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A 2019 New Year message on behalf of the Sydney Catalyst Governing Council

Article Type
News Articles
DATE
29 January 2019

2018 was a year of great change for Sydney Catalyst, with new faces in our leadership, the Central Office and of course, our membership. As we look forward to our 8th year working in collaboration with our members to improve the lives of people affected by cancer, we would like to acknowledge some recent achievements from the Central Office and highlight our exciting plans for 2019.

The success of Sydney Catalyst is a testament to the dedication of and contribution from our members, who are leading cancer researchers and clinicians in their own rights, but who are also working in collaboration with us and each other to achieve great things collectively. Our vision is to develop and support a sustainable, comprehensive multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional translational research program, which as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And our members are helping us achieve this. 

In 2018 Sydney Catalyst continued work across our three flagship research programs:

 

Flagship 1 - EnRICH

This ambitious program seeks to assemble a prospective clinical cohort of 1000-2000 lung cancer patients across 8 clinical sites, with the aim of describing the natural history of and patterns of care for lung cancer; identifying current gaps in evidence and practice for clinical quality improvement; creating a platform for researchers across the T1-T3 translational research spectrum to develop and initiate clinical research and intervention studies to address gaps. The EnRICH team welcomed two new staff, EnRICH Project Officer, Kimberley Mander and Senior Project Officer, Spoorthi Gowda. 

We are pleased to report all metropolitan and regional sites are now open, meaning patients are being included from Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Chris O'Brien Lifehouse, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, St Vincent's Hospital, Orange, Bathurst and Dubbo Base Hospitals, and Coffs Harbour Health Campus.

EnRICH now includes matched demographic, clinical, and outcome data for 516 patients with lung cancer as we continue towards our 1000 patient target. Pre-treatment blood samples, diagnostic tumour tissue, and patient reported outcomes have been collected for around two-thirds of patients. Post-treatment samples and follow-up data are becoming available as the cohort matures.

A number of sub-studies using biospecimens and data from the EnRICH cohort are underway, including a procoagulant study (Centenary Institute), Molecular Basis for Intervention During Lung Cancer Evolution (Garvan Institute), Rapid Autopsy Program in Lung Carcinoma (The Kinghorn Cancer Centre/Garvan Institute) and Palliative care-focused collection of biospecimens (St Vincent's).

 

Flagship 2 - Pilot and Seed Funding

Since Sydney Catalyst was first established in 2011, we have provided $1.54M of Pilot and Seed Funding (P&S) for 33 member led projects, including four new projects that received funding in 2018. This program has enabled our members to achieve a range of significant research outputs , including at least 20 publications and 12 leveraged grants, totalling approx. $7.05M in additional funding. Moving forward, the 2019 round of P&S will open in mid-February for funding to commence in July 2019.

 

Flagship 3 - Scholarships and Awards

Since 2011, Sydney Catalyst has awarded 43 scholarships and 19 travel and education awards to support our members in their postgraduate research and professional development endeavours. During the last few years many of our original PhD scholarship and top-up scholar award recipients completed their post-graduate studies and have progressed their research careers via post-doctoral positions and fellowships. In 2018 specifically, we confirmed 8 new student award recipients, a number of whom we are hoping will participate in the 2019 Postgraduate Student and Early Career Researcher Symposium on 26 June 2019.  

 

A range of other Sydney Catalyst supported projects and programs also achieved significant progress and outputs in 2018. These include the cancer molecular screening and therapeutics (MoST) program, led by Professor David Thomas, the ACRF Centenary Cancer Research Centre, led by Professor Philip Hogg the ADAPT Anxiety and Depression Pathway program, led by Professor Phyllis Butow and of course the work of the late Professor Derek Hart and the Dendritic Cell Research group. These are just a few examples of major initiatives that Sydney Catalyst is providing support for.

In 2018 we also hosted a number of important Sydney Catalyst events, including our 7th annual Postgraduate & ECR Symposium, a number of education dinner events, and launched a new podcast series. In 2019 our program of events will continue, with a focus on providing unique professional development and education opportunities for our members while also facilitating communication and collaboration across our membership, which currently includes approx. 650 individuals from 30 groups. The Central Office team, led by Research Manager Merilyn Heuschkel, is always happy to receive suggestions and proposals from members for activities that may be of interest across the Sydney Catalyst network, so don't hesitate to get in touch if you have an idea for something or are planning an event that you wish to promote within Sydney Catalyst.
 
Finally, in late 2018 we undertook our interim External Review, with expert advice and input received from Professors Derek Raghavan, Janet Hiller and Grant McArthur, a summary of which will be made available to members shortly. Feedback from both Cancer Institute NSW and the External Review Panel highlight that we continue to be well placed to achieve our goal of working in collaboration to improve outcomes for people affected by cancer.

 

Regards,

Professor Michael Boyer

Director Sydney Catalyst

 

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