UP professor recognised for her research in the fight against cancer

Mrs J Van Rensburg, Dr Blair, Prof Hesseling, Prof Joubert and Dr Albrecht (from left to right)

The Chief Executive Officer of the Cancer Association of South Africa awarded the AG Oettlé Memorial Silver Medal to Prof Annie Joubert from the Department of Physiology, Prof Peter Hesseling (University of Stellenbosch and Tygerberg Children’s Hospital) and Dr Blair (National Council against smoking) at a function held on 22 September 2011 in Bedfordview. The medal is awarded to a South African cancer researcher who contributed significantly to the fight against cancer in South Africa. The medal is named in memory of Dr Alfred George Oettlé, a cancer-research pioneer, who died in 1967 at the age of 47.

Prof Joubert was born in Riversdale in the Western Cape. After completing her PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Pretoria in 1998, Annie was appointed as senior technical assistant in the Department of Physiology under the leadership of the Head, Prof Van Papendorp, and in the laboratory of Prof Seegers where she embarked on a journey in cancer research. She is currently a full professor at the Department of Physiology and is recognised for her research on the in silico analysis, synthesis and in vitro evaluation of novel anticancer agents.

During 2008, Prof Joubert’s research group collaborated with Prof Fourie Joubert of the ACGT- Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Unit of the University of Pretoria for the in silico-design of novel, potential anticancer compounds. André Stander, one of Prof Joubert’s PhD students, accomplished this objective by computer modelling of three-dimensional structures. Promising anticancer compounds were subsequently synthesised by Ithemba Pharmaceuticals (PTY) Ltd (Modderfontein, Gauteng). In vitro studies are currently being conducted to elucidate each compound’s signal transduction mechanism and to confirm their potential antitumor activity in vitro.

National and international collaboration (University of Florida, Miami, USA, the Bioinformatics and Computational Unit, Department of Chemistry (University of Pretoria), the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and the CEA in Grenoble, France) forms an integral part Prof Joubert’s research team together with her dedicated postgraduate students and colleagues, namely BA Stander, S Marais, MH Visagie, TV Mqoco, X Stander, AE Theron, CJJ Vorster, S Nkandeu and E Wolmarans.

Financial support was given through grants awarded by the Cancer Association of South Africa, the Research Committee of the School of Medicine, the Medical Research Council of South Africa, the National Research Foundation and the Struwig-Germeshuysen Cancer Research Trust of South Africa. A special thanks is given to CANSA who supported Prof Joubert’s research on antimitotic agents for the past 10 years.

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Story: Prof Fourie Joubert (UP newsroom, Novenber 2011)