Cancer will affect 1 in 3 men and 1 in 4 women by the age of 75. Medical research has transformed the outlook for cancer patients in recent decades. We understand more about how cancer develops at a molecular, cellular and tissue level, and how cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and palliation can be improved.

We now understand that cancer is very heterogeneous – that is, it is not just one disease, but hundreds of diseases. Advances in technology mean we are now able to characterise different cancers into sub-types and develop specific treatments for each of these. Every patient’s cancer is unique, and requires a targeted approach to treatment. Understanding how best to do this is the fundamental challenge facing cancer research today.

Our cancer research aims to benefit individuals at all stages of their encounter with cancer – from prevention intervention, and support. We focus on the following key areas:-

Cancers with poor outcomes (lead Prof David Goldstein): We are prioritising traditionally under-funded and neglected cancers where the survival rate has not improved such as brain, pancreas, ovary, connective tissue, and rare cancers. We are working to find new therapeutics and better management of advanced disease for people with these cancers.

Bringing ‘omics’ into clinical practice (lead Prof David Thomas): In the wake of the explosion of knowledge about the human genome, proteome (the proteins expressed by cells and tissues) and metabolome (the chemicals found in cells) we believe it is imperative to now translate these gains into clinical practice. We are working to link 'omic' information with the vast store of clinical and radiological data so that knowledge gains in the laboratory can drive improved diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Reducing unwarranted variation in clinical practice (lead A/Prof Winston Liauw): Variation in clinical practice can result in avoidable trauma for cancer patients and unnecessary costs to our healthcare system. There is a critical need worldwide to build reserach infrastructure to analyse the nature, cause and consequences of clinical variation.  Our research aims to remove unnecessary variation in practice and ensure a consistent approach to data collection, audit and data reporting, for example through standardising electronic medical records and using evidence-based decision aids for clinicians.

Living better with and after cancer (lead Prof Meera Agar): The prevalence of cancer is at least five times the cancer incidence, meaning there are hundreds of thousands of people in NSW who have had cancer or are living with it.The focus of this area is to improve outcomes for palliation and survivorship so patients can live better with and after cancer. We are working to develop innovative approaches which provide better, individually tailored and more cost-effective care to those who are living in the community with cancer and its effects.

Related Research Units


UNSW Medicine’s cancer researchers are internationally recognised clinicians, researchers and educators. Our expertise spans the basic sciences, clinical trials, implementation research, public health and health services research. From experience, we know that cross-disciplinary collaboration is the most effective way of turning scientific discoveries into cures.

Our goal is to unite and consolidate cancer research into a leading international partnership that improves the survival quality of life for all people affected by cancer.

Many of our researchers are also clinicians who work in Local Health Districts in Southeast Sydney and Southwest Sydney and St Vincent's Hospital Sydney. Our research is conducted in renowned centres and institutes including the Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research, the Lowy Cancer Research Centre, the Children’s Cancer Institute, the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the Centre for Big Data Research in Health. These connections give us access to highly sophisticated equipment including whole genome sequencing, high-throughput chemical small molecule screening and advanced fluorescence microscopy, as well as clinical trials capability and access to statistical and big data support.

Our research comprises cancer basic sciences, including genomic work, biobanking, pharmacology, stromal biology, tumour biology, cancer stem cell biology, histone modification and epigenetics, as well as drug development, clinical trials, epidemiology, pharmaco-epidemiology and health services research.

We collaborate widely and have partnerships with consumers, government and non-government organisations, charities and industry to ensure that our work is clinically relevant and rapidly implemented.

Currently, the UNSW Medicine Cancer Theme is a leader within the Cancer Clinical Academic Group (Cancer CAG) of the Sydney Partnership for Health, Education, Research and Enterprise (SPHERE), a partnership between 14 key leaders in health, education and medical research. The aim of the CAG is to expedite the path for positive cancer research to deliver impacts to public health outcomes faster than ever. The SPHERE Cancer CAG harnesses the power of researchers and clinicians at three Universities, two Medical Research Institutes and four major Sydney Teaching Hospitals.


We have made significant advances in the basic sciences and are recognised for our clinical expertise and leadership.

Our clinicians and researchers collaborate through the Cancer Institute NSW Translational Cancer Research Centres (TCRC), helping to accelerate implementation of research findings into clinical practice and to increase the research productivity and quality of clinicians.

We are leaders in running clinical trials, including Australia’s first Molecular Screening and Trials study in rare cancers, the first medicinal cannabis study and other large-scale investigator-driven international Phase 2/3 studies.

Through the Garvan’s Illumina XTen facility, which is unique in the Southern Hemisphere, we are discovering new genes associated with cancer risk and progression that will lead to preventative and therapeutic targets.

We host outstanding clinical facilities that deliver complex services to difficult and rare cancer cases and are involved in the global fight for cancer control through involvement with United Nations agencies such as the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency. 





As an Australian leader in medical research and one of Australia’s great medical schools, there is no shortage of exciting projects that are in need of vital funds.

We are grateful to our supporters for their help in creating scholarships, supporting ground-breaking research and help transform and build better facilities for our researchers and students.

We differentiate ourselves from other leading Medical Schools with our research strengths in the neurosciences, ageing, mental health and addiction, cancer, immunology and virology, health innovation studies and our emerging strength in Indigenous health.

Your financial contributions of any size will directly help us achieve our vision of change through education.


Donate Online

You can give online to the UNSW Medicine using the University's secure online donation form.


Donate via Post or Telephone

Download, complete and return a postal donation form (pdf)
And don't forget, donations are tax deductible in Australia. UNSW Australia is endorsed as a deductible gift recipient (DGR1) by the Australian Taxation Office. Donations to UNSW of $2 or more are tax deductible in Australia. All donors are issued with a receipt.


Leave a Bequest

Leaving a gift to the Faculty of Medicine in your Will and a legacy for future generations is a very personal and extraordinary decision to make. There are many reasons why people choose to leave a bequest for future generations. No matter why a gift is given, each gift, whether large or small, makes a difference to students and researchers for many years to come. Your support could provide scholarships, research funding and improve educational facilities.

If you would like more information about leaving a gift in your Will, please contact us (contact details below).


Other Ways to Help

There is more than one way you could contribute towards a better future. We have fun and interactive volunteering options within the Faculty you could participate in.
•    Clinical Skills Centre
•    Museum of Human Disease


Your contribution is the catalyst for discovery, and so we invite you to contact our Director of Development to discuss opportunities to ensure that vital advances continue.
Daniel Martin
Development Director, Medicine & Science
+61 (02) 9385 8656

Contact us

If you would like more information on current or developing Cancer CAG initiatives, please contact us!


Prof Michael Barton                                                                                     

Principal, Cancer Theme                                                                                           
Lead, Cancer CAG                                                                                                                                                                                
Dr Tanya Ward 
Executive Officer, Cancer Theme and Cancer CAG

Cancer Newsletters