Congratulations to Professor Mark Dawson who was today announced as a recipient of Cancer Council Victoria's Sir Edward Dunlop Research Fellowship. The Fellowship provides $1.55M over five years to support Prof Dawson's pioneering research into epigenetic regulators, unlocking their potential to support new cancer treatments.
“This is the most common class of genes and proteins mutated in cancer and they control the critical processes of gene expression, DNA repair and DNA replication,” Professor Dawson says.
“My lab at Peter Mac is identifying new methods to influence and ultimately target these epigenetic regulators with drugs that can counteract cancers that are hard to treat.
“For example, this approach could yield new ways to eradicate cancer stem cells which we know are very adept at evading the immune system, and many cancer drugs, to sustain the malignancy.”
Unlike conventional chemotherapies that often suppress the immune system, targeted therapies such as epigenetic therapies may enable the patient’s active immune system to recognise cancer cells as foreign and ultimately help eradicate them.
Professor Dawson’s research has a particular focus on, and application to, blood cancers including acute myeloid leukaemia. His discoveries in this field over ten years include helping to develop a first-in-class epigenetic therapy now being assessed in more than 30 multi-centre clinical trials around the world.
Peter Mac’s Executive Director of Cancer Research Professor Ricky Johnstone said the Fellowship had recognised Professor Dawson’s outstanding contribution to Peter Mac and his hugely influential and high-impact research.
“Epigenetics therapy represents an exciting new approach within the broad pipeline of research underway at Peter Mac to identify new cancer treatments,” Professor Johnstone says.
“We thank the Cancer Council for their support and congratulate Professor Dawson for his Fellowship which also provides the critical funding necessary to accelerate his important work.”
Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said, if successful, Professor Dawson’s research could pioneer new treatments for a broad array of cancers.
“The outcomes of this Fellowship could be of great benefit not only to Victorian cancer patients, but also to people around the world,” Mr Harper says.
“This body of work will not only provide important new insights into the molecular make-up of cancer, it has the potential to deliver new treatments that could significantly increase the survival of cancer patients.”
Mr Harper said the fellowship was named in memory of Sir Edward "Weary" Dunlop to mark his contribution to Australia and, in particular, to the work of Cancer Council Victoria.
“Thanks to a generous support from the Victorian community we are thrilled to be in a position to help fund world-leading researcher like Professor Dawson right here in Victoria,” Mr Harper also says.
About Professor Mark Dawson
After completing his clinical training in Melbourne, Professor Dawson was awarded the prestigious General Sir John Monash Fellowship and Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Fellowship, which he used to complete his PhD at the University of Cambridge. Following his PhD, he was the top ranked applicant for a career development fellowship in the UK and was awarded the inaugural Wellcome Trust Beit Prize Fellowship to pursue his research into epigenetic regulation of leukaemia stem cells. Professor Dawson’s research has been published in world leading journals including Nature, Cell, Science and New England Journal of Medicine. Professor Dawson is now head of the Translational Haematology Program at Peter Mac.
Below: Prof Dawson with all recipients of the Sir Edward Dunlop Research Fellowship. From left: Prof David Vaux, Prof Andrew Roberts, Prof Clare Scott and Prof Grant McArthur.