince of Wales Clinical School and Lowy Cancer Research Centre, received $353,000 to look at the short and long-term psychological and behavioural impacts of gene testing for breast cancer in at-risk women.

Rapid advances in genomic technology now allow for testing for common genetic variants associated with breast cancer risk for the majority of hereditary breast cancer families. These advances will enable targeting of prevention and screening strategies to high-risk women.

Associate Professor Meiser’s study will assess the psychological and behavioural outcomes, including uptake of screening and preventative strategies, in 400 high-risk women, who will be invited to receive the results of their genomic testing.

Dr Karen McKenzie, a UNSW Conjoint Senior Lecturer from the Children’s Cancer Institute at the Lowy Cancer Research Centre, received $342,000 to study whether targeting a specific protein called dyskerin can make cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy, while alleviating inadvertent damage to healthy tissue.

Dr Jenny Wang, also from the Children’s Cancer Institute, will use $359,000 to continue her research into finding a new way to target the cells that lead to relapse from acute myeloid leukaemia.

UNSW Conjoint Senior Lecturer Dr Liz Caldon, based at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, received $360,000 to investigate if cancer cells become resistant to treatment because they accumulate unstable DNA.

Also at the Garvan Institute, UNSW Conjoint Professor Marcel Dinger, received $360,000 to continue his research into detecting gene mutations to give improved, targeted treatments for rare cancers of the head and neck

A total of 19 research projects out of 143 applicants were awarded $7 million in funding by the Cancer Council NSW. Read more on the Cancer Council NSW website