The University of Newcastle, Australia

Pioneering partnership to improve breast cancer patient outcomes

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

A new partnership between Hunter Cancer Biobank based at HMRI and Breast Cancer Trials will boost breast cancer research in the Hunter and beyond.

Formed in 1978, Breast Cancer Trials (BCT) is the largest, independent oncology clinical trials research group in the world. Over the past 40 years they have conducted many clinical trials into the treatment, prevention and cure of breast cancer.

With over 800 researchers in 100 institutions throughout Australia and New Zealand, this is a collaborative research program that enables knowledge sharing, resource pooling and, optimally, deliver faster and better outcomes for cancer patients.

In September 2019, Hunter Cancer Biobank (HCB) became a proud partner of Breast Cancer Trials. Established in 2012 as a joint initiative between Hunter Cancer Research Alliance (HCRA), NSW Health Pathology and the Local Health District, Hunter Cancer Biobank maintains one of the fastest-growing Biobanks in the country.

HCB works to ensure research excellence in the Hunter and enables clinical, biomedical and translational researchers to achieve better outcomes in the field of breast cancer.

The HCB team have a history of collaborating with BCT on a number of their key trials and research teams. HCB staff have been recruited from diverse backgrounds, many with a history of breast cancer research. Among their collective milestones is the delivery of the first diagnostic breast cancer protocols at the Calvary Mater Hospital and the implementation of routine molecular testing for breast cancer statewide.

To ensure that breast cancer patients and their families continue to experience improved outcomes, researchers are continually exploring better, more-targeted treatment outcomes.

Research breakthroughs don’t occur in a vacuum, but instead are the result of collaboration, innovation and cooperation. Breast Cancer Trials has a long history with the region having relocated from Melbourne in 1987 and their operations office remains based in Newcastle.

Some of the important research being conducted by HCRA and HMRI affiliated researchers in the Hunter includes the work of Dr Kelly Avery-Kiejda, currently funded by a Tour de Cure Senior Researcher Grant who is exploring p53, a tumour protein that’s often referred to as the ‘guardian of the genome’ – and its role in tumour suppression.

Associate Professor Nikki Verrills, whose work has been funded by local charity The Pink Frangipani Ball, and HMRI, is using precision medicine to look into new responses to treatment-resistant cancer.

Although there have been enormous improvements in outcomes for breast cancer patients, it is still a disease that impacts many. Around 3000 Australian women will die each year from breast cancer, with around 250 of those in the Hunter.

Through research collaboration and innovation our research teams are aiming to continually improve outcomes for women locally, globally and nationally.


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