Laboratories


Dr Lisa Lincz

Senior Research Officer

The Hunter Haematology Research Group conducts laboratory based studies into haematological cancers and disorders of coagulation with a primary interest in circulating biomarkers and extracellular microvesicles. In collaboration with researchers at the University of Newcastle and the Hunter Medical Research Institute, the team is working towards the development of a research program in the area of Myelodysplasia and Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

The group maintains strong collaborations with researchers internationally through the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis, the BFM study group for Paediatric ALL, Kingston University and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Canada; nationally with researchers at the Universities of Tasmania and Melbourne, the Royal Hobart Hospital and Austin Health, Children’s Cancer Institute, Children’s Hospital, Randwick; and locally with the departments of Neurology (John Hunter Hospital), Molecular Medicine (NSW Health Pathology–North), Clinical Toxicology and Pharmacology (Calvary Mater Newcastle), Medical Oncology (Calvary Mater Newcastle), Radiation Oncology (Calvary Mater Newcastle), Hunter Medical Research Institute, and the School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy (University of Newcastle).

The haematology research team is affiliated with the University of Newcastle through conjoint appointments and engage in teaching undergraduate medical students, as well as supervising biomedical student projects and research higher degree students with the aim of encouraging students to enter this area of research.

Haematology


Dr Jennette Sakoff
Chief Hospital Scientist

The Medical Oncology Research Laboratory – MOR Experiments has a vision for the precision in the delivery of cancer treatment – highly precise cancer treatment for predictable benefit and predictable low level toxicity.

Their mission is to bring together gifted and like-minded scientists and clinicians to conduct translational medical research in a laboratory facility co-localised within the clinical setting.

The scientific team provides expertise in cell biology, molecular biology, and analytical biology working in collaboration with a clinical team of medical oncologists and a clinical trials unit (Calvary Mater Newcastle MOR Trials).

The MOR Laboratory was established in 1988 and provides 120m² of wet laboratory facilities.

Research includes:

  • Clinical Biomarker Discovery
    The biomarker program involves discovering new naturally occurring markers in the blood of patients for predicting treatment effects such as toxicity, disease response, disease progression, and patient survival. This research also includes measures of drug metabolism including pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, pharmacogenetics and therapeutic drug monitoring. Examples of this include measures of 5FU, uracil, mitotane, temozolomide and their metabolites in the blood of cancer patients.
  • Drug Discovery and Development
    The drug development program focuses on the screening of targeted chemical libraries and natural products in cancer cells grown in the laboratory. Examples of note are the discovery of highly selective breast cancer targeting compounds and a class of highly selective and potent platinum compounds.
  • Cancer Cell Culture Facility
    The facility grows cancer cells derived from cancers of the lung, colon, brain, pancreas, breast, ovary, skin, prostate, kidney, blood, and neurons. These cell populations are invaluable models of cancer and provide the ability to study drug sensitivity and importantly drug resistance to treatment.

The unit works in collaboration with the Hunter Cancer Research Alliance and the University of Newcastle.

Medical Oncology


Peter Greer
Principal Medical Physicist

The medical physics lab investigates and develops technology to improve radiation oncology treatments and processes, both in terms of quality and safety, but also in terms of efficiency. The group includes nearly 30 radiation oncology medical physicists and therapy professionals from Calvary Mater Newcastle as well as the Central Coast Cancer Centre and North West Cancer Centres, postdoctoral researchers and PhD students. The team has established strong collaborations with the University of Newcastle, TROG Cancer Research, University of Sydney, Liverpool Hospital, Cancer Care Manitoba (Canada), National Physical Laboratory (UK), Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (USA) and Washington University in St Louis (USA) among many others.

Research includes:

  • Improving verification and safety of radiation therapy treatments

The team is a world leader in the application of linear accelerator imaging devices to measure radiation therapy doses to ensure that treatments are accurate and safe. They have developed methods to check that treatment doses are accurate to be used before treatment as well as methods to ensure that the treatment machines are operating within specifications. They have developed the world’s first real-time verification system using these imaging devices (Watchdog) that checks the patient’s treatment delivery in real-time. Using these imaging devices to check the patient position during treatment the team has developed the first ever system to continuously measure the internal anatomy to guide breast cancer radiation treatment under deep inspiration breath hold.

  • MRI in radiation therapy

The Radiation Oncology department has one of the only two MRI scanners in radiation therapy departments in Australia. The department is working to improve treatments using MRI scanning with projects in MRI-only treatment planning, MRI to assess tumour motion for planning, functional MRI to be able to spare healthy tissues and improve imaging of cancers, and other novel MRI applications.

  • Auditing and assessment of treatments in Australia and internationally

Through collaborations with TROG Cancer Research the group has developed methods to remotely audit radiation therapy centres for clinical trials and conducted over 40 audits. The department has begun to test quality assurance procedures in Australia to ensure that they can detect clinically meaningful errors in the treatments and to determine if practices are optimal.

Radiation Oncology


Professor Geoff Isbister
Clinical Director Clinical Toxicology

The Clinical Toxicology Research Laboratory is the only laboratory in Australia that measures venom and antivenom concentrations in patients with snake and spider bites. The laboratory is an important part of the Australian Snakebite Project. Measurement of snake venom in patients bitten by snakes means that we can identify the type of snake that has bitten a patient and determine if the treatment with antivenom is effective. In addition to measuring venom in research patients, the laboratory offers this service for severe and complex cases of snake envenoming, and also for forensic testing. In addition, the laboratory is comparing the effects of different Australian snake venoms to improve its understanding of snake envenoming and how antivenoms can be improved to treat patients.

Clinical Toxicology

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