Professor Lisa HorvathDirector of Medical Oncology, Acting Head of Research

Professor Lisa Horvath

Director of Medical Oncology and Acting Director of Research
Conjoint Chair of Medical Oncology (Genitourinary Cancers)

Referrals

Phone: (02) 8514 0149

 


Qualifications

MBBS, FRACP, PhD

Specialty

Prostate Cancer


Lisa is the Director of the Department of Medical Oncology at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. She completed medical school at the University of Sydney and trained in medical oncology at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, where she was appointed to the senior staff in 2003. She completed her PhD in translational research at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in 2004.

Lisa’s research interest is predominantly in the field of prostate cancer. She is involved with a large number of clinical trials in prostate and colorectal cancers.

Lisa holds academic appointments at both the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales and is the Head of Prostate Cancer Therapeutics at The Kinghorn Cancer Centre/Garvan Institute of Medical Research. She is the Conjoint Chair of Medical Oncology (Genitourinal Cancers) at Lifehouse.

Lisa has published more than 50 original research papers published in peer-reviewed journals in the last 14 years. She has presented extensively at national and international meetings both peer-reviewed and invited presentations.

Lisa Horvath on clinical trials

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

What is your title?
Director of Medical Oncology and Acting Director of Research

What training have you completed?

  • MBBS at University of Sydney
  • FRACP in Medical Oncology, trained at RPAH
  • PhD in cancer biology (prostate cancer) at Garvan Institute/UNSW

My first job was…
A waitress at Pancakes at Bondi Beach! A great way to learn how to quickly prioritise in a busy clinic!

To explain to people what I do I say…
I am a cancer doctor, who specialises  in prostate and colorectal cancer. I am also a scientist who asks clinical questions in a laboratory to help find solutions.

What is the hardest part about your job?
I always need more time, there aren’t enough hours in the day.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I really enjoy talking to patients.

What does your role as Director of Research involve?
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.

What research are you currently working on?
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.

What difference will this make to healthcare and why?
The research will allow personalised treatment for men with metastatic prostate cancer.

My biggest achievement so far…
Publication of three panels of markers which can predict resistance to chemotherapy in metastatic prostate cancer.

To unwind at the end of the day I…
Read a good book.

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