Congratulations Ashleigh Lester

Congratulations to our latest Ethan Davies Fellow, Ashleigh Lester.

Having herself suffered from spinal ependymoma since she was an adolescent, Ashleigh made the remarkable decision to give up a career as a senior commercial lawyer to become a brain tumour researcher.

In her words, "I decided that rather than simply waiting for others to find better treatments, I could contribute".

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Ashleigh is currently undertaking a PhD at the Lowy Cancer Research Centre in Sydney, examining the molecular basis of ependymomas arising in the brain and investigating novel treatments for these tumours.

While significant advances have been made in the molecular characterisation and identification of distinct subgroups of ependymomas, this knowledge has yet to be translated into patient treatments. This is in part due to the difficulties in establishing preclinical models, which are required to test the effectiveness of treatments before they can proceed to the clinic.

As part of her PhD, Ashleigh is collecting ependymoma samples for the purpose of establishing preclinical models, with the overarching aim of testing subgroup specific treatments in these models. To date, Ashleigh has successfully established two patient-derived ependymoma cell lines, with cells from one of these patient samples resulting in the formation of new tumours. Drug screens carried out on the samples have also identified several promising drugs which she is currently investigating in the established models.

Ashleigh is passionate about improving treatments for these rare tumours, and is looking forward to the opportunity to work with experts in ependymoma research at the Telethon Kids Institute.

The Fellowship will also pave the way for future collaborations between the Brain Tumour Research Group at Telethon Kids and the Cure Brain Cancer Neuro-oncology Group in Sydney, across a range of brain tumours.

Shannon Davies