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: Carcinogenesis

Oestrogen fuels the growth of endometrial hyperplastic lesions initiated by overactive Wnt/β-catenin signalling

Jyoti Goad, Yi-An Ko, Manish Kumar, M Fairuz B Jamaluddin, Pradeep S Tanwar.


Unopposed oestrogen is responsible for approximately 80% of all the endometrial cancers. The relationship between unopposed oestrogen and endometrial cancer was indicated by the increase in the number of endometrial cancer cases due to the widespread use of oestrogen replacement therapy. Approximately 30% of the endometrial cancer patients have mutations in the Wnt signalling pathway. How the unbalanced ratios of ovarian hormones and the mutations in Wnt signalling pathway interact to cause endometrial cancer is currently unclear. To study this, we have developed a uterine epithelial cell-specific inducible cre mouse model and used 3D in vitro culture of human endometrial cancer cell lines. We showed that activating mutations in the Wnt signalling pathway for a prolonged period leads to endometrial hyperplasia but not endometrial cancer. Interestingly, unopposed oestrogen and activating mutations in Wnt signalling together drive the progression of endometrial hyperplasia to endometrial cancer. We have provided evidence that progesterone can be used as a targeted therapy against endometrial cancer cases presented with the activating mutations in Wnt signalling pathway.

Journal: Scientific Reports

The neurotrophic tyrosine kinase receptor TrkA and its ligand NGF are increased in squamous cell carcinomas of the lung

Fangfang Gao, Nathan Griffin, Sam Faulkner, Christopher W. Rowe, Lily Williams, Severine Roselli, Rick F. Thorne, Aysha Ferdoushi, Phillip Jobling, Marjorie M. Walker & Hubert Hondermarck


The neurotrophic tyrosine kinase receptor TrkA (NTRK1) and its ligand nerve growth factor (NGF) are emerging promoters of tumor progression. In lung cancer, drugs targeting TrkA are in clinical trials, but the clinicopathological significance of TrkA and NGF, as well as that of the precursor proNGF, the neurotrophin co-receptor p75NTR and the proneurotrophin co-receptor sortilin, remains unclear. In the present study, analysis of these proteins was conducted by immunohistochemistry and digital quantification in a series of 204 lung cancers of different histological subtypes versus 121 normal lung tissues. TrkA immunoreactivity was increased in squamous cell carcinoma compared with benign and other malignant lung cancer histological subtypes (p < 0.0001). NGF and proNGF were also increased in squamous cell carcinoma, as well as in adenocarcinoma (p < 0.0001). In contrast, p75NTR was increased across all lung cancer histological subtypes compared to normal lung (p < 0.0001). Sortilin was higher in adenocarcinoma and small cell carcinoma (p < 0.0001). Nerves in the tumor microenvironment were negative for TrkA, NGF, proNGF, p75NTRand sortilin. In conclusion, these data suggest a preferential therapeutic value of targeting the NGF-TrkA axis in squamous cell carcinomas of the lung.

Journal: Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Oncology

Fostering a culture of research within a clinical radiation oncology department

Mary‐Claire Hanlon, Joanna Ludbrook, Karen Jovanovic, Peter Greer, Jarad Marcus Martin


Introduction. Support and investment in increasing a research‐active culture in clinical practice needs to be translated at the department and hospital levels as well as regional, state and national levels. We aimed to improve the research culture of our department, to enable more clinical staff to become more research competent and research active. Methods. We describe and discuss the appointment of a Director of Research and a Research Coordinator into our already‐research‐active department and the interactions at the research–clinical interface. By identifying barriers and instituting enablers which ameliorate their effect, we explore how a clinical department can utilize the resources already available with the goal of developing a more confident and competent clinician‐researcher culture as measured by a range of research metrics. Results. We observed an improved research culture within our department. Our department's improved research culture was reflected by increased numbers of peer‐reviewed publications (of 30%), research students/supervisions (of 60%) and engagement of external speakers. We also observed double the number of first‐authored peer‐reviewed articles and a growth in conference presentations, posters and speaker invitations/awards. In the majority of the research performance metrics tracked, there was a steady improvement noted over the four years monitored. Conclusions. By responding to the barriers of staff (such as time, expertise and ideas) with structural and personal enablers, as well as funded resources, it is possible to develop research capacity and confidence in a clinical setting.

Journal: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

Signs, Fines and Compliance Officers: A Systematic Review of Strategies for Enforcing Smoke-Free Policy

Olivia Wynne, Ashleigh Guillaumier, Laura Twyman, Sam McCrabb, Alexandra M. J. Denham, Christine Paul, Amanda L. Baker, Billie Bonevski


Background. Smoke-free environment policies limit or eliminate the use of smoke-producing tobacco in designated areas thereby reducing second hand smoke. Enforcement is perceived as critical to the successful adoption of a smoke-free policy. However, there is limited guidance available regarding effective enforcement strategies. A systematic review was conducted to examine the effectiveness of enforcement strategies at increasing compliance with and enforcement of smoke-free policies; and to determine circumstances other than enforcement strategies that are associated with compliance with smoke-free policies. Design. Medline, Medline in Process, The Cochrane Library, Embase, PsycInfo and CINAHL databases were searched using MeSH and keywords for relevant studies published between January 1980 and August 2017. A narrative synthesis and methodological quality assessment of included studies was undertaken. Results. Policy promotion and awareness-raising activities, signage, enforcement officers, and penalties for violations were the enforcement strategies most frequently cited as being associated with successful policy enforcement. Additionally, awareness of the laws, non-smoking management and lower staff smoking rates, and membership of a network guiding the policy enforcement contributed to higher compliance with smoke-free policies. Conclusions. There is weak evidence of the effectiveness of strategies associated with compliance with smoke-free policies. Given the evidence base is weak, well-designed trials utilizing appropriate evaluation designs are needed. Overall enforcement strategies associated with total smoke-free bans resulted in higher levels of compliance than strategies for policies that had only partial smoke-free bans.

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