Peter Mac’s best and brightest have been recognised in this year’s prizes for top research.

Dr Anna Trigos and Dr Gabrielle Haeusler were awarded joint winners of the Peter Mac Postgraduate Medal for most outstanding performance in PhD studies.

Dr Trigos was also lead author on a study awarded the Joseph F. Sambrook Prize for Research Excellence, alongside senior author Dr David Goode and co-authors Prof Rick Pearson and Prof Tony Papenfuss.

Dr Haeusler received the Postgraduate Medal for her studies centred on fever and neutropenia (FN) in children, a condition where numbers of neutrophil white blood cells reach abnormally low levels as a result of cancer treatments, increasing a child’s risk of infection.

Dr Haeusler’s PhD aimed to improve understanding of the assessment and management of FN in children with cancer in Australia, and to facilitate treatment that is tailored to the patient’s risk of infection.

Earlier this year Dr Haeusler’s outstanding PhD was also recognised by the University of Melbourne, and she was awarded the Chancellor’s Prize for Excellence in a PhD Thesis.

Dr Trigos’ award-winning research focuses on the genetic changes that can occur within cancers that cause them to change and evolve over time, a process that can lead to cancer spread and therapy-resistance.

Her PhD studies uncovered vulnerabilities associated with these changes that could lead to the design of better anti-cancer therapies in the future. 

This was also the topic of the research paper awarded the Joseph F. Sambrook Prize for Research Excellence, published in the journal PNAS and entitled Altered interactions between unicellular and multicellular genes drive hallmarks of transformation in a diverse range of solid tumors.

The research, conducted by an all Peter Mac team of Dr Trigos, Dr Goode, Prof Pearson and Prof Papenfuss (also of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute), revealed that cancer cells are more ‘selfish’ compared to normal organs and tissues, reverting back to more primitive ways of functioning similar to unicellular organisms such as amoeba and bacteria.

On the back of this work, Dr Trigos and Dr Goode have presented their groundbreaking studies on cancer evolution around the world, and were even invited to contribute as a world-leading experts on cancer evolutionary biology to the Darwin Cancer Blog, led by global expert on evolution Prof Mel Greaves at the Institute of Cancer Research in the UK.

We are immensely proud of this year’s Research award recipients, exemplifying the world-leading cancer research being conducted at Peter Mac every day.