Associate Professor Jessica Howell is VCCC Alliance’s inaugural Tony Burgess medallist

Image: Associate Professor Jessica Howell being interviewed by VCCC Alliance Executive Director, Professor Grant McArthur, at the award presentation. Credit: VCCC Alliance

Burnet Institute Senior Research Fellow Associate Professor Jessica Howell has been awarded the inaugural Tony Burgess Medal for her work improving liver disease screening.

Awarded by the VCCC Alliance, the medal is named in honour of Professor Tony Burgess AC who is one of Australia’s top cancer researchers.

Associate Professor Howell was recognised for her work heading a multidisciplinary research program that led to the invention of two new rapid point-of-care tests for liver inflammation and cirrhosis.

“We developed a novel rapid point-of-care test for ALT1 (a marker of liver inflammation) and a novel point-of-care test for liver scarring (cirrhosis), both of which could potentially be used for liver disease screening and assessment in the field,” she said.

“This would overcome major access barriers to care, leading to earlier assessment and treatment of chronic liver diseases such as hepatitis B in low resource and remote settings.

“Without timely treatment, people with chronic liver disease remain at significant risk of liver cancer and liver failure.”

Liver cancer has a very low survival rate and disproportionately affects marginalised people, Associate Professor Howell said.

“As a hepatologist, every week I see the impact of liver cancer on the lives of my patients and their families. This drives me to search for new ways to improve equitable outcomes for people with liver cancer,” she said.

Image: Associate Professor Jessica Howell holding the inaugural Tony Burgess Medal. Credit: VCCC Alliance

Associate Professor Howell said she was incredibly humbled to receive such an award for her team’s work.

“It was a tremendous honour to be the inaugural recipient of an award named in the honour of Professor Tony Burgess, whose cutting-edge research has translated into such immeasurable positive impact on the lives of people with cancer,” she said.

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