Boost for research into low grade brain tumours thanks to the Higher Thinking Fund

Shaolm Andrews, Ashraf Zam and AProf Kerrie MacDonaldAshraf Zaman, a PhD candidate, is the inaugural recipient of the Higher Thinking Fund Scholarship in Brain Cancer Research. UNSW alumnus Shalom Andrews and her husband Dave Taylor established the Higher Thinking Fund after Shalom was diagnosed with a low grade glioma in 2006. 

With the assistance of $20,000 a year, Ashraf will study low grade brain cancer under the supervision of Associate Professor Kerrie McDonald, head of the Cure Brain Cancer in Neuro-Oncology Group at the Lowy Cancer Research Centre.

Personal tragedy motivated Ashraf to pursue a career as a cancer researcher. “My mother died of cancer in my early childhood,” he says. “Although the survival rate of some cancer patients has been improved in recent years, a lot more is yet to be done and it always motivates me to be a part of the cancer research community to better understand the biology of cancer.”

Kerrie McDonald hand-picked Ashraf, from the University of Rome Tor Vergata in Italy, to come and study at UNSW. She says that the biggest challenge facing researchers in this field today is their ignorance about which biological mechanism triggers low grade tumours’ growth. 

“If we had a better understanding of the biology of low grade gliomas, we could develop new drugs to target the tumour while it is at a more benign state,” Kerrie says.

While at UNSW, Ashraf will work with neurosurgeons to study the biology of tumours. 

After her diagnosis, Shalom Andrews left a 14-year career in arts management and undertook a Juris Doctor at UNSW Law, which she completed in 2010. She now works as a solicitor in intellectual property for a large firm in the city.

“We never knew when we founded Higher Thinking that it would be the only fund in Australia, to our knowledge, that supports low grade tumour research,” she says. 

“We know that there are breakthroughs occurring overseas, and want to capitalise on that momentum. The talent is there, but what slows the process down is funding. When you are racing against the clock for a cure, positive advancement is what keeps you going.”

Photo: Shalom Andrews, Ashraf Zam and Associate Professor Kerrie MacDonald

For more information, contact:

Trish O'Brien
UNSW Medicine
Director, Development and Engagement

E: trish.obrien[at]unsw.edu[dot]au
T: 02 9385 1738

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