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Inaugural Steer North VCCC PhD Scholarship Awarded

  • Peter Mac
  • The University of Melbourne

Inaugural Steer North VCCC PhD Scholarship Awarded

On the road to reaching a shared goal

A journey that started with an epic bike ride from Melbourne to Cairns in December 2016 has reached an exciting milestone with the award of a new $100,000 PhD research scholarship for Australian cancer research.

Andrew Freeman, a researcher in cancer immunology at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre is the recipient of the inaugural Steer North VCCC PhD Research Scholarship.

The exciting research boost is possible thanks to the efforts of Steer North, a health promotion charity that undertakes epic cycle rides to raise funds for cancer research, education and patient care whilst encouraging people to live healthy and active lives. For their first ride, Steer North founders James Helal and Rita Nehme led a group of cyclists on a 4,000km odyssey from Melbourne to Cairns, raising $100,000 along the way.  Their efforts were inspired by James’s brother Mike, who died of sarcoma in 2015.

The significant scholarship will enable Andrew to complete his PhD through the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, working in the Immune Defence Laboratory at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, under the supervision of Dr Conor Kearney and Dr Jane Oliaro.  

Andrew’s research project focuses on identifying and examining novel resistance genes and mechanisms related to the killing of cancerous cells by natural killer cells, a type of immune cell critical to the innate immune system.  Andrew plans to use a combination of genetic screens and immunologic techniques to investigate these mechanisms and design approaches to disrupt or overcome them to improve anti-tumour immune responses from this cell type. This research will provide important mechanistic insight about natural killer cell function in cancer and could impact the way in which these cells can be targeted in the clinic, potentially paving the way for development of novel immunotherapies.

Andrew began his science career at Monash University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Biomedical Science and Bachelor of Science (Honours).  After his Honours year, Andrew joined the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre as a research assistant specialising in investigating the regulation of cytotoxic lymphocytes – the immune cells that are responsible for the recognition and killing of cancer cells.

Andrew says the Steer North VCCC PhD Scholarship will serve as a constant reminder of what great achievements can be attained when people unite to achieve a common goal.  “I am proud not only to contribute to the vision of the VCCC and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, but also that of Steer North.  I hope to inspire people to live healthy, active and creative lives through my research as well as through my personal life.  The passion and commitment that Steer North demonstrates to cancer research, education and patient care further inspires and motivates my own determination to answer the questions of my research,” he said.

“Andrew is working in an exciting area of research that is a key focus for the VCCC partners,” said VCCC Executive Director, Professor Grant McArthur.  I’m thrilled that this inaugural Steer North VCCC PhD Scholarship is supporting a dedicated and talented young Australian cancer researcher who shares the passion and energy of the people who have made it possible.  We will watch the progress of his research with great interest.”

The VCCC would like to thank the University of Melbourne for their support and assistance in the development and administration of this new scholarship: a great example of a community organisation, academia and research working collaboratively towards a shared goal.

Steer North 2

Executive Director of the VCCC, Prof Grant McArthur and Steer North VCCC PhD Research Scholarship recipient Andrew Freeman with Steer North founders, James Helal and Rita Nehme.