MQ Health - Macquarie University

Cancer and oncology

MQ Health conducts cutting-edge research across various types of cancer. These efforts start with understanding the biology and molecular profiles of cancer cells and their effects on how patients respond, or do not respond, to available therapies. Our research also includes clinical trials for new chemotherapies and immunotherapies, as well as trials for better use of existing anti-cancer drugs.

Melanoma research and precision cancer therapy

The Precision Cancer Therapy Laboratory in MQ Health explores the oncogenic (or cancer-causing) signals that drive the growth of tumours, particularly from melanoma. This helps identify and understand the mechanisms by which sub-populations of melanoma cells evolve and evade current therapies.

Recognising that, even within a single patient, tumours have diverse molecular profiles (i.e. genes and proteins), this research is identifying ways to refine single or combined therapies to best treat those specific molecular profiles in individual melanoma patients.

This work is done collaboratively with Melanoma Institute Australia, and is supported by a range of funding including a Macquarie-led $14.5M Program Grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Clinical trials in cancer therapies

Clinical trials offer cancer patients access to the latest anti-cancer therapies, well before they are available routinely, and therefore MQ Health's Clinical Trials Unit is an important part of our research efforts and clinical care. The MQ Health Clinical Trials Unit supports industry-sponsored trials to optimise use of existing cancer therapies and also manages sponsored and investigator-initiated trials on new therapies and technologies.

The clinical trials underway within MQ Health are diverse, covering chemotherapies, immunotherapies and radiotherapies designed to target, for example, cancers of the bladder, breast, kidney, lung, pancreas and prostate, as well as metastatic disease where the cancer has spread from its original location.

Dealing with lymphoedema

Secondary lymphoedema is a recognised area of research and clinical expertise within MQ Health. Lymphoedema is the swelling of patients' arms or legs that sometimes occurs after surgical removal of lymph nodes as part of treatment to remove tumours. Advanced cases of lymphoedema can have a devastating impact on individuals' quality of life as the swollen limbs interfere with their everyday activities and affect their self-image.

The Australian Lymphoedema Education, Research and Treatment (ALERT) Centre within MQ Health, as part of the Lymphoedema Clinic, does research on the latest surgical and non-surgical treatments for the condition, as well as on the social and economic impacts of lymphoedema.

Brain cancer

Other research within MQ Health seeks to understand the causes of and develop improved treatments for brain cancers, particularly glioblastoma. For example, some of our researchers are exploring how immune system imbalances lead to tumour growth in the brain, in order to identify novel therapeutic strategies for these devastating cancers.

In more clinically directed research, neurosurgeons and radiologists within MQ Health are exploring clinical questions associated with precisely locating and then surgically removing brain cancers and metastases to ensure best outcomes for patients.

Colorectal cancer

Another focus of cancer research within MQ Health is exploration of the cell and protein biology of colorectal cancers. By understanding these fundamental aspects of colorectal cancers, the researchers aim to produce accurate cancer diagnostics that can more precisely assess the progression of colorectal cancer, as well as less-toxic therapies for this frequently occurring cancer.

At the other end of the research pipeline, clinicians within MQ Health are developing innovative approaches to colorectal surgery for better surgical outcomes and reduced recovery time.

Prostate, bladder and other genitourinary cancers

Working with several industry collaborators, researchers within MQ Health are exploring new approaches to better diagnose prostate cancer and so determine the best course of treatment. The current approaches to prostate screening, based largely on prostate-specific antigen (or PSA), often tend to overestimate the occurrence and severity of prostate cancer, thereby leading to unnecessary surgical and other treatments for some men.

To help reduce this problem, our researchers and clinicians are working with partners to test new blood biomarkers that have potential for much more reliable diagnosis of prostate cancer. Other research includes testing new approaches to precisely identifying the extent and location of the prostate cancer by means of ‘molecular imaging’, using the latest in radiopharmaceutical tracers and positron emission tomography (PET) imaging.

Macquarie University Hospital is pushing the boundaries of surgical treatments for prostate cancer Advanced surgical approaches with its two Da Vince Surgical Robots. Other research efforts in prostate cancer, and much of the activity in bladder and kidney cancers, occurs within MQ Health’s clinical trials activity.