SOAR Fellows solving real world health problems

14 August 2017

Our Sydney Research Accelerator (SOAR) Fellows across health have been busy in their first year furthering their research in areas such as melanoma prevention, multiple sclerosis, back pain and smoke inhalation injury treatment.

We caught up with a few of our SOAR Fellows and asked them to explain in their own words what their research is about and the wider impact it could have.

Preventing melanoma

Associate Professor Anne Cust - Sydney Medical School

"My current program of work is investigating ways to better identify and manage people at high risk of melanoma, including personalised prevention and screening strategies, and I am leading new innovative prevention trials aimed at improving people's sun protection and skin examination behaviours.

My research will impact the health of the general public, as well as people with skin cancer and their families. It will also lead to better value for money in health system expenditure."

Making research relevant to patients, caregivers and clinicians

Associate Professor Allison Tong - Sydney Medical School

"The Standardised Outcomes in Nephrology (SONG) initiative kicked off over a breakfast discussion in San Diego, during the American Society of Nephrology Kidney Week - where we formed the international Executive Committee. Since then, we have engaged over 2000 health professional and 800 patients and their caregivers from more than 100 countries in establishing core outcomes initially for haemodialysis. Now, we have expanded to kidney transplantation, peritoneal dialysis, children and adolescents, and polycystic kidney disease.

The SONG initiative will improve the relevance and consistency in the reporting of outcomes in trials in chronic kidney disease. This will improve the relevance of trials to decision-making, which can lead to improve care, and health and quality of life outcomes for people living with kidney disease."

Studying twins to unravel back pain

Associate Professor Paulo Ferreira - Faculty of Health Sciences

"My research began with the design and implementation of randomised controlled trials investigating the efficacy of conservative treatments for low back pain. The results of my research showed that most conservative treatments offer moderate effects for back pain and I decided to shift my research to focus on causes for low back pain.

I was introduced to the twin research design in 2009. Twins are extremely useful in research, particularly for the identification of causes for a condition. With the use of the twin design we have been able to identify important causes for low back pain, including sedentarism and poor sleep quality.

After identifying some potential causes and protective factors for back pain, I have expanded my research to design treatment approaches based on lifestyle changes such as engagement in physical activity with the use of e-health technology.

My research will have significant implications worldwide. Back pain is the number one disease leading to disability in the world. My research will benefit over 4 Million people in Australia and 700 Million people globally."

Shifting the paradigm for smoke inhalation treatment

Dr Wojciech Chrzanowski - Faculty of Pharmacy

"My mission is to ease the burden of smoke and acute lung injuries and related conditions by developing a frontier cell- and exosome-based therapy.

To achieve this ambitious goal my strategy is to consolidate my research strengths in nanomedicine and nano-bio-characterisation through integrated collaborative research that translates into real-world solutions.

Some 80-90% of fire-related fatalities are attributed to smoke inhalation. Current treatments for smoke inhalation injury are merely supportive and combined stem cells-exosomes approach is a new paradigm in the treatment that will actively promote lung tissue repair. My work aims to transform the treatment of lung injuries with many perspectives to translate this technology for the treatment of COPD, asthma, fibrosis and lung infections.

This project has power to transform treatment from its current supportive approach to a new proactive paradigm of stem cell therapy. Improved treatment for smoke inhalation injury will reduce fire-related fatalities and morbidities.

The proposed cell-based therapy seeks to provide a new treatment regimen with better therapeutic outcomes for the repair of injured lungs. This could have significant societal and economic consequences, including reduced mortality, accelerated recovery, and overall improved quality of life."

Who are our other SOARing stars of Health?