Mater Researcher secures trio of funding for cancer research

Tuesday 12 February 2019

Dr Seth Cheetham, an early career researcher at Mater Research Institute-University of Queensland (MRI-UQ), has been awarded three grants to fund research projects addressing the role of genomic plasticity in cancer treatment.

The funding received is from three different early career research grants programs—offered by Mater Foundation, The University of Queensland (UQ) and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Dr Cheetham’s study will delve into the role of “junk” DNA in cancer, to understand genetic causes of tumour formation, and to develop targeted medical interventions.

“Cancer is one of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity worldwide,” says Dr Cheetham.

“But we still don’t know a lot about many of the genetic causes of tumour initiation, progression and metastasis.”

Dr Cheetham became interested in the role of “junk” DNA when he was completing his undergraduate studies.

“I remember being amazed and surprised when I learnt in an undergraduate lecture that 98 per cent of our genomes were assumed to be functionless and had been largely unstudied,” says Dr Cheetham.

“I wondered how it was possible that such a large proportion of our genome was believed not to fulfill a function.”

This has gone on to inspire much of Dr Cheetham’s career so far, and provided the catalyst for his recent funding success.

Dr Cheetham’s Early Career Fellowship from NHMRC provides four years of salary funding, while the support from Mater Foundation and UQ will seed fund his research study.

“I am very grateful to the NHMRC, Mater Foundation and UQ investment in my research," says Dr Cheetham.

“There is so much we still need to discover concerning “junk” DNA’s role in cancer.”