A/Prof Marina Pajic
Media Release: 19 October 2021
A prestigious $8 million Snow Medical Research Foundation Fellowship provided by Terry and Ginette Snow and their family will support A/Prof Marina Pajic at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research to develop personalised approaches for treating pancreatic cancer, a disease projected to become the second leading cause of cancer death globally by 2030.
A/Prof Pajic will lead a research program aimed at improving patient survival by matching treatments to individual pancreatic cancers based on the tumour’s ‘molecular fingerprint’.
“This support from the Snow Medical Research Foundation has the potential to be transformative for pancreatic cancer patients,” says A/Prof Pajic.
“Pancreatic cancer has a dismal five-year survival rate of less than 10% and treatments have not advanced significantly in decades. Through my research, I hope to develop tailored treatment strategies for pancreatic cancer patients and dramatically improve outcomes.”
Pancreatic cancer precision therapy
“At the molecular level, pancreatic cancer is not one disease – each cancer is unique and varies significantly from those of other patients and from patient to patient,” says A/Prof Pajic.
“In order to improve patient outcomes, we need to develop treatment strategies based on the individual cancer. Over the past 10 years, I have established Australia’s largest biobank of genome-sequenced pancreatic cancer biopsies and have identified several promising therapy targets and tailored treatment options. Now, thanks to the Snow Fellowship, I have the opportunity to progress these new approaches to patients in clinical trials.”
A/Prof Pajic will validate her potential treatment approaches by integrating Garvan’s next-generation sequencing, advanced experimental models and imaging technology with existing clinical frameworks. Through the Snow Fellowship, she will also lead two new pancreatic cancer trials that will follow her team’s work. These will trial combination therapies aimed at co-targeting the tumour as well as the tumour environment.
Further, A/Prof Pajic will investigate the molecular changes that drive tumour progression and treatment resistance by studying patient biopsies before and during treatment. Crucial to this work are A/Prof Pajic’s roles within the Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative and the Australian Pancreatic Cancer Matrix Atlas, and her productive collaboration with the national MoST clinical trials program, the Pancreatic Cancer Center of Excellence (RNSH) and the Pancreatic Cancer Research Hub (UNSW Sydney).
The Chair of the Snow Medical Research Foundation, Tom Snow, congratulated A/Prof Pajic and the two other Snow Fellowship recipients.
“At Snow Medical, we want to back the boldest and best of the next generation of researchers. We set out to find exceptional visionary leaders, and our three 2021 Snow Fellows are truly outstanding,” Snow Medical Chair Tom Snow said.
Professor Chris Goodnow, Executive Director of the Garvan Institute, says: “Marina is a world-leading researcher of pancreatic cancer and her program perfectly exemplifies the power of Garvan’s interdisciplinary research. We are proud of her achievements and look forward to the life-changing research she will drive through the Snow Fellowship.”
“I want to thank Terry and Ginette Snow and their family for their vision and generosity in supporting researchers through the Snow Fellowships. Their significant funding uniquely gives young researchers the independence they need to pursue visionary long-term research with global impact.”
Dr Viviane Richter
Garvan Institute of Medical Research
Tel: + 61 2 9295 8128
Chris Wagner: 0434 378 939
About A/Prof Marina Pajic
As a laboratory head at Garvan, Associate Professor Marina Pajic runs a personalised medicine for pancreatic cancer research program. Her work builds on and goes beyond our knowledge of the genetics of pancreatic cancer, to better understand how the surrounding tumour environment controls and drives the aggressive nature of this disease, the metastasis of the cancer to distant sites, and resistance to treatment. With this new insight, her lab is developing novel, tailored therapeutic interventions, whereby cancers are selected for optimal treatment based on their overall molecular “fingerprint” (90 publications in this area, >14,000 citations). Her recent work has also led to direct bench-to-bedside translation, with collaborative clinical trials for patients with pancreatic cancer underway. Her research is supported by the Snow Medical Foundation, NHMRC, Cancer Australia, CINSW, Cancer Council NSW, ACRF, Tour de Cure, the Philip Hemstritch Fellowship in Pancreatic Cancer and the Girgensohn Foundation.
About the Garvan Institute of Medical Research
The Garvan Institute of Medical Research is a leading multi-disciplinary biomedical research institute in Sydney. With 600 of the world’s brightest scientific minds working under one roof, collaborating across different areas of research and using the best technologies to investigate diseases, Garvan have revealed causes and treatments for diseases including diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, immune deficiency and autoimmunity.
About Snow Medical Research Foundation
The Snow Medical Research Foundation (Snow Medical) is the creation of Canberra’s Snow family and is a vision of businessman and philanthropist, Terry Snow and his wife Ginette. Snow Medical’s pivotal program, the Snow Fellowships, targets emerging global research leaders that show the potential to drive, manage and influence the next generation of health and medical innovation.
The eight-year Snow Fellowship, funded at up to $1 million per year, provides outstanding biomedical researchers the independence to focus on building ambitious multidisciplinary research programs and teams capable of changing the face of healthcare in Australia and globally.
In 2020, three inaugural Snow Fellowships were awarded. Snow Medical has also provided $5.5 million for COVID-19 research and has supported the Australian Cardiovascular Alliance to develop new strategic approaches to solve cardiovascular disease.