Sir Owen Glenn Clinical Research Fellowship

Dr Catherine Han is an NZ trained medical oncologist and clinician-scientist with a strong interest in cancer research and personalised cancer therapy, and was awarded the Sir Owen Glenn Clinical Research Fellowship in the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre (ACSRC), University of Auckland, from mid-2015 until the end of 2018. As part of her PhD study, she had completed a clinical trial in Auckland which collected clinical outcome data and DNA samples from approximately 150 colorectal cancer patients who underwent a protocol of standard but non-personalised cancer treatment. With the Sir Owen Glenn Fellowship, she was able to analyse the DNA of these patients utilising Whole-Exome Sequencing on an Ion Torrent Next-Generation Sequencing system and investigate how variation in genetic makeup is related to their responses and handling of colorectal cancer treatment. Catherine has also developed and optimised clinical trial design and methods for evaluating neuroprotective treatments in cancer patients undergoing oxaliplatin chemotherapy which commonly causes debilitating neurotoxicity affecting patients’ quality of life as well as limiting treatment. Catherine, with others from the ACSRC, was awarded a highly prestigious and competitive research funding from the Health Research Council (HRC) to undertake the very first clinical trial using these methods to evaluate a combination treatment regimen that targets nerve cell membrane transporter proteins of oxaliplatin to reduce its neurotoxicity. This trial is about to open for patient recruitment at three sites in Auckland and Hamilton.

During the tenure of the Glenn Fellowship, she was accepted for a one-year clinical research fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital of Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA (from July 2016 to June 2017). With Sir Owen Glenn’s agreement, the Glenn Fellowship was suspended for a year. She worked with the world-renowned neuro-oncology team there and participated in the development of clinical trials based on molecular profiling of brain tumours. She published several review papers, two of which concerned genetic characterisation of brain tumours. She returned to resume the Owen Glenn fellowship in July 2017. She began her collaborative work with other researchers at the University of Auckland on projects investigating targeted therapy in brain cancer management. She recently authored a chapter in the 11th edition of a medical textbook (“DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principals and Practice of Oncology”) which is regarded as the ‘Bible’ of oncology.

In late 2018 Catherine completed her PhD degree, supervised by Prof Mark McKeage, in the process, winning the 2018 Brett Roche Memorial award for the best-completing PhD student in the ACSRC. At the beginning of 2019, she was appointed as a half-time Senior Lecturer in the Department of Pharmacology & Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Auckland to carry out clinical research and teaching the medical students and post-graduate students. For the other half of her time, she continues her role as a medical oncologist in Auckland.

I am ever so grateful to Sir Owen Glenn for his generosity in supporting my work at the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre, University of Auckland, over the years. – Dr Catherine Han

The fellowship has been of great benefit, not only to Catherine and the ACSRC, but to the University, and we are very grateful for it.” – Stuart McCutchen, Vice-Chancellor, University of Auckland.

Sarah McLaughlinSir Owen Glenn Clinical Research Fellowship