Professor Niall Tebbutt recognised for going above and beyond the call of duty

One of the nation’s leading medical oncologists, Professor Niall Tebbutt, has been recognised for his commitment to research into gastro-intestinal (GI) cancer – including climbing mountains to raise funds for clinical trials.

Professor Tebbutt received the John Zalcberg OAM Award for Excellence in AGITG Research at the AGITG’s 2020 Annual Scientific Meeting on Friday 28 August.

Chair of the AGITG and GI Cancer Institute, Dr Lorraine Chantrill, says, “Professor Tebbutt is highly deserving of this award. Since 2002, he has been driven to create implement and complete clinical trials with the AGITG to find better treatments for patients with GI cancers.”

Professor Tebbutt is the Director of Medical Oncology at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research and Wellness Centre. For nearly twenty years, Professor Tebbutt has volunteered his time to the AGITG and GI Cancer Institute, serving on the Board, as Deputy-Chair and Treasurer and other committee roles. He has been Chief Investigator of seven clinical trials led by the AGITG, volunteered his expertise on 10 Trial Management Committees and also co-authored 41 peer-reviewed AGITG publications and 83 presentations on the treatment of GI cancer. Most recently, he has led the MODULATE phase II trial, investigating a new method of immunotherapy treatment for colorectal cancer patients. Immunotherapy has led to massive developments in other cancer types, but colorectal cancer has been resistant.

Professor Tebbutt is dedicated to improving treatment through research so that no patients are left without hope. “There’s no doubt in my mind that over the course of my consultant career we’ve seen a gradual improvement in treatments for patients with GI cancers,” says Professor Tebbutt.

“We don’t have as many therapeutics coming through as other cancer types, but I think we are starting to see some niche areas where targeted therapies and immunotherapies are going to have an impact in gastro-intestinal cancer.”

Professor Niall Tebbutt accepts his award virtually at the 2020 AGITG Annual Scientific Meeting

Professor Tebbutt has also swapped his clinic rooms for his hiking boots on two occasions and taken on incredible fundraising challenges for non-profit GI cancer research. Partnering with the GI Cancer Institute, he climbed Tanzania’s Mt Kilimanjaro in 2015 and Argentina’s Mt Aconcagua in 2017 as part of a ‘Gutsy Challenge’ team. He led both fundraising teams, and raised over $100,000 for GI cancer research.

“I was first invited to do the Kilimanjaro Challenge,” he remembers. “You get to know your team members much better from doing a mountaineering climb, and it sets up a personal challenge as well. As well as the opportunity to fundraise, it gives you a focus to train.”

One of his main sources of support in his fundraising was his patients and their families.

“People are generous in supporting you in that context, knowing that the reason you’re doing it is to support research and hopefully help them or other patients with some form of gastro-intestinal cancer.”

Learn more about the MODULATE trial led by Professor Tebbutt