Professor Lisa Horvath
Director of Research
Conjoint Chair of Medical Oncology (Genitourinary Cancers)
MBBS, FRACP, PhD
Phone: (02) 8514 0149
Lisa Horvath is the inaugural Director of Research at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. Prior to heading up the research department, Lisa was the Director of Medical Oncology at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital for seven years before transitioning the service to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse where she remained at the helm for another seven years.
Lisa is the conjoint Professor of Medical Oncology (Genitourinary cancer) at the University of Sydney. She is also a member of Faculty at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and Head of Advanced Prostate Cancer research group.
As a clinician scientist, Lisa has published more than 130 original research papers in peer-reviewed journals in the last 20 years. These papers range across the areas of clinical science, clinical trials research and translation into clinical practice. She has presented extensively at national and international meetings both peer-reviewed and invited presentations.
Her research interest is predominantly in the field of prostate cancer, especially drug resistance in castrate-resistant prostate cancer and she is involved with numerous clinical trials in prostate cancer as well as Phase 1 testing of new therapeutics.
Lisa was awarded a $1.9 million grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council Investigator Grant in 2020. This was for her internationally recognised prostate cancer research into how biomarkers in the blood can be used to personalise and hone treatment for men with advanced prostate cancer, potentially leading to the development of more effective, personalised treatments for patients in the future.
Chris O’Brien Lifehouse research director and prostate cancer medical oncologist Lisa Horvath first became interested in medical research in her first year of training in medical oncology. That was the year that the first clinical trials in Herceptin, an antibody against a pathway in breast cancer, were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
“And this trial actually showed that if you gave that patient chemotherapy, you turned this disease which had a very poor prognosis and bad outcome for patients, and you could switch it around and get these women responding to chemotherapy and targeted therapies.
“So it revolutionised what we did in breast cancer. It just felt like a new world was starting to open up.”
From Herceptin, heralded as a major advance in targeted (where treatments target a specific type of cell) cancer therapies, cancer treatment has been revolutionised by a multitude of targeted therapies and new agents and new drugs “…and things we couldn’t possibly have imagined 20 years ago when I started training. And it’s all because people do clinical trials.”
“It’s incredibly important that we’re able to take basic research findings and real-life treatment experience and work with the researchers to run clinical trials to change how we manage patients and improve survival.”
Clinical trials don’t just involve new drugs. They trial new techniques for everything from surgical robotics to community nursing for patients having chemotherapy.
At Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, new medicine trials are case managed by clinical trial nursing staff, with close contact and supervision. Patients are encouraged to communicate freely with nursing and medical staff.
“In particular if patients are trialling a brand new drug, are there side effects that we haven’t thought about that they need to tell us about.
Sadly, Prof Horvath says, drug trials may not work for every patient.
“We can never say to a patient ‘this trial will help you’. We can say ‘this is the likelihood that this trial may help you’ but we’re always very open about the fact that this may not work and that this may be purely a philanthropic gesture on their part.”
However, Prof Horvath recalls her involvement with two trials called the Cougar 1 and Cougar 2 trials of the drug Abiraterone, used to treat very advanced prostate cancer.
“Suddenly these patients were getting extraordinary clinical responses and improved pain and were able to get up and do things that we hadn’t imagined would happen.
“But that became part of the registration study that resulted in the drug going on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and being available to all patients with prostate cancer. So not only did we see patients getting huge benefits on the trial, they contributed to the licencing of the drug worldwide for the benefit of many millions of patients with prostate cancer.
Q&A with Professor Lisa Horvath
- MBBS at University of Sydney
- FRACP in Medical Oncology, trained at RPAH
- PhD in cancer biology (prostate cancer) at Garvan Institute/UNSW
A waitress at Pancakes at Bondi Beach! A great way to learn how to quickly prioritise in a busy clinic!
I always need more time, there aren’t enough hours in the day.
I really enjoy talking to patients.
My role involves making the dream of an integrated cancer research facility a reality. My job is to make research in Lifehouse part of the healthcare we provide.
I am currently working on research that looks at patients’ blood markers which can predict resistance to chemotherapy in metastatic prostate cancer. I am also working on the development of new drugs to treat chemotherapy resistance.
The research will allow personalised treatment for men with metastatic prostate cancer.
Read a good book.
Publication of three panels of markers which can predict resistance to chemotherapy in metastatic prostate cancer.