Congratulations to Peter Mac researchers, Dr Benjamin Teh and Dr Gabrielle Haeusler, who were both presented with a 2018 Premier's Award for excellence in health and medical research.
This prestigious award - presented by Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy at Deakin Edge - honours the outstanding work and discoveries of up-and-coming health and medical researchers in the early stages of their careers.
This year, the awards – in their 24th year – expanded to include categories in the areas of basic science, clinical, public health and health services research.
Dr Haeusler won the Health Services Researcher category for her work improving research and care of febrile neutropenia in childhood cancer patients.
Fever and a low white-cell count (known as febrile neutropenia or FN) is the most common complication of childhood cancer treatment
In Australia, hospitals do not have low-risk FN programs which would enable children at low risk of infection to be safely managed at home, improving quality of life and reducing healthcare costs.
Dr Haeusler's PhD aimed to standardise the way paediatric FN research is conducted across the world, understand how FN in children is managed in Australia and to test how children with low-risk FN can be better identified in Victoria.
As a result international experts agreed on a list of core research outcomes and definitions to standardise FN research and ensure relevant results for medical staff and patients across the globe.
Research results are being implemented at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital to reduce hospital admissions by up to 4 days in children with low-risk FN, and informed the NHMRC-funded Predicting Infectious Complications in Children with Cancer (PICNICC) project, linking eight paediatric cancer hospitals, ensuring all children with cancer across Australia benefit from these findings.
Dr Teh won the Clinical Researcher category for his work to improve the care of infections in patients with blood cancer multiple myeloma treated with new generation therapies.
Infections are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with myeloma (MM) cancer.
Patterns and risk factors for serious infections remain undefined despite increasing use of new generation anti-myeloma drugs. Assessing the risk for infection is also becoming more challenging as these drugs have wide effects on the immune system.
The research aims were to address gaps in knowledge about infection pattern and risk factors for a range of serious infections and to improve infection care by trialling the use of immune profiling to predict future risk for infection.
The findings have advanced knowledge of infections in patients with MM, contributed significantly to the scientific literature in this field and by helping to predict and prevent infections, changed clinical practice.
Two Peter Mac researchers were also short-listed for an award, Dean Sydney Tyler for the Basic Science Researcher Category and Dr Paul Yeh for the Clinical Researcher category.