Arrow HSANZ PhD Scholarship Awarded – Congratulations Dr Michael Ashby!

November 9, 2023
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Dr Michael Ashby, recipient of the Arrow HSANZ PhD Scholarship for 2024

Congratulations to Dr Michael Ashby of Alfred Health who has been awarded the Arrow HSANZ PhD Scholarship for 2024 for his research into “Preventing Acute Myeloid Leukaemia relapse following allogeneic stem cell transplant.”

About the study:

Michael’s PhD project will study methods of preventing relapse of acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) after a bone marrow transplant.

Bone marrow transplant involves cells being transplanted from a compatible donor into a patient. These new donor immune cells recognise the leukaemia cells as ‘foreign’ and eliminate them. This treatment remains the best of chance of cure for patients with AML, however unfortunately, recurrence (relapse) of the leukaemia occurs within 2 years of transplant in up to one half of all patients and this relapse is usually untreatable.

There are 2 main causes of relapse of the leukaemia:

  • drugs given after transplant to allow the new donor immune cells to grow safely in the patient prevent an immune reaction (graft versus host disease).
  • the leukaemia cells evolve to escape the new immune system.

Michael’s research will investigate how to prevent this relapse. First he will compare two methods of transplant treatment to see how these methods impact donor immune cells ability to eliminate the leukaemia cells. Second, he will use state-of-the-art technologies to advance our understanding of how leukaemia cells evolve to escape the new immune system. Finally, he will establish a clinical trial to determine if a new oral medication taken shortly after transplant can prevent the evolution of the leukaemia cells and relapse.

About Michael:

Originally from Tasmania, Michael graduated from the University of Tasmania and subsequently completed physician training in Melbourne at Austin and Northern Health in general medicine and Haematology at Austin, Alfred and Monash Health. He has worked in several regions across Victoria including as Leukaemia Research Fellow at Alfred Health where he has been involved as an investigator in numerous trials.

He has a sub-interest in myeloid disorders including acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), myelodisplastic syndrome (MDS), myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) as well as acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and bone marrow transplant. He is passionate about and aims to complete further work in translational research and development and management of clinical trials.

Michael says the Arrow HSANZ PhD Scholarship “will enable me to focus more on my research and contribute meaningfully to the academic community and society as a whole. I am deeply honoured and thrilled to have been selected as a recipient of this prestigious scholarship and would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Arrow Foundation and HSANZ for their trust and support.

Receiving this scholarship represents not only a tremendous financial relief for me but also a significant affirmation of my academic achievements and potential. I am fully committed to pursuing my PhD with dedication, passion and a strong sense of responsibility.”

We look forward to following Michael as he progresses through his PhD research. We would also like thank the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic, and all the paddlers and volunteers who contribute to the event for their fundraising efforts to help support this scholarship program, as well as the Haematology Society of Australia and New Zealand for their support.

Michael being presented with his PhD scholarship at the Haematology Society of Australia and New Zealand Blood Conference 2023.

Pictured here L to R: Chris Murray (Arrow Chairperson), Michael Ashby, Dr Peng Lee (HSANZ), Richelle Koller (Arrow CEO) and Prof Steven Lane (HSANZ).