Medical researchers receive NHMRC funding boost

Macquarie University Professors Richard Kefford and Johanna Westbrook are involved in separate medical research projects which received National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding last week.

Professor Kefford is lead researcher, and Macquarie University the administering institution, on a $14 million research program to study the molecular determinants of risk, progression and treatment response in melanoma.

Melanoma is a major Australian health problem. It is the fourth most common cancer in men and women and has a disproportionately heavy impact on productive years of life because it is among the most common causes of cancer death in younger adults.

“This is an era of rapid change in the prospects of successfully treating this dangerous cancer, and this Program has real prospects of accelerating its prevention, and early detection, and of making realistic progress towards a cure of metastatic disease,” says Professor Kefford.

The investigating team also includes researchers from the University of Sydney, as well as the Centenary Institute, the Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research, and the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

All investigators are part of Melanoma Institute Australia, the world’s largest cancer centre dedicated to research and treatment of melanoma, and have been linked as a NHMRC Program since 2006. Treating 1900 new melanoma patients annually, the MIA’s repository of clinical research data and melanoma biospecimens is the largest in the world.

Professor Westbrook, of the Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research at the Australian Institute of Health Innovation, is the lead researcher on a Partnership Project grant titled “Delivering safe and effective care for children in hospital with eHealth systems”. The partners on the project include eHealth NSW, the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network, and NSW Kids and Families.

She is also involved in another Partnership Project grant, focusing on a “Patient-centred eHealth approach to improving outcomes for gout sufferers”, together with a range of industry partners including Arthritis Australia and AstraZeneca.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Sakkie Pretorius said “I’d like to congratulate Professors Kefford and Westbrook on their NHMRC grant funding success – it’s exciting to watch Macquarie’s emergence as a leading research area in health and medicine. More importantly, patients, their families and the wider community will benefit from the great work these researchers and their colleagues are involved in at Macquarie and in collaboration with other leading institutions.”