Research

UNSW Medicine's thematic approach to research draws on the strengths of UNSW Medicine as well as internal and external partners to achieve significant breakthroughs in crucial areas of healthcare.

Cancer

About

Our 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 to turn scientific discoveries into cures.

Our vision is to unite cancer research into a globally-leading partnership to deliver continuing evidence-based practice in diagnosis, intervention and support.

 

Objective

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. Better treatment and survival mean there are now hundreds of thousands of people in NSW who have cancer or are living with it.

Our research aims to benefit people at all stages of their encounter with cancer – from prevention to treatment and survivorship 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, sarcomas (and rare cancers in general), pancreas and ovary. We are working to find new therapeutics and better management of advanced disease for people with these cancers. Critically, our ability to attract Phase I pharmaceutical studies in difficult-to-treat cancers like glioblastoma and pancreatic cancer is already demonstrated by research teams based at the Lowy Cancer Research Centre (Randwick precinct) and Ingham Institute (Liverpool precinct).

•    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 better 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. The Garvan Institute are at the forefront of this research internationally and have unique infrastructure and experience to bring to the collaboration.

•    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 research infrastructure to analyse the nature, cause and consequences of clinical variation.  We are building a unique information platform to enable a consistent approach to data collection and reporting, so patterns, value and outcomes of cancer care can be evaluated effectively. The Centre for Big Data Research in Health and their ERICA framework is key to this initiative.

•    Living better with and after cancer (lead Prof Meera Agar): The focus of this area is to improve outcomes for palliation and survivorship, so patients can live better with and after cancer. 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. 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.

Solution

Our goal is to unite and consolidate cancer research into a leading international partnership that improves the survival and quality of life for all people affected by cancer. Working through the four Areas of Focus, we are building co-ordinated research teams to leverage, focus and build scale on current and developing strengths. 

We partner with consumers, government and non-government organisations, charities and industry to achieve significant breakthroughs in areas of health that are clinically relevant and rapidly implement the findings to improve outcomes.

Many of our researchers are also clinicians who work in:
South Eastern Sydney Local Health District
South Western Sydney Local Health District
St Vincent's Hospital Sydney
Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick

Our research is conducted in renowned centres and institutes, including: 
Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research
Lowy Cancer Research Centre
Children’s Cancer Institute
Garvan Institute of Medical Research
Centre for Big Data Research in Health

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

We also lead the Cancer Clinical Academic Group (Cancer CAG) within SPHERE, an NHMRC-accredited Advanced Health Research and Translation Centre. This alliance harnesses the power of researchers and clinicians at three Universities, three Medical Research Institutes and four major Sydney Teaching Hospitals.

Impact

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. 

Strategy

Cancer Clinical Academic Group Strategy 2017 – 2019. 

Governance

The UNSW Medicine Cancer Theme and SPHERE Cancer Clinical Academic Group are merged to streamline governance and administration so that we can focus on supporting research.

Scientia Professor Michael Barton OAM is Principal of the Cancer Theme and Lead of the Cancer CAG. He chairs both the Management and Executive Committees. 

Governance includes the Directors of Cancer Services for SWSLHD and SESLHD and the Kinghorn Cancer Centre in the St Vincent’s precinct. This ensures that we are aligned with our healthcare partner priorities.

Our Management Committee includes independent consumers and community organisations with broad consumer reach and understanding. Leadership from clinicians, academics and others from across the SPHERE network who are experienced in knowledge translation and implementation of evidence into clinical practice ensures projects are designed and conducted to realise uptake and impact. Our committee members participate widely in state, national and international activities and agencies.

Each of our four Areas of Focus has a clinical lead from a different organisational partner. Together with the Chair, they make up the Executive Committee:
•    Cancers with poor outcomes - Prof David Goldstein (UNSW Sydney)
•    Bringing ‘OMICs’ into clinical practice - Prof David Thomas (Garvan Institute)
•    Reducing unwarranted clinical variation - A/Prof Winston Liauw (SESLHD)
•    Living better with and after cancer - Prof Meera Agar (UTS)

Strategic priorities with defined objectives provide the framework for our activities.

Initiatives and funding

Current initiatives in place to support research include:

• BIG Ideas workshops
An increased focus on collaboration in cancer research will facilitate larger research projects that leverage the local landscape and add value over and above pre-existing initiatives and capabilities. Funds of up to $20,000 are available to support a ‘Big Ideas’ workshop that incorporates a national or international expert to facilitate and provide independent advice in the development of the idea(s). Our first has been held for Poor Outcomes Cancers and workshops are currently in planning for our other Areas of Focus.

