Cambridge-based Malaysian wins 'Nobel Prize for Cancer Research'

Kenneth Tee
Dr Serena will receive the award together with her collaborators Dr Paul Calleja and Dr Ignacio Medina from the University of Cambridge at the University of Bern in Switzerland tomorrow. — Picture via Facebook

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 — UK-based Malaysian scientist Dr Serena Nik-Zainal has been honoured with the Dr Josef Steiner Cancer Research Prize 2019 for her breakthrough research in accelerating the holistic interpretation of the cancer genome.

The award, originally also known as the “Nobel Prize for Cancer Research”, will be given to Dr Serena together with her collaborators Dr Paul Calleja and Dr Ignacio Medina from the University of Cambridge at the University of Bern in Switzerland tomorrow.

According to the University of Cambridge’s Academic Department of Medical Genetics, Dr Serena will also be presenting her work under the title “Accelerating holistic cancer genome interpretation towards the clinic” during the award ceremony.

Based on her research, mutations in cancer tumours can be analysed using new bioinformatic methods which enabled new approaches to targeted therapies.

According to her biography posted on the University of Cambridge’s Medical Research Council Cancer Unit, Dr Serena graduated with a degree in medicine there in 2000 on a scholarship from Petronas.

After that, she pursued post-graduate studies at the Wellcome Sanger Institute (WSI) in 2009 exploring breast cancer using whole genome sequencing (WGS).

She was subsequently awarded a CRUK Advanced Clinician Scientist Fellowship in 2017 before moving to the University of Cambridge.

At the university, Dr Serena was able to accelerate the translation of her genomics expertise towards clinical applications and to further her work into the physiological mechanisms underpinning mutagenesis.

Dr Serena, who is also the principal investigator at the university’s Department of Medical Genetics, was also quoted saying powerful combination of computational analytics and experimental insights helped to drive the development of clinical computational tools to interpret whole cancer genomes more effectively.

“The rate-limiting step in cancer genomics today is not the ability to perform sequencing.

“It is the expertise in performing downstream analysis and making a clinically-useful interpretation, that remains the hurdle between genomic technology and the clinical context,” she said in an article posted on the university’s official homepage.

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