Posted 17 October 2023

Inspiring support
From left to right: A/prof Elaine Sanij, Mrs Barbara Ralph, Mr John Ralph AC, Kezia Gitareja, Shilini Chelliah

Shalini Sundramurthi Chelliah knew she wanted to be a researcher when she was barely in her teens.

After watching her beloved grandmother succumb to cervical cancer, Shalini was determined to better understand the disease that took the “iron lady” of their family.

“I was nine years old when my grandmother was diagnosed with cervical cancer and it was shocking to see what it did to her,” says Shalini.

“I knew even then that I wanted to study this disease and, hopefully, one day aid in the discovery of a cure for cancer.”

After completing her undergraduate degree, Shalini was determined to work with Associate Professor Elaine Sanij.

“Elaine’s lab was the only one I wanted to be in even before completing my Honours. After the pandemic chaos settled down, I got on a plane from Malaysia to start my PhD working with her on a potential new treatment for ovarian cancer.”

Shalini is a part of a team that is researching a new drug that could prove to be an effective new treatment for this and other types of cancer.

“My research involves identifying specific genes which, if targeted with this drug, could stop ovarian cancer from continuing to grow. It’s very exciting to be on the cutting edge of science like this,” she said.

The drug which is in early phase clinical trials, could be just the beginning of a new class of cancer therapy for a range of cancers such as multiple myeloma, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer.

Shalini, along with two other recipients of a PhD Top-up Scholarship, presented her work at a recent Support Group morning tea and was so impressive she inspired additional support.

“Long standing donors, John and Barbara Ralph were so impressed with Shalini that they have doubled their support of the Top-up Scholarship Program,” said Associate Professor Elaine Sanij.

“Shalini is a rising star in the making. We’re very lucky to have her here at SVI.”