Researcher

Professor Michelle Haber

My Expertise

Molecular mechanisms of treatment failure in childhood cancer; molecular detection of residual disease in childhood cancer; molecular biology of childhood cancer.

Biography

I obtained my PhD at UNSW in 1984, and subsequently undertook postdoctoral studies at Hadassah Hebrew University, Israel and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York. I was appointed as the Director of the Children's Cancer Institute in 2000, and then Executive Director in 2003, where I also head the institute's Experimental Therapeutics Program. 

My research is focussed on improving treatment for neuroblastoma and acute lymphoblastic...view more

I obtained my PhD at UNSW in 1984, and subsequently undertook postdoctoral studies at Hadassah Hebrew University, Israel and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York. I was appointed as the Director of the Children's Cancer Institute in 2000, and then Executive Director in 2003, where I also head the institute's Experimental Therapeutics Program. 

My research is focussed on improving treatment for neuroblastoma and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in children through identifying molecular targets that drive cancer growth and development, developing new drugs to inhibit the action of these targets, and combining existing and new drug treatments into novel therapeutic approaches. In addition, my team and I are developing molecular diagnostic platforms that have improved risk assessment and hence doubled survival rates in children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, and then expanding the molecular diagnostic capabilities into a national precision medicine program in which molecular profiling of individual children’s tumours is now available to every child in Australia with a high risk malignancy.


My Grants

  • 2019- 2021  The Kids Cancer Project- 'Zero Childhood Cancer: Personalised Medicine'
  • 2019- 2021  Cancer Australia- 'Targeting the NAD pathway as a new therapeutic strategy for high-risk leukaemia in children'
  • 2019- 2023 APP1159004 NHMRC Partnerships Project- 'The economic impact of precision medicine in high risk and aggressive childhood cancer'
  • 2018-2022 Children’s Cancer Foundation- 'SIOPEN neuroblastoma clinical trials in Australia and New Zealand'
  • 2018-2021 Children’s Cancer Foundation- 'Leveraging the SIOPEN High risk 2.0 clinical trial for high-risk neuroblastoma to understand relapse, improve residual disease detection and develop pre-clinical testing models for high-risk neuroblastoma'
  • 2018 Cancer Australia/Medical Research Future Fund Australian Brain Cancer Mission- 'Zero Childhood Brain'

  • 2019 Tour de Cure Foundation - 'A personalised medicine approach to the treatment of acute myeloid leukaemia in children'

  • 2018 REG181200 – Cancer Institute NSW Research Equipment Grant- 'Australia’s first deformability cytometer – a novel tool for cancer mechanobiology and diagnosis'

  • 2018- 2020 APP1136278 – NHMRC Development Grant- 'Multidrug Resistance Protein 1 inhibitors to sensitise cancers to chemotherapy'

  • 2018- 2022 APP1132608 – NHMRC Program Grant- 'More effective therapeutic targeting of high risk childhood cancer: Neuroblastoma as a model'


My Qualifications

1984             PhD                                                                              University of New South Wales

1978-79       PhD qualifying program                                           University of New South Wales

1978             BSc (Psych) Honours Class 1, University Medal   University of New South Wales

2008             D.Sc. honaris causa                                                   University of New South Wales

 


My Awards

Honours:

2007             Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for services to science in the field of research into childhood cancer, to scientific education and to the community.

2008-10      Elected Incoming President, Advances in Neuroblastoma Research Association.

2008             Awarded the Degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, in recognition of eminent service to the community, University of New South Wales.

2015             Inaugural Fellow, Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences.

2016             Convenor, 17th International Symposium on Advances in Neuroblastoma Research

 

Awards:

2011             Winner - NSW Science and Engineering Award for Biomedical Sciences.

2012             Winner - Cancer Institute NSW Premier’s Award for Excellence in Translational Cancer Research.

2013             Finalist - NSW Health Jamie Callachor Eureka Prize for Medical Research Translation.

2014             Winner - Best Translational Research Presentation, Advances in Neuroblastoma Research Congress, Cologne, Germany.

2014             Winner - Cancer Institute NSW’s Premier’s Award for Outstanding Cancer Researcher of the Year.

2015             Finalist - The Australian Innovation Challenge Award, for pioneering work in improving the survival rates of children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

2018             Finalist - CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science.


My Research Activities

Michelle Haber’s earlier studies were amongst the first characterising the complex molecular mechanisms underlying therapy-related drug resistance. She identified the relationship between high expression of multidrug transporter gene MRP1, the malignant phenotype of neuroblastoma and poor clinical outcome – the first definitive demonstration of clinical relevance of the MRP1 gene in human solid tumours. She subsequently established high-throughput chemical screening of small molecule libraries and developed novel MRP1 inhibitors for the treatment of neuroblastoma and other MRP1-assciated malignancies. This led to a $3.1M ACRF award to establish a Drug Discovery Centre for Childhood Cancer which is now developing a pipeline of potential new drugs for treating childhood and adult malignancies. She’s also established polyamine inhibition and FACT inhibition as novel approaches to target refractory childhood neuroblastoma, with her findings being translated into several international clinical trials. 

Michelle also played a major role in developing PCR-based technology to detect the presence of residual disease in bone marrow of children after initial cancer treatment. This and other molecular tests she developed laid the foundation for establishment of the national Zero Childhood Cancer Personalised Medicine Program, which has now been rolled out in every Australian paediatric oncology facility.

Michelle is currently working towards more effective treatments for individual childhood cancers by identifying molecular targets that drive the growth and development of cancer in children, developing new drugs to inhibit the action of these targets, and combining existing and new drug treatments into novel therapeutic approaches that can be rapidly translated into national and international clinical trials.

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Location

Children's Cancer Institute
Lowy Cancer Research Centre, UNSW Australia
PO Box 81 Randwick 2031 Australia


Contact

+61 2 9382 1821
+61 2 9382 1850