Dr Fernando Guimaraes

Strengthening immunotherapy to fight melanoma

Fernando is funded by Cure Cancer through the Cancer Australia Priority-driven Cancer Support Scheme. His grant is 83% co-funded by The Can Too Foundation.

As a scientist at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Victoria, Dr Fernando Guimaraes is focused on immunology research, particularly into cells that constantly monitor, recognise and kill other, altered cells in the body – the natural-killer lymphocytes.

The research

With this, his second Cure Cancer grant, Fernando seeks to continue previous research into how the immune system can control the spread of cancer, with an aim of ultimately identifying “breakthrough science” that can stimulate the body’s immune system to achieve this.

Despite advances in treatment and early detection, metastasis remains a leading cause of cancer-related death, he says, and studies over the past decade have reinforced the role the immune system can play. As evidence he points to the granting of the 2018 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for the discovery of new “checkpoints” in tumour immunology.

“Medical researchers’ journeys are never easy,” Fernando reflects. “To succeed, they must be motivated, ambitious, curious, ethical, hardworking, open-minded, respectful and tolerant.”

Moreover, competition for funding is always tough. “That’s why new early-career grants like the Cure Cancer emerging investigator initiative are a priceless opportunity for scientists,” he says.

In his work the grants are especially helpful, because research using a patient’s own immune system is risky and expensive, he says. Government funds are not enough to develop all promising projects and fundraising can make a big difference.

Fundraising makes a big difference

To contribute himself, Fernando has been involved in fundraising activities and events including The Weekend to End Women’s Cancer and the Ride to Conquer Cancer. He is now a committee member of the Melbourne Immunotherapy Network, where for the past three years he has organised public cancer research forums to raise awareness of investigations into immunotherapy, and to fundraise for Cure Cancer.

“I understand how hard fundraising is because I’ve done it!” he says, “I appreciate the efforts of Can Too and others who’ve worked so hard to make promising project grants from Cure Cancer become possible.”

Outside of work, Fernando, who is originally from Brazil, enjoys travel, mountain biking, scuba diving and combat sports such as muay thai.

His philosophy: “Awakening the immunological cure inside you is possible through research”

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