1984 PhD University of New South Wales
1978-79 PhD qualifying program University of New South Wales
1978 BSc (Psych) Honours Class 1, University Medal University of New South Wales
2008 D.Sc. honaris causa University of New South Wales
Professor Michelle Haber obtained her PhD at UNSW in 1984, and subsequently undertook postdoctoral studies at Hadassah Hebrew University, Israel and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York. She was appointed as the Director of the Children's Cancer Institute (CCI) in 2000, and then Executive Director in 2003, where she is the Co-Head of CCI’s Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics Theme and also heads the Experimental Therapeutics Program.
Michelle’s research is focused on developing novel approaches to treating refractory childhood cancer through identifying molecular targets that drive cancer growth and development, developing new drugs to inhibit the action of these targets, and combining existing and new drug treatments into novel therapeutic approaches that can be rapidly translated into national and international clinical trials.
2007 Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for services to science in the field of research into childhood cancer, to scientific education and to the community
2010-12 President, Advances in Neuroblastoma Research Association.
2008 Degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, in recognition of eminent service to the community, University of New South Wales
2015 Inaugural Fellow, Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences
2020 Invited Speaker, American Association for Cancer Research, Presidential Select Symposium, San Diego, CA, USA
2011 Winner - NSW Science and Engineering Award for Biomedical Sciences
2012 Winner - Cancer Institute NSW Premier’s Award for Excellence in Translational Cancer Research
2013 Finalist - NSW Health Jamie Callachor Eureka Prize for Medical Research Translation
2014 Winner - Best Translational Research Presentation, Advances in Neuroblastoma Research Congress, Cologne, Germany
2014 Winner - Cancer Institute NSW’s Premier’s Award for Outstanding Cancer Researcher of the Year
2015 Finalist - The Australian Innovation Challenge Award, for pioneering work in improving the survival rates of children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia
2018 Finalist - CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science
2018 Cancer Australia/Medical Research Future Fund Australian Brain Cancer Mission- 'Zero Childhood Brain'
2019 Tour de Cure Foundation - 'A personalised medicine approach to the treatment of acute myeloid leukaemia in children'
2018 REG181200 – Cancer Institute NSW Research Equipment Grant- 'Australia’s first deformability cytometer – a novel tool for cancer mechanobiology and diagnosis'
2018- 2020 APP1136278 – NHMRC Development Grant- 'Multidrug Resistance Protein 1 inhibitors to sensitise cancers to chemotherapy'
2018- 2022 APP1132608 – NHMRC Program Grant- 'More effective therapeutic targeting of high risk childhood cancer: Neuroblastoma as a model'
Michelle’s earlier studies were amongst the first characterising the complex molecular mechanisms underlying therapy-related drug resistance. She identified the relationship between high expression of multidrug transporter gene MRP1, the malignant phenotype of neuroblastoma and poor clinical outcome – the first definitive demonstration of clinical relevance of the MRP1 gene in human solid tumours. She subsequently established high-throughput chemical screening of small molecule libraries and developed novel MRP1 inhibitors for the treatment of neuroblastoma and other MRP1-assciated malignancies. This led to a $3.1M ACRF award to establish a Drug Discovery Centre for Childhood Cancer which is now developing a pipeline of potential new drugs for treating childhood and adult malignancies.
Michelle pioneered polyamine inhibition therapy as a new approach to child cancer treatment, leading to one completed international trial in 15 children’s hospitals, one current trial open in 120 hospitals internationally, and two more being planned for neuroblastoma and for brain tumours. She and her colleagues identified targeting of the chromatin modifier FACT as a novel therapy for neuroblastoma, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), and DIPG and based on these findings, a clinical trial using FACT inhibition, led by the Children’s Oncology Group, the largest children’s cancer study group in the world, will open this year. She was also a leader in the team developing OT82, a novel inhibitor of NAMPT and in developing NAMPT inhibitor therapy for paediatric ALL, with an adult Phase 1 open, and planning for a paediatric trial underway.
She also played a major role in developing PCR-based technology to detect the presence of minimal residual disease (MRD) in bone marrow of children with ALL, after initial cancer treatment. The prognostic value of this assay was proved in several national trials, with a large international clinical trial of 1100 children, resulting in a doubling of survival rates for children at high risk of treatment failure from <40% to >70%. This approach has now become standard of care for Australian children with ALL. This laid the foundation for establishment of the national ZERO Childhood Cancer Personalised Medicine Program. She has successfully led the development and roll-out of ZERO, to every Australian paediatric oncology facility, currently available to children with the most aggressive malignancies, and to be made available to every child and young adult with cancer in Australia, by 2023. ZERO has improved outcomes for children with high-risk cancers and has transformed the approach of managing high-risk childhood cancers nationally.
Michelle is currently continuing work on identifying and validating the clinical role of molecular targets responsible for treatment failure in aggressive childhood cancers, with the overall goal of improving clinical outcomes for children with cancer.