Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is a leading medical oncology (chemotherapy and intravenous treatment) cancer research centre, with patients taking part in in a range of cancer research and clinical trials. This enables patients to access some of the world’s newest drugs before they are available to others, and to contribute to expanding the world’s knowledge about cancer treatments.

The Department of Medical Oncology has a long history of research productivity through collaboration and co-appointments. These include clinical appointments at Royal Prince Alfred, Concord and Liverpool Hospitals, academic appointments at University of Sydney and University of New South Wales and research appointments at The Kinghorn Cancer Centre, Garvan Institute for Medical Research and the Asbestos-Diseases Research Centre. Several of the clinical staff hold senior positions in other institutions including Prof John Simes, who is the Director of the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre, Prof Martin Stockler, who is co-Director of the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre, Prof David Thomas, who is Head of The Kinghorn Cancer Centre and A/Prof Philip Beale, who is the Director of Cancer Services for the Sydney Local Health District.

The research output from the Department of Medical Oncology crosses the fields of cancer biology, genomics, biomarker studies, clinical trials and supportive care/psycho-oncology research. There have been a number of studies which have changed oncology clinical practice and the key ones are listed below:

  • A/Prof Peter Grimison led a study assessing the compliance of males with stage I testicular germ cell tumour on an active surveillance protocol. At a median follow-up of 24 months, 81% had adequate compliance, 12% were lost to follow-up and 16% had relapsed. This study has contributed to the adoption of surveillance as the standard approach for most stage I testicular cancer patients, as adopted by the Australia and New Zealand Urogenital and Prostate (ANZUP) group in standard recommendations on website March, 2016.
  • A/Prof Catriona McNeil contributed significantly to an international multicentre trial of immunotherapy in metastatic melanoma considering pembrolizumab versus ipilumumab. Pembrolizumab significantly improved survival for patients with advanced melanoma. A/Prof McNeil was an author on the New England Journal of Medicine paper, which results in PBS listing of pembrolizumab for advanced melanoma at the end of 2015.
  • Prof John Simes lead the ALaCART study from the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre. This study did not establish non-inferiority of laparoscopic surgery compared with open surgery for rectal cancer. Long-term follow-up of the ALaCART trial and combined individual-patient-data analysis of the four randomised trials in laparoscopic surgery will help define optimal surgical care.

The Department of Medical Oncology has an extensive clinical trial portfolio which represents ~90% of the activity of the Lifehouse Clinical Research Unit. Over the last 12 months, we have had a significant increase in our Phase I trial activity in particular the first-in-man component. This means that our patients have access to cutting edge therapeutics at a very early stage of development. To enhance access to our trials, we have joined the new ClinTrial Refer Oncology NSW app being run out by the Clinical Cancer Research Network in Newcastle. This allows oncologists from across NSW to access up to date information on clinical trials and refer to the appropriate centre.