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    Research home > Beat Cancer Project > Gastrointestinal cancer: Early detection and prevention

    Gastrointestinal cancer: Early detection and prevention

    Professor David Watson

    Establishment of Flinders Centre for Gastrointestinal Cancer Prevention: A new cross-disciplinary research centre for early detection and prevention of gastrointestinal (GI) cancer

    Our research

     This funding has supported the development of a new research workforce for early detection and prevention of gastrointestinal (GI) cancer, in the areas of clinical, behavioural, population health and cost-effectiveness research. We’ve established a centre focused on translational research which will measurably impact the mortality of GI cancer. Funding is supporting the development of new research workforce, with project specific research funded from external sources such as NHMRC.

     GI Cancers are a major disease burden in Australia, accounting for more deaths than any other cancer type. Most individuals have advanced disease and a poor outlook. Most research focuses on advanced disease, but the gains from this have had little impact on population outcomes. The big difference in outcomes for early vs. late stage GI cancer (85%+ 5 yr survival for T1 oesophageal cancer vs.  Less than 20% for T3) means that strategies to identify early cancer (when cure is more likely) are more likely to improve population outcomes. Even more should be possible if pre-invasive neoplasia (colonic adenomas and Barrett’s oesophagus) can be prevented from progressing to cancer. Research to develop new methods for identifying early stage GI cancer, enhance detection strategies, or improve the uptake of early detection programs should improve population outcomes. We propose a structure to make this happen. 

    What we aim to achieve

    Our research team hopes to reduce the mortality of gastrointestinal (GI) cancer by:

    • detecting GI cancer at the earliest stage
    • improving primary, secondary and tertiary prevention of cancer development 
    • increase the proportion of patients presenting with early stage GI cancer
    • reduce the number of patients presenting with advanced stage invasive GI cancer
    • reduce the number of survivors re-presenting with cancer.

    Our next steps and milestones

    Our existing research focuses on early detection and prevention and integrates many disciplines – clinical, biomedical science, behavioural science, health economics and population health –to provide a cross-disciplinary research platform. We will integrate existing project-based prevention research to strategically leverage a broader range of projects to benefit cancer control. We will recruit, train and develop researchers to work within this multi-disciplinary translational platform, and boost prevention research capacity. Our Centre will build on established research groups as they focus on key areas that drive innovation in GI cancer prevention, early detection and control. We will leverage already funded basic science programs to expand translational research in the clinical and population based areas. This will include:

    • Testing interventions to interrupt oncogenesis and prevent cancer development
    • Enhanced screening and surveillance techniques for early detection and intervention
    • Population health strategies
    • Cost benefit analyses

    What motivates me

    We already have strategies that can impact the outcome for individuals with cancer. However, we have not always implemented current knowledge into clinical practice. This grant offers an opportunity to take a big picture approach to cancer prevention and early detection which can make a difference to our community. 

    My message to supporters

    This funding is providing critical support for a new research workforce in the area of GI cancer prevention, particularly in the areas of health economics, population health and behavioural science. This has expanded the portfolio of cancer prevention research in South Australia and is facilitating a more strategic and programmatic approach to GI cancer prevention.


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