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24 Jul 2019

2019 Picchi Award for Excellence in Cancer Research announced

  • Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
  • University of Melbourne
  • Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre
  • Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
  • Picchi Brothers Foundation

2019 Picchi Award for Excellence in Cancer Research announced

One of Australia’s most prestigious prizes for excellence in cancer research was awarded this week.

The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) together with the Picchi Brothers Foundation awarded three outstanding VCCC alliance member PhD students with a Picchi Award in Basic Science, Clinical Science and Population Health.

The $10,000 award empowers winners to travel internationally or attend a conference to extend their networks and make connections in their chosen field. Each of the winners delivered a presentation of their work at an award ceremony at the VCCC on Monday 22 July. 

The 2019 award recipients are:

Basic Science - Amanda Oliver, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology.
Tissue-specific tumour microenvironments and their impact on immunotherapy responses.

Clinical Science - Edward Chew, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Department of Medical Biology.
Identification of novel genetic drivers in the development of acute myeloid leukemia.

Population Health - Sibel Saya, the University of Melbourne, Department of General Practice.
The acceptability, feasibility and clinical utility of a genomic profile to target screening for colorectal cancer.

Celebrating the next generation of cancer research leaders

Amanda Oliver (right above with trophy) is a 3rd year PhD student at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in the Cancer Immunology Research Program under the supervision of Associate Professor Michael Kershaw, Dr Clare Slaney and Professor Phil Darcy. Her research highlights the importance in defining tissue-specific response patterns in human cancers to better treat patients with current and future immunotherapies. Amanda said, “I am incredibly honoured to be receiving the Picchi Award and with it the opportunity to interact with world-leaders in my field, kick-starting what I hope to be a prolific career in the fight against cancer.”

Collaborating with world leaders in the United States

Consultant haematologist Dr Edward Chew (left above with trophy) is completing his translational research PhD at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research with Professor Andrew Roberts, Professor Warren Alexander and Dr Ian Majewski. He is passionate about bringing medical genomics from the laboratory into every-day clinical practice and plans to spend six months with Professor Lucy Godley at the University of Chicago next year. Edward says, “Professor Godley and her department are the world-leading authority on the genetic syndromes that predispose to leukaemias. Working with her will be an invaluable learning experience.”

Sibel Saya (centre above with trophy) is in the final year of her PhD at the University of Melbourne Centre for Cancer Research (UMCCR). Sibel previously worked as a genetic counsellor at London’s Royal Marsden Hospital and then at the Institute of Cancer Research looking at strategies for prostate cancer screening for men at different levels of genetic risk. This influenced her PhD which examines how to translate new genomic risk tests for use within the whole population to tailor cancer screening, with a focus on colorectal cancer.

Sibel says, “The Picchi Brothers Foundation is an incredible organisation and I am very much looking forward to my trip and bringing back the knowledge I gain to my PhD and future work within the VCCC alliance.”

Monday’s event was attended by Picchi Brothers Foundation Board members and some of Melbourne’s leading cancer clinicians and researchers. A further feature of this year’s ceremony was a presentation from the VCCC Education Program on the impact of small grant funding in assisting the early career progression of cancer researchers.

Picchi Brothers Foundation Chairman Mr Joseph Lukaitis said, “It is great to see the enthusiasm of the Picchi Award winners, their supervisors, colleagues, peers and family. The VCCC’s evaluation of the award demonstrates its value, and more than ever convinces us that the Picchi Brothers Foundation is contributing to the future of cancer research. We have kept in touch with past winners; their progress has been outstanding and inspiring.”