The Centre for Clinical Radiation Research
Cancer can be treated using radiation, surgery or medicine (“chemotherapy”) and is often treated by a combination of two or all three options, depending on the type and location of tumour, and the number of cancerous growths.
Oncology describes the practice of preventing, identifying and treating cancer, and in Radiation Oncology, that identification is by the use of sophisticated imaging techniques, and the treatment is via the delivery of radiation to specifically kill off cancerous cells while minimising damage to surrounding healthy tissue.
In Radiation Oncology, one patient's care is managed by many: radiation oncologists (doctors), medical physics specialists, radiation therapists and nurses. Administration staff manage the complex task of fitting in so many people to receive their treatment and follow-up, and Clinical Trials Coordinators make sure that when study participants agree to take part in a trial, they know what to expect.
Each time a patient requires care, they undergo scanning and review by a range of specialists with expertise in the type and location of tumour; detailed planning and evaluation of treatment; and follow-up care. Each patient has an individual workflow, to which each member of their care team contributes – what needs to be done and why, what has been done and how, what are the outcomes (how well is the patient?).
In this way, we ensure that each person in our care receives the best possible treatment while we endeavour to reduce the risks associated with that treatment.
From experience, we've learned that every patient is different; and that the advances being made in technology need to be matched with great effort to ensure that the treatment being delivered is appropriate for those individuals. The research undertaken in Radiation Oncology at Calvary Mater Newcastle often involves trials of treatment options, which require the collaboration of many sites, health professionals, biomedical scientists and patient participants. Currently we are conducting or are following up on around 40 of these trials, with many more about to begin.
We also initiate other studies into the lifestyle and more personal needs of patients, which are driven by our clinical experience and the personal experience of our patients, together with allied health professionals (e.g., speech, diet, psycho-oncology, social work etc). We understand that having a visibly-noticeable illness or scar can have psychological effects. We are compelled to trial new dressings to reduce infection and encourage better healing. We seek to minimise the pain and anxiety felt by patients and their loved ones. We are developing better technology to reduce the toxic effects which can be associated with treatment, and implementing improved practices, protocols and real-time evaluations of those initiatives.
Our research is person-focused, yet strategically driven by our Director of Research and Research Coordinator, who together foster clinically-driven research; facilitate multi-disciplinary collaboration; mentor registrars, research higher degree students and early career researchers; provide backup to more experienced researchers; and assist in the implementation of research-driven advances in this very clinical setting. Together with our multi-disciplinary colleagues, we have a sense of pride in the work being done and enthusiasm for the future of research in this most important field.