Cameron in the lab and below, with his winning poster

Malaghan Scholar cleans up prizes

26 January 2015

Cameron in the lab and below, with his winning poster

Last month, Cameron Field won the Student Poster Prize at the Australasian Society for Immunology’s (ASI) widely attended and stimulating annual scientific meeting.  The week-long conference, in New South Wales, was attended by Nobel Laureate Bruce Beutler.  Together with Jules A. Hoffmann, he received one-half of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, for ‘their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity’. Ralph Steinman was awarded the other half of the Nobel Prize post-humously for his discoveries concerning the activation of adaptive immunity.

Dr Beutler was guest presenter at the conference’s Post-Graduate workshop which challenged attendees to solve their own immunological puzzles; a highly relevant challenge for Cameron and his peers.

Cameron’s poster, part of his PhD project, investigates immunotherapy possibilities for Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a rapidly fatal brain cancer, currently with limited treatment options. The poster win came less than a week after he received the runner-up Emerging New Investigator award, presented annually by the Wellington Health and Biomedical Research Society. The term new investigator is not related to chronological age but recognises substantial research endeavours started within the previous five years.

He shares his enthusiasm and determination to further our understanding of GBM, “Many tumours are good at side-lining or suppressing the immune system, and GBM has proved harder than most, but my study involves combining drugs to limit this suppression, with a vaccine.”

“A new class of drugs called ‘checkpoint inhibitors’, recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), are designed to block the inhibitory signals within the immune system that apply the ‘brakes’ to an immune response. When we cut the brake lines, we are able to unleash a more powerful immune response.” 

Immunotherapy and cancer have become increasingly used in the public domain since the journal Science named cancer immunotherapy its 2013 Breakthrough of the Year, but a body of academic work, over several decades led to this public ‘tipping point’.

New Zealand and Australia; traditional rivals, joined forces 24 years ago to form The Australasian Society for Immunology, encouraging and supporting the discipline of immunology in our region and introducing young scientists to the discipline. ASI members have been prominent in advancing biological and medical research worldwide.

South Auckland-born Cameron, hopes to complete his PhD this year and join the growing list of New Zealand born scientists making their mark internationally.  “By the end of the year I hope to complete my PhD. It’s been fantastic working at the Malaghan Institute for the last three years, under the supervision of Ian Hermans. “Both Ian and the Malaghan Institute command a high standard of research and this bodes well with our presence both nationally and internationally.  Being challenged in this manner will more than prepare me for a research career ahead.”