A brain researcher looking at scans

­A Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) researcher has been recognised for a project that will ‘map’ the cells of a common childhood brain cancer to help discover more targeted treatments.

Dr Sean Humphrey has received the Peter Doherty Investigator Award for being the highest ranked recipient of an Investigator grant in the Emerging Leadership category by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NMHRC).

The accolade is named in honour of Nobel Prize winning immunology researcher Professor Peter Doherty and recognises those who are becoming leaders in their respective fields.

Dr Humphrey has also received the Commonwealth Health Minister’s Award, which recognises the outstanding achievements of an Australian medical researcher and the positive future impact of their work. The award was presented by Federal Health Minister Mark Butler in Canberra.

The Commonwealth Health Minister’s Award will provide Dr Humphrey with $50,000 to further explore the cells that make up medulloblastoma, the most common type of childhood brain cancer. This is in addition to Dr Humphrey’s recent NHMRC Investigator Grant funding.

Dr Humphrey was encouraged by the accolades and noted that all new cases of medulloblastoma in Australia required invasive surgery.

“One in five children with brain cancer will be diagnosed with medulloblastoma, making it imperative that we investigate how these tumours occur and how we can improve treatment,” he said.

“This project will focus on proteins, which play an important role within cells but can cause cancer or other diseases when they don’t work properly.”

Dr Humphrey said that the project would utilise MCRI’s Mass Spectrometer technology to ‘map’ vulnerabilities within brain cancer cells.

“The mass spec acts like a telescope pointing at the night sky, revealing lots of details not seen before and allowing us to compare the functions of healthy cells with cancer cells,” he said.

Dr Humphrey said he hoped the findings would inform new and innovative cancer treatments.

“About 95 per cent of drug treatments for complex disease target proteins, so the better we understand proteins within cancer cells, the closer we get to developing precision treatments,” he said.

*The content of this communication is the sole responsibility of MCRI and does not reflect the views of the NHMRC.

child in hospital

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