Early career oncologist will travel from Brisbane to London to treat gastro-intestinal cancer

Dr Fiona Paxton-Hall, an early-career medical oncologist at Mater Hospital Brisbane, will move to London next year to treat people with gastro-intestinal (GI) cancer as the new Merck-AGITG Clinical Research Fellow. As the recipient of this unique Fellowship, Dr Paxton-Hall will have the opportunity to work at one of the busiest and most prestigious GI Cancer clinics in the UK, the Royal Marsden Hospital.

While Dr Paxton-Hall always knew that she would have a career in medicine, her interest in GI oncology was sparked during her residency. This was when she learned that many of the discoveries that have led to better treatments in other forms of cancer are not effective in GI cancer.

“I’ve always been interested in GI cancer on a personal level, even before I started my advanced oncology training,” says Dr Paxton-Hall. “One thing I’ve learned during my training is that in the last ten years or so, compared with the other tumour types that have had success with groundbreaking treatments, there haven’t really been the same developments in terms of survival for patients with GI cancer.”

During her Fellowship, Dr Paxton-Hall will gain experience in conducting early-stage clinical trials, when patients are given a new treatment for the first time. She hopes to focus on neuroendocrine tumours, which are a rare form of GI cancer, as well as pancreatic cancer, which has a five-year survival rate of just 10.7%.

“I really hope to be able to meaningfully contribute to future GI cancer research. The Fellowship will not only put me at the forefront of cancer research in Europe, but it will also be a solid foundation for my career and provide that essential platform for me to be able to share and collaborate with the AGITG at home in Australia.”

Dr Paxton-Hall was awarded the Fellowship at the 2020 AGITG Annual Scientific Meeting, which was held virtually on 28 August. The overall objective of the Fellowship, which is sponsored by Merck, is to increase collaboration between the UK and Australia. It is offered to an early-career oncologist to provide them with education and experience in treating GI cancer and conducting clinical trials to find better treatments for patients.

Merck Healthcare Managing Director, Leah Goodman, warmly congratulated Dr Fiona Paxton-Hall on being awarded the 2021-22 Merck-AGITG Clinical Research Fellowship at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London. “It’s our privilege and pleasure to support Dr Paxton-Hall’s oncology journey and wish her every success in the future,” Ms Goodman said.

Dr Paxton-Hall will begin her time at the Royal Marsden in mid-2021.

Many thanks to Merck for their generous support of this unique opportunity.