Award-winning young Newcastle researcher Dr Nikki Verrills is one of three researchers to be awarded the Voiceless Eureka Prize at this year's Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.
The award highlights work that has reduced, or has the potential to reduce, the use of animals or animal products in laboratory-based research, education and testing.
The University of Newcastle's Dr Verrills and colleagues at the Children's Cancer Institute Australia, Associate Professor Maria Kavallaris and Dr Sela Pouha, discovered what makes certain leukaemia cells resistant to chemotherapy, without using animals in their research.
The team identified the specific protein that causes resistance by growing drug-resistant cancer cells in the laboratory.
About 15 percent of patients with leukaemia die from the disease, primarily because of their resistance to the treating drugs, and 20 per cent of patients relapse after treatment.
"I think there are definitely ways we can fight cancer, we just need to understand it a bit more," Dr Verrills said.
"This award is recognition of how we can progress our research in a humane way and I'm very honoured to receive it."
Dr Verrills is a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Peter Doherty Fellow.
She undertakes her research in the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Newcastle and the Cancer Research Program of the Hunter Medical Research Institute.