Cancer researcher nominated for NSW Young Woman of the Year

Tuesday, 29 January, 2019

Cancer researcher nominated for NSW Young Woman of the Year

Voting is now open for the NSW Women of the Year Awards, which every year celebrate the outstanding contribution made by women across NSW to industry, communities and society. And this year, one of the nominees is being recognised for her research into some of the world’s deadliest cancers.

Dr Angelica Merlot (pictured) completed her PhD in Medicine at the University of Sydney at just 24 years of age, focusing on the development of novel drugs to selectively kill cancer cells. The success of this research contributed to a multicentre clinical trial, treating patients with advanced tumours around Australia.

“I have a close family member with leukaemia and I’ve lost an uncle and aunt to cancer,” said Dr Merlot, who became interested in biology as a high school student at Brigidine College Randwick. “I’ve always been interested in how the human body works in normal and diseased states, and how we can alter these states through medicine. It was firsthand experience that really pushed me to enter the field.”

Now a UNSW Scientia Fellow based at the Children’s Cancer Institute, Dr Merlot spends her time developing new anticancer drugs that target resistance and suppress cancer spread in particularly deadly cancers, including pancreatic and brain cancer. Specifically, her cancer biology projects focus on understanding the mechanisms by which cancer cells grow and adapt to their environment, why drugs become less effective and the development of nanoparticles to improve drug delivery.

“Some of the advances we are seeing in cancer are our understanding of the tumour itself — how it consists of more than just cancer cells but other important cells that help the cancer adapt and survive,” she said. “A large area of advancement is immunotherapy and our understanding of the interactions of the immune system with cancer.

“We are understanding more about the genetics of the disease and, with personalised medicine, we are hopeful that we can improve survival rates.”

Dr Merlot has 28 research publications, has received over $2 million in research funding and has presented her work at more than 35 conferences in Australia and around the world. She is a champion for women in science and responsible for implementing initiatives to empower women and promote equity in Medicine. In 2018, she was named as Australia’s youngest ever National Health and Medical Research Council grant recipient.

Dr Merlot has now been nominated for the Harvey Norman Young Woman of the Year Award — one of seven categories in the NSW Women of the Year Awards. Members of the public can vote online until 15 February, with the winners set to be announced at a ceremony on 7 March.

To view nominees across all categories and vote for your favourites, click here.

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