Malaysian Scientist, Dr. Serena Honoured For Cancer Treatment Research

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Yet another Malaysian making us proud in the eyes of the world!

Dr. Serena Nik Zainal, a UK-based scientist was recently honoured with the Dr Josef Cancer Research Prize 2019 for her breakthrough cancer research – “Accelerating holistic cancer genome interpretation towards the clinic” which explores new possibilities of cancer treatment.

The Dr Josef Steiner Cancer Research Award is a prestigious honour that is given out to recognise outstanding cancer research papers in the field.

Dr. Serena who intelligently interpreted the cancer genome in clinical practice received the award at the University of Bern along with her collaborators, Dr. Paul Calleja and Dr. Ignacio Medina.

Dr. Serena receiving the CRUK award in 2017.Source: Twitter/@CRUKresearch

Dr. Serena receiving the CRUK award in 2017.Source: Twitter/@CRUKresearch

In a statement published on the university’s website, Dr. Serena opened up about the process of conducting the research paper – “Our research efforts began with showing that the totality of mutagenesis from large cohorts of whole genome sequenced tumours could reveal mutational signatures, imprints left by mutagenic DNA damage and repair processes that have occurred through cancer development.”

“Subsequently, our team focused on experimentally validating these analytical concepts in cellular model systems.”

In other words, their research paper is acknowledged for discovering alternate methods to analyse the mutations in cancer tumours. Many Netizens have come forth to congratulate Dr. Serena over her remarkable achievement.

A screenshot of Dr. Serena’s tweet.Source: Twitter: @SerenaNikZainal

A screenshot of Dr. Serena’s tweet.Source: Twitter: @SerenaNikZainal

One such person is none other than the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah!

His Majesty could not have been more proud. In fact, he deems Dr. Serena as a good role model – “Dr. Serena’s hard work, talent, and ground-breaking research must be a source of inspiration to all our people. With perseverance and outstanding work ethics we can all reach for the stars as Dr. Serena has clearly demonstrated,”  as reported in The Sun Daily.

“I wish her the very best, with continued outstanding success in pioneering cancer research that will ultimately help cancer patients,” according to a statement released by the Istana Negara.

Dr. Serena with her colleagues at the University of Cambridge.Source: Twitter/@SerenaNikZainal

Dr. Serena with her colleagues at the University of Cambridge.Source: Twitter/@SerenaNikZainal

Dr. Serena is a medical graduate from the University of Cambridge’s Medical Research Council Cancer Unit under a Petronas scholarship.

She pursued a PhD in the study of exploring whole-genome sequencing (WGS) for breast cancer at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Hinxton. Dr. Serena was awarded the Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Advanced Clinician Scientist Fellowship in 2017 and subsequently moved to the University of Cambridge to focus on cancer genome studies.

Growing up in a family of medical professionals with her late father being one of Malaysia’s renowned cardiologist, Datuk Dr Nik Zainal Abidin Nik Abdul Rahman, Dr Serena recalls how her father inspired her to pursue her dreams and her mother, a nurse who always kept them grounded. Her older brother, Dr Nik Halmey, is a cardiologist at Gleneagles Hospital while her sister-in-law, Dr Norlina Ramli, is head of department in ophthalmology at Universiti Malaya.

As to her advice for aspiring doctors and scientists, Dr Serena told the News Straits Times, “Don’t compare yourself to others. There will always be ups and downs and there will always be some occasions that are fair or unfair. Try to stay committed and true to what you want to do and just go for it.” Mutual respect is equally important to thrive in a competitive field such as the medical profession. At the end of the day, “we are all just people, someone’s mum, dad, brother, sister, daughter, son. We are all deserving of respect.”

Congratulations, Dr. Serena on this amazing feat!

Edited by Archana Patrick


*Featured image sourced from