$1.5M funding for cancer and pandemic projects

$1.5M funding for cancer and pandemic projects

NHMRC funding for research addressing cancer treatment and preparing Australia for future pandemics

Two University of Wollongong (UOW) researchers, Distinguished Professor Anatoly Rozenfeld and Dr Chris Degeling have been awarded a total of $1.5m funding by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), announced on Thursday 4 November 2021.

The research is funded through the NHMRC Ideas Grant scheme, which aims to address a wide range of health and medical issues and deliver important discoveries to improve the health of Australians.

Enabling next generation radiotherapy for cancer – Professor Anatoly Rozenfeld

Professor Rozenfeld is the Director of UOW's Centre for Medical Radiation Physics (CMRP). He is internationally recognised for his expertise and contribution to radiation detectors and dosimetry, including micro-and nanodosimetry and its application for radiation therapy, medical imaging and radiation protection.

Radiotherapy has been the foundation of cancer treatment for over 100 years and the technology is continually improving.

However, even the most advanced treatment can have significant side effects as the radiation beams aimed at the tumour also irradiate normal tissues before and after they go through the tumour.

With the support of NHMRC’s approximately $750,000 funding Professor Rozenfeld’s established expertise will help develop a new microdosimeter to measure the physical radiation dose at all angles and an important property called linear energy transfer (LET), which determines the biological effect of a particular proton beam.

“Using Proton Therapy, which is a new method of radiotherapy using particles instead of X-rays, the process will allow the safe use of biologically optimised treatment to kill more cancer cells while sparing surrounding normal tissue,” Professor Rozenfeld said.

“The advantage of protons is that they can be made to stop at a particular depth in the patient and treat less normal tissue than conventional radiotherapy.”

Preparing Australia for the next pandemic – Dr Christopher Degeling

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on the health and wellbeing of people around the world.

Dr Degeling, a Senior Fellow at UOW’s Australian Centre for Health Engagement, Evidence and Values (ACHEEV), will focus on the societal awareness and societal impacts of COVID-19, and unavoidable uncertainties about how best to manage transmission risks.

“The pandemic has disrupted established perceptions of infection control and challenged confidence in experts and health authorities, resulting in public and professional controversy,” Dr Degeling said.

“This research aims to develop better preparedness and control strategies, by promoting social awareness and greater trust within and between expert groups and the broader community.”

The NHMRC’s approximately.$840,000 funding to this project will support two under-researched pandemic planning dimensions:

  • social determinants of outbreak preparedness and how to manage differing priorities and;
  • polarising discourses among key stakeholders.

The researchers involved in the project will work with the general public, policymakers, essential service providers and clinicians to map the structures, cultures and networks of key healthcare and other organisations relevant to effective pandemic response.

“This project is the first-of-its-kind in the world and will place Australia as a leader in considering the implications of social preparedness and developing evidence-based interventions that optimise the health and wellbeing of society,” Dr Degeling said.

UOW researchers tackle key global health challenges

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Jennifer L. Martin AC congratulated both Professor Rozenfeld and Dr Degeling on addressing key issues challenging and affecting the health and wellbeing of the community globally.

“Cancer prevention and treatment is one of the most critical issues for the scientific community to solve,” Professor Martin said.

“Professor Rozenfeld’s research has brought in many successes in the field of radiotherapy and this funding will further develop new ways to treat cancer and help reduce the side effects caused by the treatment.”

“COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on the lives of people and has affected the health and wellbeing of many communities and loved ones.”

“The scientific community has gathered a lot of data in the last 18 months that will help prevent future pandemics, but there is still more needed to be done to avoid a similar pandemic situation that we find ourselves in - and that will require a combined scientific effort.

“The first of its kind research by Dr Degeling will help build greater trust between expert groups, policy makers and the broader community.”

In Pic (L-R): Distinguished Professor Anatoly Rozenfeld and Dr Christopher Degeling