$7000 buzz cut boost fuels SAHMRI student project

13 May 2024
$7000 buzz cut boost fuels SAHMRI student project

In an inspiring display of community support, local man Andrew Khabbaz has smashed his goal and raised an impressive $7000, enabling the purchase of specialised equipment that will provide the foundation of a unique PhD project in childhood cancer care.

The project, led by PhD candidate Maya Davies, focuses on finding ways to protect the brains of children undergoing cancer treatment.

“I’m investigating how chemotherapy drugs used to treat paediatric blood cancers, can hijack the protective lining of the brain and cause permanent damage,” Ms Davies said.

“The ‘EVOM Manual High Throughput Screening System’ will be critical in helping me efficiently measure the blood brain barrier with precision and identify strategies to prevent chemotherapy from crossing it.”

An average of 750 children are diagnosed with cancer each year in Australia.

Thankfully, advances in health and medical research have ensured that 90% will now survive; but life after cancer can be very challenging, with many children experiencing long term side effects.

“A child’s developing brain is especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of cancer treatments like chemotherapy, which can impact cognitive function and it means many children find it difficult to go back to school and move forward; that’s what we want to change,” Ms Davies said.

Andrew had been looking to cut his long hair and beard for a worthy cause and got the idea from his friend, and leader of SAHMRI’s Supportive Oncology Group, Dr Hannah Wardill, who’s also Maya’s supervisor.

“I’d been growing my hair for a long time and thought it was a good chance to raise some money for people going through hardship,” Mr Khabbaz said.

“I was having dinner with Hannah and her partner when I realised the perfect place to raise funds for had been right in front of me all along! I knew of the amazing work Hannah had been doing for the past decade and this was the perfect opportunity to support her program and in turn, those suffering with cancer.”

Powered by donations from friends and family, and the school community he’s a part of, Andrew was able to blow past his $5000 target.

“Andrew and I were both surprised at how quickly the community came together to support this important fundraising effort and were delighted that we exceeded our fundraising target,” Dr Wardill said.

In the current climate, grant funding is incredibly competitive with some schemes having a success rate of less than 8%. For young researchers, this makes carving out a life in science very challenging and prevents having the flexibility to pursue new and exciting research avenues.

“Amazing fundraising efforts like Andrew’s give researchers control over being able to investigate new things, test new ideas and then use these insights to be more competitive for bigger pots of money. This is why fundraising is so important,” Dr Wardill said.

Generous donor Andrew Khabbaz before the shave
And after!

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