UC cancer researchers awarded Melanie Swan fellowships

David Tuckwell 22 March 2017

Two young scholars at the University of Canberra have won fellowships to fund their cancer research.

Awarded to Robert McCuaig and Tara Boulding, in their 30s and 20s respectively, the pair will work under Professor Sudha Rao in developing cancer treatments and therapies.

“It’s a huge honour, it really is,” said Mr McCuaig. “I knew Melanie Swan personally. It is an honour to work in her memory and build on her legacy.”

The fellowships were created by UC in memory of Ms Swan, a Canberra mum who lost her battle with breast cancer last year.

Both Mr McCuaig and Ms Boulding are Ph.D. candidates. Early-career academics often have a hard time attracting funding. This is particularly true in blue sky academic projects such as curing cancer.

“Right now if a patient has cancer there is no real treatment to help them at all. You can slow it down but it is really difficult to help that patient but there’s quality of life issues,” Mr McCuaig said.

“Chemotherapy nukes the bulk of the tumour but it leaves behind cells that can grow later and be chemo resistant.

“What we’re trying to do is target those cells in conjunction with chemotherapy. The drug that we want to employ will kill the cancer stem cells, so it can hopefully lead to recovery.

“The other thing is early intervention. We want to look for early warning signs. The earlier you detect cancer the better your chances.”

Since 2015, more than $100,000 has been raised to support Professor Rao and her team.

Pictured above is Robert McCuaig, recipient of the fellowship. Photo credit: Kim Pham

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