Cancer and Haematology Research

About Cancer and Haematology Research

Cancer is a disease where abnormal cells proliferate in an uncontrolled fashion. It is a disease that can develop within almost every part of the human body and affects thousands of Australians every year.

Cancers are named based on where they originate in the body, even if that cancer then spreads elsewhere. The most common cancer diagnosed in men is prostate cancer (originating in the prostate), and in women, breast cancer. Colorectal cancer, melanoma, lung cancer and lymphoma are the next most common cancers in both men and women.

Our cancer researchers tackle the mysteries of cancer from a number of different perspectives. Some carry out research into specific cancers, such as cancer of the lung, bowel, endometrium, brain, bladder and stomach. Others investigate the role that innate immunity, specific proteins and cancer stem cells play in the onset and development of the disease.

Importantly, our Phase I Clinical Trials Program provides researchers with the potential to translate laboratory findings into new cancer therapies for patients.

Providing care to around 1 million Victorians, Monash Haematology is one of the largest haematological services in Australia, offering specialisation for complex cases in non-malignant and malignant haematology and a lead international site for expertise and clinical trial activity in lymphoid cancer and chronic myeloid disorders.

Led by Professor Stephen Opat, Monash has one of the largest public chronic myeloid leukaemia clinics (CML) in Australia, and has been a lead recruiter to international Phase III CML and myelodysplasia studies. Monash Health also has the second largest paediatric leukaemia service and is a member of the US-based Children’s Oncology Group.

Monash Health is a centre of excellence for the management of pregnancy-associated venous thrombotic disorders—a relatively rare condition but a leading cause of maternal mortality in a developed country like Australia. Research in this area has been further promulgated by Monash's lead clinician in this area assisting with the development of Australasian guidelines (Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2012; 52:14-22 and 3-13). Perhaps the largest impact has been in the clinical development of novel antithrombotic drugs, where Monash was consistently the top Australasian recruiter in Phase III studies, six of which were published in the NEJM.

The Thalassaemia Unit at Monash Health contains the Victorian Haemoglobinopathy reference laboratory and provides a comprehensive integrated whole person and whole of life care. It has been at the forefront of developing national guidelines for the management of thalassaemia major, sickle cell disease and other congenital anaemias. The services active clinical trials programme has participated in large multinational Phase III trials of oral chelation therapy (EPIC trial) which have now become standard of. The unit is planning to participate in a ‘first in man' study of a hepcidin agonist. The group is also conducting an investigator-initiated study of ultrarapid (60 second) parenteral iron carboxymaltose infusion, which has the potential to revolutionise the treatment of iron deficiency anaemia, the most common haematologic illness worldwide.

Research projects

Group heads

Professor Eva Segelov

Head of Translational Oncology Research Laboratory, and Director of Oncology at Monash University and Monash HealthProfessor Eva Segelov has specialist interest in the diagnosis and management of upper and lower gastrointestinal cancers, including neuroendocrine tumours and anal cancer, as well as breast cancer.  Professor Segelov has led numerous national and international oncology clinical trials including the ICECREAM, QUASAR2, SCOT and ASCOLT trials.

Professor Stephen Opat

Professor Stephen Opat is Director of Clinical Haematology at Monash Health and Head of Department of Haematology, School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health, Monash University.

Professor Opat’s research aims to improve outcomes for patients with lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, and to achieve these ends he has employed a number of strategies.

The Lymphoma and Related Diseases Registry (housed within Monash University’s, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine) enables haematologists across Australia and New Zealand to monitor access to care; benchmark outcomes nationally and internationally; explore variation in practice; and act as a resource for clinical trials.

As Director of the Monash Haematology Clinical Research Unit, Professor Opat has also been principal investigator in over 40 studies in lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.  The Unit is engaged in all aspects of clinical research, from first in human to large international phase III studies.

Another research interest of Professor Opat’s is improving the understanding of lymphoma biology to facilitate the rational application of targeted therapy.

The Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance Lymphoma flagship is a collaborative effort to improve outcomes for patients with poor-risk non-Hodgkins lymphoma through gaining an understanding of the genetic lesions involved in the malignant transformation of lymphoid cells.  The project involves genetic sequencing of tumour DNA coding regions to identify genetic variants that may help guide treatment.

A/Prof Jake Shortt

Head of Blood Cancer Therapeutics Laboratory, A/Prof Jake Shortt is the recipient of a Victorian Cancer Agency (VCA) clinical research fellowship and both NHMRC and CCV project grant funding. Dr Shortt was the inaugural recipient of the "Eva & Les Erdi" Snowdome Foundation/VCA grant for "new targets in haematological malignancy".  His strong translational work as part of the Department of Medicine at the School of Clinical Sciences and in conjunction with the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre is focused on strategies incorporating epigenetic drugs with immunotherapy in haematological cancers.

A/Prof Arun Azad

Head of Prostate Cancer Therapeutics Laboratory, Translational researcher and medical oncologist A/Prof Arun Azad focuses on urological cancers.  In collaboration with Professor Gail Risbridger, his pre-clinical research uses novel patient-derived xenograft models to characterise the effects of taxane cytotoxics in castration-sensitive prostate cancer. Dr Azad's clinical research focuses on circulating biomarkers including cell-free DNA and microRNA in patients with urological cancers together with the delivery of precision medicine for prostate cancer patients using genomic profiling of blood and tissue to offer personalised treatments.

Dr George Grigoriadis

Dr George Grigoriadis is a consultant haematologist at Monash Health and Alfred Health and Senior Lecturer in the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health. He is a recent recipient of a Victorian Cancer Agency Clinical Research Fellowship on the evolution of myelodysplasia.