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. This has led to a significantly better outlook for patients.
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 through better screening to earlier and more accurate detection and diagnosis, drug discovery, more effective treatments, and clearer insights into the needs of cancer survivors. We focus on the following key cancer areas:-
Cancers with poor outcomes: Some cancers such as brain, pancreas, ovary, sarcomas, rare cancers in general have not experienced the improvements in survival that have been seen in, for example, breast and prostate cancer. We are working to find new therapeutics and better management of advanced disease for people with these cancers.
Bringing ‘omics’ into clinical practice: There has been an explosion of knowledge about the human genome, proteome (the proteins expressed by cells and tissues) and metabolome (the chemicals found in cells). We are working to link this information with clinical data so that knowledge gains in the laboratory can be translated into clinical practice.
Reducing unwarranted variation in clinical practice: To ensure all cancer patients achieve the best outcomes, especially those with long term and chronic conditions, it is essential that we have models of care that combine specialised and community services. 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.
Living better with and after cancer: As outcomes have improved, there are many more people living in NSW who have survived cancer or who are living with it. We are working to find 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.