New collaboration to fight breast cancer

26 November 2012

Physiotherapists, oncologists, psychologists, physiologists and experts in breast surgery and public health have joined forces in a new multidisciplinary research group dedicated to improving the future outcomes and overall quality of life of breast cancer sufferers.

The Breast Cancer Special Interest Group (BCSIG), based in the Faculty of Health Sciences and including researchers from Sydney Medical School and the Sydney School of Public Health, hopes to improve breast cancer diagnosis and treatment by identifying, preventing and modifying the risks of breast cancer and its resulting conditions.

"The Breast Cancer Special Interest Group is one of only a handful of multidisciplinary breast cancer research centres in Australia," says Professor Patrick Brennan, a world authority on breast cancer imaging and detection and chair of the BCSIG steering committee. "The University of Sydney is home to some of the world's leading breast cancer researchers. By bringing our leading minds together, we hope to take our research in new directions to transform breast cancer treatment from the cellular level of diagnosis all the way to treatment, the psychological state of the patient, and associated conditions like lymphoedema."

The BCSIG held its inaugural seminar on 21 November to share key research findings on breast cancer biology and genetics, treatment and rehabilitation, imaging and detection, and epidemiology and public health.

"Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death in Australian women, and one in 11 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer before they reach 75. It's essential that we think outside the box to prevent, diagnose and manage this disease, and bringing researchers together to share ideas and work across disciplines is one of the best ways to do this," Professor Brennan says.

The researchers within BCSIG have been successful in attracting competitive research funding, publishing in leading journals and collaborating with world-leading institutions.
Professor Brennan and colleagues in the Breastscreen Reader Assessment Strategy (BREAST), which focuses on improving the accuracy of mammogram image assessment, have attracted $1 million from the National Breast Cancer Foundation this year alone.

BCSIG steering committee member Professor Sharon Kilbreath, who will also present at the seminar, is making considerable strides towards identifying and alleviating the painful, long-term musculoskeletal problems suffered by many breast cancer survivors, including shoulder and arm problems such as lymphoedema, shoulder stiffness, weakness, pain and numbness.

Associate Professor Nehmat Houssami, also on the steering committee and presenting at the seminar, has recently completed a study providing the first available Australian information about the risk of cancer recurrence drawn from the general breast cancer population, while seminar presenter Dr Justine Graham is undertaking transformative research on the link between progesterone and increased breast cancer risk at the cellular level.

Find out more on the BCSIGwebsite