New undergraduate vacation scholarship provides an opportunity for a brain tumour research career in South Australia

Monday 14 February 2022

Congratulations to undergraduate student Erica McGiffert who is the inaugural recipient of the newly established Richard Buttery NRF Glioblastoma Research Vacation Scholarship.

New undergraduate vacation scholarship provides an opportunity for a brain tumour research career in South Australia    image

This is a new summer vacation scholarship for undergraduate medical or biomedical science students in brain tumour research.

Ms McGiffert will undertake 6 – 8 weeks at the Molecular Therapeutics Laboratory of the Centre for Cancer Biology, University of South Australia and SA Pathology. This laboratory is headed by Professor Stuart Pitson (who is also the NRF Chair of Brain Tumour Research) and is located at the Bradley Building on North Terrace, Adelaide.

She will be working on a short-term quality brain tumour research project focused on improving therapeutic approaches for glioblastoma brain tumours. During this time, she will be supported by a scholarship stipend.

The funds for the scholarship have been raised by Kerry Buttery and her family and friends in memory of her late husband Richard - who passed away from a glioblastoma brain tumour. Kerry has been an active fundraiser for the NRF over many years.

The NRF is proud to launch the scholarship during Richard’s birthday month – he would have been turning 62 years on the 22nd of February.

Kerry said, “I started fundraising for the NRF after Richard passed away. When Richard was diagnosed, we were lucky enough that he was placed on a trial based in the USA. I have no doubt that this trial medication gave Richard a longer life and a better quality of life. We had two wonderful years together, taking holidays, spending all our time together and two days a week looking after our first grandchild Elsie who was just two weeks old at diagnosis.

“I continue to fundraise because I truly believe in research for these dreadful brain tumours. The prognosis given to patients is dire - we have to do better for the people yet to be diagnosed.”

Prof Pitson thanked Kerry and the Buttery family for their support, saying that the vacation scholarship would help to build a future workforce for brain tumour research in South Australia.

“Thank you to Kerry and the Buttery family and friends for their long-term and ongoing support of the NeuroSurgical Research Foundation. Brain tumour research requires urgent funding to help discover improved treatments, new medications, and better quality of life outcomes for patients. Congratulations to Erica on being the first recipient of the Richard Buttery NRF Glioblastoma Research Vacation Scholarship,” he said.

Prof Pitson explained that the purpose of the scholarship is to build brain tumour research capacity in South Australia by providing the incentive and opportunity for an undergraduate medical or biomedical science student to undertake brain tumour research in a laboratory experienced in this area.

He said, “It is well known that such opportunities to be exposed to and partake in quality research plays a major role in encouraging students to choose a career (undertake a 3-year PhD) in biomedical research and most often in the research areas they are exposed to.”

The short-term project Erica will work on is focused on Temozolomide which is the current chemotherapy drug employed for almost all glioblastoma patients.

Prof Pitson explained, “Unfortunately, only some patient tumours respond to this drug, and even those that do, usually quickly develop resistance. Thus, new therapies are desperately required, which are very likely to be used in patients in combination with temozolomide (i.e., in addition to current standard of care).

“This project will use advanced techniques to grow patient glioblastoma cells in the laboratory to assess the effect of various new anti-cancer drugs (that the Pitson Lab have discovered have anti-glioblastoma effects) on enhancing the effectiveness of Temozolomide in killing glioblastoma cells.

“The information gained from these studies will be progressed to advanced pre-clinical models, with successful outcomes hopefully leading to future clinical trials to improve outcomes for glioblastoma patients,” he said.

Ms McGiffert said that she was thankful for the opportunity to expand her career into research and has so far enjoyed learning molecular techniques to aid in the research of brain cancer.

“I am currently commencing my third year, Bachelor of Health and Medical Science degree, I have been able to experience working in cancer research and am interested in pursuing a career in this field in the future. I am excited to learn more about drug targets and treatments.

“I feel extremely grateful for this opportunity as I have been given the chance to learn practical skills and given an insight into current projects and research. I would like to thank Kerry Buttery and the family for the stipend throughout my 6-week vacation scholarship,” she said.

Please donate to the Buttery Family’s fundraising here.

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