The success of the Beanie For Brain Cancer campaign has afforded the “immediate funding” of a medical research fellowship honouring the late Matt Callander, a Nine Network sports producer.
Sydney neuroscientist Dr Kelly McKelvey was awarded the three-year fellowship, funded by the National Rugby League’s Round 11 Beanie for Brain Cancer initiative, in partnership with the Mark Hughes Foundation.
With colleagues from the Sydney Neuro-Oncology Group and in collaboration with Hunter cancer researchers, she will focus on high-grade brain cancers – including glioblastoma, which tragically claimed Callander’s life in late October.
“What really resonated is that we’re risking a ‘cure’, or at least extra time that brain cancer patients can spend with their families,” Dr McKelvey said. “I’d love to be able to say, ‘Here’s a more effective treatment strategy with minimal ongoing nausea and fatigue issues, so you can have more quality time over a number of years’.”
With the NRL’s and Callander family’s support, the Beanie for Brain Cancer campaign surpassed expectations in 2017, allowing immediate funding of the inaugural Fellowship.
“Matt and his family drove the whole Beanie for Brain Cancer round like I’ve never seen. From the media to the NRL clubs, everyone came together as one and we sold over 110,000 beanies,” Mark Hughes said.
“Matt was in the depths of his own sickness but not once did he or Anne complain. They wanted to make a difference, and it was a game-changer for the Mark Hughes Foundation – it put us on the national map and I’m so grateful for what they did in such tough circumstances.
“The Matt Callander Beanie For Brain Cancer Fellowship not only honours a great man, and a great sport, it’s a tribute to all those across Australia who bought a beanie.”
Dr McKelvey said the fellowship would allow her to focus all her energy on the research, rather than worrying about applying for grants and salary stability.
“Ultimately it will help bring the results to patients even faster,” she said.
The Mark Hughes Foundation has also directly funded a three-year HMRI Mid-Career Research Fellowship for radiation oncologist Dr Mike Fay, a clinical expert in advanced imaging for brain tumours.
Dr Fay is developing scanning markers and targeted therapies for cancer cells that resist current treatments.