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Combating cancer cells

by Katrina Phelps

Shudong Wang. Provided by the SA Cancer Council.Professor Shudong Wang’s first year as a researcher in Adelaide has been exceptionally busy – but if she can keep up the pace she knows millions of cancer patients are set to benefit from her work.

While establishing the Centre of Excellence in Drug Discovery and Development at UniSA, the Professor of Medicinal Chemistry in the School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences has identified a new group of compounds that can destroy cancer cells resistant to current therapies.

“More than 120,000 Australians are diagnosed with cancer every year and it is a leading cause of death worldwide,” Prof Wang said.

“To combat this, new and more effective treatments are urgently needed.

“Our goal is simple – it is to translate our discoveries into medicines that can be used to treat cancer and to save the lives.”

Prof Wang’s work has recently been given a helping hand from the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, which awarded her a Principal Cancer Research Fellowship, a highly competitive package providing a total amount of $840,000 over four years (2013-2017). The new Beat Cancer Project Principal Cancer Research Fellowship Packages aim to support the objectives of the Beat Cancer Project by attracting and retaining excellent researchers with leadership prospects who will strengthen cancer research in South Australia.

“I am delighted to receive this award,” she said.

“Drug discovery is a complex task requiring significant funding.

“Since moving to Adelaide from the UK, I have had very strong support from the University, which has provided me with state-of-the-art research facilities. This fellowship award will allow me to accelerate our cancer research at UniSA.”

The path from discovery to clinic can certainly be a long one, but Prof Wang is clearly focused on the end result – no matter how far away that is.

“We have very clear aims, milestones and a detailed work plan,” she said.

“For each milestone we meet, we are closer to having a drug to give patients, so that really encourages me to work quickly and meet every milestone towards that goal.

“I am working with a group of talented, passionate and hard-working researchers who are the foundation of my research programs and my personal inspiration.”