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Scholarship for anti-cancer crusading mum

A Victoria University PhD candidate has received a prestigious Graduate Women Victoria (GWV) scholarship for conducting innovative cancer research while juggling a role as a mother of three young children.

Charlett Giuliani of the College of Health and Biomedicine was awarded $7000 under the GWV’s William and Elizabeth Fisher Scholarship – the highest amount of all scholarships to be offered by the organisation in 2015.  She is the first VU student to receive a GWV scholarship.

“Many mothers give up on their dreams and aspirations for their families and it can take courage to put oneself first for a change,” she said.

The Tarneit resident returned to study as a mature-aged student and is now doing groundbreaking research related to breast cancer cells. Her work focuses on the process of ‘autophagy’ or ‘self-eating’ that cancer cells use to stay alive and thrive.

“Autophagy is a normal process for all cells that are stressed, but it is absolutely essential to cancer cells – the more aggressive the cancer cells, the more they depend on it,” she explained.

Charlett is looking into inhibitors that slow or even prevent autophagy in cancer cells to use in future cancer treatment as an alternative to high doses of chemotherapy.

“I don’t accept that we’re doing as well as we could with cancer treatment,” she said. “The high doses of radiation we administer to young cancer sufferers for example, can lead to unintended effects in later years, such as heart damage.”

Charlett began her research in 2013 as a first-class honours biomedical student once she returned to study after taking several years off from her job as a nurse to look after her children.   

“I was looking after patients with acquired brain injuries for about 10 years but I was never really fulfilled,” she said. “I was always interested in finding out where all those blood tests were going.”

In 2014, Charlett was awarded VU’s highly competitive Australian Postgraduate Award to carry out her work as a PhD student.

She is now researching under the supervision of VU’s Dr John Price and Dr Swati Baindur-Hudson, and expects to complete her PhD next year.

“I was given an opportunity at Victoria University to be a research scientist and for that I will be forever grateful,” she said. “My goal is to continue my research to make a difference, if only in one patient’s life.”  ENDS

Charlett is available for interview. Photos of Charlett in a research lab are also available.

Media contact: Ann Marie Angebrandt: 03 9919 5487, 0401 100 576 or annmarie.angebrandt@vu.edu.au

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