Young Cancer Researcher Collects Premier's Award

Tuesday 4 June, 2013

AGE has proven to be no barrier to achieving excellent in research for Dr Aung Ko Win. The 32-year-old researcher was last night awarded the prestigious 2013 Premier’s Award for Health and Medical Research which recognises achievement, celebrates creativity and acknowledges excellence across all fields of health or medical research.

Dr Win is completing his final year of a PhD at the University of Melbourne under a $115,000 three-year scholarship from Cancer Council Victoria that is funded by the Picchi Brothers Foundation. His research to date has focused on identifying people who have a high risk of bowel, uterine and other cancers due to specific genetic mutations.

Ultimately, Dr Win wants to create an online search tool that can be used by patients and clinicians around the world to determine what sort of early testing for bowel cancer they should have done, and when, based on a range of genetic, lifestyle and other risk factors.

“These mutations are rare, occurring in approximately one in 1000 people. However, the effect on cancer risks for people who have them is devastating,” Dr Win said. “The earlier that we identify people who are at high risk of such cancers the more likely it is we will increase overall cancer survival rates.”

Dr Win moved to Australia, from Myanmar, in 2008 to complete a Masters in Public Health at the University of Melbourne's Centre for Molecular, Environmental, Genetic and Analytic Epidemiology. Since beginning his research career in 2010 he has published a remarkable 35 papers. In Myanmar, he finished a medical degree and worked as a medical officer at a hospital.

"Six years ago, I made the difficult decision to leave my home country, Myanmar, to pursue a medical research career in Australia. This award not only vindicates that decision, but encourages me to strive even harder," he said.

Todd Harper, CEO, Cancer Council Victoria said young researchers could find it difficult to secure funding, and he was proud that the Cancer Council was able to support researchers in the early stages of their career.

"It's about investing now to reap awards later. It could very well be one of these bright young researchers who make the next big breakthrough in cancer research," Mr Harper said.

Bowel cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, and affects both men and women. One in 12 Australians is diagnosed with the disease by the age of 85, and this cancer accounts for the second highest number of cancer-related deaths in Australia.

Cancer Council Victoria supports more than 90 biomedical researchers with grants, fellowships and scholarships available at each stage of their career. Our Research Management Unit coordinates funding selection with independent advice from our Medical and Scientific Committee and Executive Committee to ensure the best research is funded. For details visit our Biomedical grants pages.