14th February 2020
Conjoint Professor Jim Denham might have ‘retired’ as a Senior Staff Specialist in Radiation Oncology at Calvary Mater Newcastle but he is a long way from retiring from his passionate interest in prostate cancer research and its potential to provide help and hope for those affected.
Much of his time this year will be spent investigating how nerves play a role in the spread of prostate cancer cells into the bones and, more importantly, how to stop it.
It will be a collaborative research effort with his friend and University of Newcastle colleague Professor Hubert Hondermarck, and the next step in his life’s work.
And somewhere along the line Jim will find time for travels into the African wilds with wife Liz, to downsize his home, go fishing, and maybe pick up a guitar.
“I do need to avoid getting under Liz’ feet,” he admits with trademark good humour.
Staff gathered recently to farewell and pay tribute to their colleague who for more than 30 years was instrumental in improving the detection and survival rates of prostate cancer patients in the Hunter.
“I was inspired to become a cancer specialist after reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel Prize-winning book Cancer Ward. It turned out to be a great choice.”
Jim has cared for hundreds of patients since he started at Calvary Mater Newcastle in 1987. He was also a founding member of the Hunter Prostate Cancer Alliance and integral to the success of its ‘Little Prick’ campaign which encouraged men over the age of 50 to have a simple blood test. The campaign contributed to a 36 per cent drop in mortality for prostate cancer.
He was instrumental too in establishing the Trans-Tasman Radiation Oncology Group (TROG), becoming the fledgling Australia and New Zealand multi-site group’s inaugural president. He also played a major role in the design and direction of its two largest cancer trials for men with locally advanced prostate cancer.
The first trial showed that six months of combined radiotherapy and anti-testosterone treatment (androgen therapy) reduced metastases and prostate cancer deaths by 50 per cent. The second and larger ‘RADAR’ trial demonstrated that the combined treatments delivered over 18 months had even more remarkable effects, further reducing metastases by 40 per cent and prostate cancer deaths by 30 per cent.
It was world class research that has and will continue to save lives.
Jim is proud of Calvary Mater Newcastle staff and of the research collaborations that have brought medical and surgical teams from different specialties together.
His hope for the future of cancer research at Calvary Mater Newcastle is that it continues for a very long time … with new people at the helm.