PhD Scholars program trains paediatric precision medicine leaders

A new PhD scholars program in paediatric cancer precision medicine has been established at Hudson Institute of Medical Research with co-funding from the Children’s Cancer Foundation.

From left: Dr Dhanya Sooraj, Dr Jason Cain, Dr Daniel Gough, Professor Bryan Williams, Associate Professor Ron Firestein, Ms Caroline Drinkwater, Ms Hui Kheng Chua.

The program will train the next generation of scientists in advanced functional and structural genomics, development of patient-centric preclinical models, bioinformatics analytics and translational research with the aim of directly improving medical outcome for children with cancer.

Associate Professor Ron Firestein, Head of Hudson Institute’s Centre for Cancer Research, says the program will equip three PhD scholars over five years with the skills they need to tackle paediatric cancer through precision medicine.

“Cancer precision medicine is an new, effective treatment approach that targets therapy to a patient’s tumour, based on their individual genetic characteristics. It has the potential to revolutionise the way childhood cancer is treated,” A/Prof Firestein says.

“This is an emerging area that requires a specialist skillset, from advanced functional genomics to data interpretation and bioinformatics and through this program, our scholars will acquire those skills.”

The $1.3 million Hudson-Monash Paediatric Precision Medicine Program, a collaborative project funded by the Children’s Cancer Foundation, will provide the basis for the PhD scholars program by granting access to the technologies and data required for this research.

Claire Shi with her PhD supervisor, Associate Professor Ron Firestein

PhD students will be trained by leaders in cancer research at Hudson Institute, including A/Prof Firestein, Dr Daniel Gough and Dr Jason Cain. The team will also implement student exchange programs with newly established global partners in paediatric cancer precision medicine.

First PhD scholar

Claire Shi – first PhD student to join the scholars program.

“It was meeting cancer patients during my routine rounds with doctors at a leading Shanghai hospital that inspired me to take up research,” Ms Shi says. “I hope to train my creative thinking and working abilities and gain lab experience to help me accomplish my goals and better treat paediatric cancer,” said Claire.

“The Children’s Cancer Foundation is proud to co-fund with Hudson Institute three PhD scholarships, and is delighted to welcome Claire as our first PhD scholar,” Aileen Boyd-Squires, Chief Executive of the Foundation says.

“The Foundation is committed to investing in innovative paediatric cancer research, such as the Hudson-Monash Paediatric Precision Medicine Program, and training the next generation of outstanding paediatric cancer researchers is a priority. Our hope is that all children with cancer have access to kinder and more targeted therapies, to improve their outcomes and ultimately save their lives.”

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