• Cancer CAG Seed grant scheme
Each year, two grants of $200,000 are available. These funds support development of new research collaborations across the Cancer Clinical Academic Group. Projects are expected to focus on building novel programs and solutions or transforming existing research across disparate organisational/geographical hubs into a new, harmonised entity. Unsuccessful seed grants are eligible for other forms of support from the Cancer CAG, including grant preparation support or leverage funds for external funding applications above $2M and philanthropic exposure. The next seed grant round is expected to open in early 2019.

• Networking support
We are developing visibility of the research workforce across the SPHERE partnership. An enabling platform – the UNSW-SPHERE CRM – is in development to facilitate this. If you are looking for individuals or groups with specific skills or interests, we are also happy to assist where possible.

• Secondment / Exchange Program
The Cancer CAG supports capacity building and networking across the SPHERE partnership. Placements and exchange are an opportunity to promote network development and researcher training by linking partner organisations, health districts and clinical/laboratory environments. Grants of up to $20,000, supported by a detailed budget, are available for secondment / exchange with no deadline for application.

  • Image - Research Runtime: Opportunity for collaboration; Speed networking for researchers and clinicians

    Research Runtime: Opportunity for collaboration; Speed networking for researchers and clinicians

    Tuesday, 24 April 2018

    Created as an opportunity to explore collaborations between researchers and clinicians, the inaugural Research Runtime was recently hosted by UNSW Medicine and brought staff together to explore the theme of Invasion and Evasion – cancer, infectious diseases and immunology. Attendees were from the...

  • Image - Introducing Professor Christopher Heeschen: UNSW Medicine SHARP hire

    Introducing Professor Christopher Heeschen: UNSW Medicine SHARP hire

    Friday, 02 March 2018

    UNSW Medicine are excited to announce that Professor Chris Heeschen has joined the Cancer CAG on March 1 under the SHARP program. Through Strategic Hires and Retention Pathways (SHARP), supporting strategic recruitment in carefully selected areas of research, Professor Heeschen and a team of highly...

  • Image - UNSW academic helps improve cancer therapy in Cambodia

    UNSW academic helps improve cancer therapy in Cambodia

    Wednesday, 07 February 2018

    UNSW Medicine’s Mei Ling Yap, a radiation oncologist at Liverpool Hospital, is leading a major training program for radiation oncologists, therapists and physicists at Cambodia’s new National Cancer Centre, the first modern facility in the country to be dedicated to cancer care. Yap, a conjoint...

  • Image - Boost for UNSW brain cancer and joint replacement research

    Boost for UNSW brain cancer and joint replacement research

    Wednesday, 24 January 2018

    A clinical trial of a new immunotherapy that will deliver a “toxin bomb” to brain cancer cells was one of two UNSW medical projects to receive funding announced by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt at UNSW on Wednesday. The project to treat the lethal brain cancer glioblastoma, led by Associate...

  • Image - New test predicts whether patients with blood cancer respond to therapy

    New test predicts whether patients with blood cancer respond to therapy

    Monday, 15 January 2018

    A new method developed by UNSW Sydney medical researchers offers a way to predict whether patients with the blood condition myelodysplastic syndrome will respond to treatment. Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) is characterised by impaired peripheral blood cell production and abnormal bone marrow, and...

  • Image - Fantastic journey

    Fantastic journey

    Friday, 05 January 2018

    The world of virtual reality and the science of the body can seem a paradox: one takes you out of space and time and the other is wholly tangible – a living, breathing collection of cells. But for Associate Professor John McGhee, pulling on a virtual-reality (VR) headset doesn’t transport you to a...

Get involved

Join an Area of Focus (or even all four!)
If you have an interest in one or more of our Areas of Focus, please send us an email and we’ll add you to the distribution lists. You may like to be part of research planning meetings, BIG Ideas workshops or other events involving researchers and clinicians with complimentary research interests.

Follow us on Twitter
Our Twitter handle is @CancerSPHERE. Follow us to be part of the conversation on all things cancer research. A focus of this account is to promote your collaborative research findings and contribution to conferences and other professional events. Tag @CancerSPHERE in your tweets so we can share your activities and success.

Contribute to the Cancer CAG eNewsletter
Information on news, events, resources and grant opportunities for cancer researchers is distributed in a fortnightly newsletter. Would you like to promote your news, opportunity or event across the network? Send us an email with the content and we can include it.

Subscribe to receive your copy at this link.

Support us

If you’d like to support cancer research please see information on volunteer and philanthropic opportunities at: Support Us

 

Contact us

If you would like more information on current or developing Cancer Theme and Clinical Academic Group initiatives, please contact us.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
Professor Michael Barton OAM                                                                                     
Principal, Cancer Theme                                                                                           
Lead, Cancer CAG                                                                                                    
michael.barton@unsw.edu.au                                                                                     
https://med.unsw.edu.au/people/professor-michael-barton
 
 
 
 
Dr Tanya Ward 
Executive Officer, Cancer Theme and Clinical Academic Group
Ph: 0478492184

Cancer Newsletters