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02 Feb 2023

Dr Susan Christo receives inaugural CASS Foundation Daniel Rechtman Research Award

Dr Susan Christo, a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Professor Laura Mackay at the Doherty Institute, has become the first recipient of the Daniel Rechtman Research Award from the CASS Foundation. 

The CASS Foundation, a philanthropic foundation established in 2001, supports and promotes the advancement of education, science and medicine, and research and practice in those fields. The Daniel Rechtman Research Award was established to mark the 20th anniversary of the commencement of the CASS MedSci grants in 2002 and to celebrate Daniel Rechtman’s role as the founding Chair of CASS. 

Dr Christo is part of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and her research project – Investigating the radioresistant properties of cancer-specific resident T cells – will investigate how some immune cells found in melanoma can evade radiation therapy during cancer treatment, which may lead to improved radiation therapy treatment. 

“In our study, we aim to discover how immune cells can avoid self-destruction when exposed to irradiation. Identifying how these cells can protect themselves will lead us to new treatments that can ensure other immune cells are not killed by irradiation,” Dr Christo explained. 

“Our goal is to create a therapy that keeps our cancer-fighting immune cells alive during treatment, which can then reduce the amount of radiation therapy a patient needs while still destroying the tumour. Therefore, patients can recover more rapidly, and the lack of ongoing treatments will help prevent subsequent adverse side-effects that affect a patient’s quality of life.” 

Dr Christo said she is honoured to receive the 2022 Daniel Rechtman Research Award.  

“I am thrilled to be the inaugural awardee but also grateful for what this funding means for our research. The generous support of the CASS Foundation will allow us to continue our momentum and expand on our novel findings.” 

David Abraham, Executive Director and Chair of the CASS Foundation, said the Foundation is proud to support researcher projects which have the potential to improve understanding of key concepts and lead to improved treatment and practice. 

“The advancement of research and science is a core part of our mission to ‘Contribute to Australian Scholarship and Science’ – CASS,” Mr Abraham said. 

“By supporting emerging researchers, we are fostering the current and next generation of leaders who will pave the way forward to the next scientific breakthrough in infection and immunity.” 

Professor Sharon Lewin, Director of the Doherty Institute, acknowledged the contribution and commitment from the CASS Foundation. 

“I would like to thank the CASS Foundation for their support of the early-and-mid career researchers at the Doherty Institute. It means a lot because this program supports talented researchers in the early stages of their careers while continuing to build and grow research capacity,” Professor Lewin said. 

“I look forward to continuing our work together in the next few years.” 

Through a competitive grant process, the Daniel Rechtman Research Award will fund three research projects based at the Doherty Institute over the next three years (2022 – 2024). It will support three Early-to-Mid Career researchers to complete a single year research project worth $75,000 per annum. 

L-R: Tamara Abraham, Dr Susan Christo, Daniel Rechtman, Professor Sharon Lewin, David Abraham and David Aitken
L-R: Tamara Abraham, Dr Susan Christo, Daniel Rechtman, Professor Sharon Lewin, David Abraham and David Aitken