Hunter Cancer Research Alliance

As a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional alliance, the Hunter Cancer Research Alliance (HCRA) functions to provide capacity building, funding and strategic support to cancer research across the translational research continuum – from basic research through clinical trials to behavioural, implementation and health services research.

With the support of our partnering institutions, executive leaders and a membership that consists of 250+ cancer-focused researchers, we are working to promote the excellence of cancer research in the Hunter and ultimately improve cancer patient outcomes in our region and beyond.

Featured Publications

Journal: BJUI  International

A clinician-centred programme for behaviour change in the optimal use of staging investigations for newly diagnosed prostate cancer

Alison B. Rutledge, Nicholas McLeod, Nicholas Mehan, Timothy W. Regan, Paul Ainsworth, Peter Chong, Terrence Doyle, Martin White, Rob W. Sanson-Fisher and Jarad M. Martin


To improve imaging utilisation and reduce the widespread overuse of staging investigations, in the form of computed tomography (CT) and whole-body bone scans for men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer in the Hunter region of NSW, Australia, by implementation of a multifaceted clinician-centred behaviour change programme.

Patients and Methods
Records of all patients with a new diagnosis of prostate cancer were reviewed prior to the intervention (July 2014 to July 2015), and the results of this audit were presented to participating urologists by a clinical champion. Urologists then underwent focused education based on current guidelines. Patterns of imaging use for staging were then reevaluated (November 2015 to July 2016). Patients were stratified into low-, intermediate- and high-risk groups as described by the D’Amico classification system.

A total of 144 patients were retrospectively enrolled into the study cohort. The use of diagnostic imaging for staging purposes significantly decreased in men with low- and intermediate-risk disease post intervention. In low-risk patients, the use of CT decreased from 43% to 0% (P = 0.01). A total of 21% of patients underwent bone scans in the preintervention group compared with18% in the postintervention group (P = 0.84). In intermediate-risk patients, the use of CT decreased from 89% to 34% (P < 0.001), whilst the use of bone scan decreased from 63% to 37% (P = 0.02). In high-risk patients, the appropriate use of imaging was
maintained, with CT performed in 87% compared with 85% and bone scan in 87% compared with 65% (P = 0.07).

Our results show that a focused, clinician-centred education programme can lead to improved guideline adherence at a regional level. The assessment of trends and application of such a programme at a state-based or national level could be further assessed in the future with the help of registry data. This will be particularly important in future with the advent of advanced imaging, such as prostate-specific membrane antigen positron-emission tomography.

Journal: European Journal of Cancer

Enlisting the willing: A study of healthcare professional-initiated and opt-in biobanking consent reveals improvement opportunities throughout the registration process

Elizabeth A. Fradgley, Shu Er Chong, Martine E. Cox, Christine L. Paul, Craig Gedye


Biobanking consent processes should accord with patients' preferences and be offered in a consistent and systematic manner. However, these aims can be difficult to achieve under healthcare professionals' (HCPs) time-constrained workflows, resulting in low participation rates.

This current perspective provides a brief overview of HCP involvement in consent and reports new data on participant attrition at each step of the biobanking consent process as experienced by 113 patients at an Australian tertiary cancer centre. To determine attrition in this HCP-driven consent process, we reviewed medical records for the following events: inclusion of biobanking consent forms; visible patient and HCP signatures; consent status selected (decline or accept) and specimen registration with local biobank. Accessible medical records revealed the following data: 75 of 85 records included viewable forms; 22 of 85 records included patient and 19 of 85 included HCP signatures; 15 of 85 records included signed and completed forms and 3 of 85 had samples banked with annotated clinical data. We compared these data with self-reported experiences of being approached to participate by HCPs. Of the 15 participants (17.6%) who successfully completed consent, only five could recall being asked and providing consent.

The low enrolment rate is a considerable lost opportunity because most patients (59%) who were not asked to participate indicated they would have consented if asked. Furthermore, in comparing self-reported experiences with medical records, we believe cancer patients' preferences for participation are mismatched with actual biobanking enrolment, which has considerable attrition at each step in the consent process.

View a list of HCRA member publications here. The publications are sorted under:

  • Biomarkers and Targets Therapies
  • Implementation Science
  • Hunter Cancer Biobank
  • HCRA Symposiums

The member publication listing is updated bi-monthly. If you are a HCRA member with a publication to share, send us an email.

The University of Newcastle, Australia Hunter New England Local Health District Calvary Mater Newcastle Hunter Medical Research Institute Cancer Institute NSW