The University of Newcastle, Australia

Highest Hunter honour for leading prostate cancer researcher

Friday, 15 March 2013

A pioneering prostate cancer researcher will today be recognised for his untiring work in early intervention campaigns and his groundbreaking research into better treatments for those threatened by locally advanced cancers.

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Professor Jim Denham*, conjoint Professor of the University of Newcastle and director of the Prostate Cancer Trials Group, will be presented with a NSW Government Community Service Award by NSW Member for Charlestown Andrew Cornwell MP, at a special event held in the Professor's honour.

Over the past 20 years Professor Denham, a radiation oncologist based at the Calvary Mater Newcastle, has focused his attention on prostate cancer that has progressed to a locally advanced stage.

"Most of the 3,000 men who die from prostate cancer each year in Australia have had their cancers diagnosed at a locally advanced stage. There are two ways of dealing with this problem," Professor Denham said.

"The first is to diagnose prostate cancer before it has reached the locally advanced stage, because treatment is much more effective for earlier cancers."

With this in mind Professor Denham worked with leading community members in the Hunter to promote the earlier diagnosis of prostate cancer. The "Little Prick" campaign in 2007 was an important part of this effort.

"The second way is to develop more effective treatments for cancers that do reach this stage," he said. 

Professor Denham has also lead Australia and New Zealand's two large-scale multi-centre trials that have tested new treatments for locally advanced cancers. The first, called TROG 96.01, showed that just six months of testosterone reducing treatment halved the chances of cancerous spread and prostate cancer deaths. The second, known as RADAR, is testing new treatments that can do even better without reductions in quality of life. In 2014 results will be reported.

"It is a massive honour for this work to be recognised with this prestigious community award, not just for me, but for the many dedicated people that I have worked with. Over 700 men each year are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the Hunter and to reduce the harm this causes is not only a professional passion, but personal one too," Professor Denham said.

The NSW Government Community Service Award recognises people throughout NSW who have substantially contributed to the improvement of the quality of life of members of their community, beyond that expected in their usual occupation.  Mr Cornwell nominated Professor Denham.

"I am honoured to recognise the outstanding contribution Professor Denham has made to the Hunter community and to improving the lives and health of our people. Nominating people of Professor Denham's calibre for these types of awards is one of the true pleasures of my job," Mr Cornwell said.

"There would be many locals who do not know Professor Denham, but they would almost certainly be aware of his work, particularly through awareness programs such as the "Little Prick" campaign. Within just 18 months of its inception, the campaign had increased the prostate cancer detection rate in the Hunter from lowest in the State to highest by doubling the number of Hunter men having PSA blood tests.

"Professor Denham is a passionate medical professional who has dedicated his working life to cancer treatment through radiotherapy, clinical cancer trials, awareness campaigns and the improvement of information and counselling services. His tireless determination, combined with creativity and hard work, has undoubtedly changed the lives of many here in our community while also having impact world-wide.

"On behalf of the Hunter community, I thank Professor Denham and congratulate him on receiving the NSW Government Community Service Award."

Professor Denham was HMRI Researcher of the Year in 2006 and received seed funding from Gallerie Fine Jewellery.

*Professor Denham is a radiation oncologist at the Calvary Mater Newcastle and a Conjoint Professor with the University of Newcastle. He is Director of the Prostate Cancer Trials Group, in collaboration with the Hunter Medical Research Institute's Cancer Research Program.HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.


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