Professor Phyllis Butow has been presented with the prestigious Elizabeth Blackburn Fellowship – Clinical Award by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
Professor Butow was the top-ranked female Research Fellowship applicant in clinical medicine and science in 2016 for her research into the psychosocial support of cancer patients and their families as well as the support of ethical cancer genome research.
The psycho-oncologist says the NHMRC award will allow her to focus on her passions and better improve the care of people affected by cancer.
“In this Fellowship I will be focusing on implementation and health services change, to ensure that evidence-based psychosocial interventions are put into practice so that cancer patients and their families can have better experiences and outcomes,” Professor Butow said.
“Our team will be working in collaboration with many other groups to decrease the costs and increase access to effective interventions, ensure that the explosion of genetics and genomic testing translates into ethical and caring clinical practice, and ensure that the ever-increasing number of cancer survivors live well.”
Professor Butow’s research has covered a variety of facets of cancer treatment and communication between clinicians and their patients.
“My research has focused on the needs and psychological outcomes of people living with cancer from diagnosis onwards, particularly people with more needs, such as migrants, and people living in rural and remote places.
“I have also worked with people who have undergone genetic testing for cancer risk, how they cope with knowing about their risk of developing cancer and how they make decisions based on this information.”
Professor Butow recently completed a 15-year study examining whether stress can cause cancer, and gave a public lecture on this topic at the University of Sydney. She has also recently developed new interventions to help cancer survivors cope better with fear of cancer recurrence, which she and others have shown to be highly effective.
Professor Butow’s current research program is concentrated on implementing a clinical pathway for the treatment of anxiety and depression.
“We know a lot about these areas of anxiety and depression but we haven’t got to the point of implementing this knowledge into clinical practice,” she said.
“Almost one in three cancer patients develop clinical anxiety and depression. We have effective, evidence-based treatments but screening is often ad hoc, leaving symptoms undetected, and services lack a clear structure”.
“My colleagues and I are now looking at how we can make sure patients get the help they need, by using online technology to make screening and referral easy, and to deliver education and cognitive-behaviour therapies to anyone, anywhere.”