research priorities

Our Research Priorities: What is key to the future of research?

During 2017 our Board of Directors and management created a revised Strategic Plan for the organisation and its activities including the development of new clinical trials and translational research.

As a result, our Scientific Advisory Committee has developed research priorities, defining the key areas at the forefront of research and to address the areas of greatest need. Professor Tim Price, Chair of the AGITG and the Scientific Advisory Committee, says, “Our research priorities have been developed with the ultimate goal of improving patient outcomes. We are looking to the future to ensure that we continue to conduct innovative and ground-breaking research that improves the treatment options and outcomes for patients with GI cancers.”

Three key themes are as follows:

Thinking outside the box

In order to conduct ground-breaking research, one of our high research priorities is to focus on innovative research areas. Specific areas the GI Cancer Institute is exploring include:

  • Pharmacogenomics: The study of how genetics can affect a patient’s response to particular therapies.
  • Pre-habilitation: Pre-operative exercise, which can optimise a patient’s physical fitness and functionality and minimise the negative impacts of surgery. By ensuring that that patients are fit before surgery, their quality of life after surgery can be improved.
  • Nutrition: Some treatments could prove to have better results for cancer patients with specific nutrition plans.

Therapeutic areas of interest: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), localised pancreatic cancer and rectal cancer

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the primary form of liver cancer that affects adults. Specifically, the GI Cancer Institute hopes to study how systemic therapies, which spread throughout the whole body to treat cancer cells wherever they may be, can be used to treat HCC.

Rectal cancer – developing studies in this area means that patients with this cancer have more options when it comes to their treatment.

Localised pancreatic cancer patients are a rare subgroup. The MASTERPLAN study will treat these patients with stereotactic body radiotherapy – and we are seeking funding for this highly innovative treatment which enables high doses of radiation to be directed to tumours, while minimising the radiation to the rest of the body.

Focus on rare and underfunded cancers

Many GI cancers are rare and underfunded, and we have confirmed a high research priority is to focus on these neglected cancers.

Rare digestive cancers include gallbladder and biliary tract cancer, NETs (neuroendocrine tumours), GIST (gastro-intestinal stromal tumours), and small bowel cancer, as well as molecularly defined subgroups of other GI cancers. For the latter, the GI Cancer Institute hopes to explore the potential for genomic studies. Instead of focusing on a specific cancer type, genomic studies focus on a specific molecular target found in the patient’s tumour. This means that research is not restricted to one type of cancer, so patients with neglected cancers could have new treatment options available to them if they share a specific mutation.

It is exciting to have so much new research planned that could give patients more options. The results of these studies will provide valuable insights into how to improve treatments for gastro-intestinal cancers.