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Discovery Fund supports SVI’s first ovarian cancer laboratory

Posted: 19th November 2021

When SVI supporter Christine Tarascio AM envisaged SVI’s Discovery Fund in 2007, her aim was to build an endowment fund of at least $5 million to provide support for innovative research at SVI.

This aim has become reality in 2020, with the Fund’s first major disbursement supporting recruitment of a new Lab Head in a high-need disease area.

Associate Professor Elaine Sanij, Head of the new DNA Damage and Cancer Therapy Laboratory, uses pioneering approaches to selectively cause high stress levels inside cancer cells, with the aim of discovering new therapies for ovarian cancer.

“Every day, four Australian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and three will go on to die from the disease,” says Elaine. “New and more personalised treatments for this cancer are desperately needed; many of the treatments for women today are virtually unchanged since the 1990s.”

Elaine’s research is squarely aimed at overcoming the cancer’s ability to develop drug resistance – and so prevent or delay the relapsing disease that results in the deaths of more than 1,000 Australian women each year.

“My goal is to disrupt the ability of ovarian cancer cells to repair the DNA damage caused by chemotherapy. I will push forward the development of new drugs, validate the drugs’ effectiveness in ovarian cancer models, and – when we have strong drug candidates in hand – initiate clinical trials,” Elaine explains.

“Elaine is an incredibly inspiring mid-career researcher, with a vision for change,” says Christine. “I am so saddened to hear that members of our Discovery Fund, as well as SVI staff, have suffered family tragedies from ovarian cancer in close and much-loved relatives. It’s personal stories like these which always help to strengthen my resolve to work harder and continue to grow the Discovery Fund.”

Elaine says, “I am enormously excited by the opportunity to establish this new laboratory at SVI, and to collaborate on the leading work in the area of DNA repair already carried out at SVI, headed by Associate Professors Andrew Deans and Wayne Crismani. I am also keen to develop new cross-disciplinary partnerships – enabling new research possibilities.”

Associate Professor Elaine Sanij has Fellowship funding from the Victorian Cancer Agency, and her work is also supported by NHMRC and the Cass Foundation.

Read more about the personal impact of ovarian cancer.

For more information please see: DNA damage & cancer therapy