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Former fellows, where are they now? – Dr Kelly McKelvey

The Sydney Vital Flagship Fellow scheme gives emerging researchers the opportunity to develop their own research program over a period of twelve months, with mentorship from leaders in translational cancer research and access to Sydney Vital’s research infrastructure. We wanted to check in with some of our former fellows and see where they have taken their research careers since the fellowship.

“The fellowship was a great stepping-stone toward reaching my career goals and establishing myself in the translational brain cancer research field,” Dr Kelly McKelvey says. She was the Flagship 1 Fellow in 2017-2018, and her work today still focuses on finding treatments and therapeutic options for high-grade brain cancers where median survival is currently less than 15 months.

In 2018, she was awarded the inaugural Matt Callander ‘Beanie for Brain Cancer’ HMRI Fellowship, funded by the Mark Hughes Foundation. She is now the Group Leader of Radiation and Immunotherapy Research in the Bill Walsh Translational Cancer Research Laboratory and manages the SARRP, the first image-guided preclinical irradiator in Australia.

“This has advanced my research to utilise preclinical models, chemotherapy and radiotherapy in conjunction with novel therapeutics to examine their efficacy, safety, and tumour immune response,” she explains.

The fellowship was not only a chance to expand her knowledge in the field, but also taught Kelly valuable lessons about how to improve her research. “I learned to take advantage of every opportunity to learn from others and to ask questions,” she says.

“Additionally, I learnt to be open-minded in my approach to research by engaging with researchers outside my discipline. I’m taking that broader knowledge and those perspectives and translate them into new therapies and treatment regimens.”

This collaborative mindset is what Kelly values most in her career more broadly. “I’d say my biggest success so far has been establishing multidisciplinary research collaborations,” she says.

“I’ve been collaborating with chemists, medical physicists, neuro-surgeons, neuro-oncologists, pathologists and immunologists locally, nationally and internationally. We’re all working towards a common goal – which is to improve the treatment options for patients with brain cancer in Australia and globally.”


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