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.