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Groundbreaking contributions to the study of cancer
Our multidisciplinary cancer expertise uniquely positions us to make a real difference to individuals who are diagnosed and treated for this disease. Our research is transforming knowledge and impacting clinical practice.

Cancer researchers at the Faculty of Medicine and Health have made major contributions to the study of the disease, from fundamental cell biology to treatment, control, supportive care and rehabilitation.

Our researchers run major programs looking at the causes of cancer, including the impact of cancer-causing agents such as chemicals, radiation, viruses and human behaviour. We also run programs examining biological factors that can reduce or increase cancer risk, such as inflammation and DNA damage.

The University’s cancer research programs focus on clinical and translational excellence. Our current NHMRC grants highlight cancer prevention and screening, cancer genetics, and the development of new drug, cell and radiation treatments, with application in a wide number of cancers including leukaemia, melanoma, cervical, liver and breast cancer.

Areas undertaking research in this theme

We're in a unique position to tackle cancer research through our multidisciplinary network of schools, centres and facilities.

Recent highlights
  • Professor Diona Damian recently led a study which found that a year of treatment with nicotinamide, a form of vitamin B3, significantly lowered the risk of common, non-melanoma skin cancer in high-risk patients.
  • Professor Graham Mann and his team have recently isolated new genetic risk factors for melanoma in the Australian population.
  • In partnership with the Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, we are leading a world-first clinical trial using a GPS-like tracking system to improve prostate cancer radiotherapy treatment.
  • Our researchers are fundamentally advancing our understanding of ageing and cancer by demonstrating the structure of active chromosomal telomeres and the role of the alternative pathway for telomere lengthening.
Key researchers

Learn more about research at the Sydney Medical School.

Our cancer researchers are using cell biology and other methods to investigate the mechanisms that regulate cell proliferation and differentiation. This general approach is applied to understanding basic cell physiology, cancer biology, developmental biology and the pathogenesis of infectious diseases.

Learn more about research at the School of Medical Sciences.

Recent highlights
  • The cancer therapeutics research laboratory focuses on the role of cancer-related inflammation on the outcomes of chemotherapy (ie toxicity, response and survival), in patients with advanced cancer so as to devise and test intervention strategies to improve patient survival.
  • The sunlight and cancer group investigates the molecular mechanisms of ultraviolet radiation-induced skin carcinogenesis, as well as the inhibition of the growth and metastasis of melanoma. Novel findings by our laboratory have shown one such tumour suppressor protein to be suppressed following UV exposure. This, in combination with an increase in UV-induced DNA damage and a loss of repair enzymes, may ultimately lead to the development of non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancer. 
  • The developmental and cancer biology lab focuses on understanding the mechanisms that control normal development and cell function and then how these processes are perturbed in human disease such as cancer.
Key researchers

Our research aims to increase nurses' specialist knowledge as they support people and their families during and after cancer treatments.

Cancer Nursing Research Unit

Partly funded by the Cancer Institute NSW, the Cancer Nursing Research Unit is a consortium of the Sydney Nursing School, University of Sydney and the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse. This brings together Sydney Nursing School's strength in cancer and palliative care research and the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse's reputation as a centre of excellence in clinical cancer care.

The Cancer Nursing Research Unit leads research in cancer and supportive care and supports cancer and palliative care nurses across NSW to develop their research capacity and skills.

Research is conducted under four broad themes:

  • supportive care
  • psychosocial and quality of life
  • models of health care delivery
  • improving research capacity and skills for cancer and palliative care nurses.
Key researchers

Learn more about research in the Sydney Nursing School.

Recent highlights
Drug delivery
  • Associate Professor Wojciech Chrzanowski developed a means of targeting cancer drugs to lung tumours using silk-based drug carriers and gold nanoparticles. His group also have a strong interest in nano-biospectroscopy, which has a particular application in the nano-biomechanics of cancer cells.
  • Dr Pegah Varamini is investigating novel methods of drug delivery in breast cancer and has recently acquired research funding from the National Breast Cancer Foundation. She has a particular interest in selective delivery of drugs to treat triple-negative breast cancer and bone metastases, which would also have relevance for other tumour types.
  • Associate Professor Nial Wheate is also investigating novel methods for delivery of platinum drugs.
Cancer therapeutics and personalised medicine
  • Professor Alan Boddy is leading a team seeking to develop a deeper understanding of the underlying pharmacology of both cytotoxic and targeted therapies. The focus is on personalising drug dosage regimens and providing the optimal treatment for each patient and their disease. The team have identified genetic variations that may indicate which patients are at greatest risk of toxicity after chemotherapy and investigated sources of variability in children with lymphoma.
  • Dr Fanfan Zhou is interested in the molecular regulation of critical solute carrier drug transporter families (SLCs) and their pharmacogenetic variation on the transport and distribution of anticancer drugs. In recent work, Dr Zhou has identified the important role of alkaloids in modifying the uptake of drugs, as well as considering the broader role of these transporters in cellular function.
Antibody optimisation and drug design
  • Dr Veysel Kayser is an expert on the development of biosimilars and biobetters and is working to improve the characteristics of therapeutic antibodies using computational methods. 
  • Professor Paul Groundwater and Dr Rebecca Roubin are working on the design and development of novel cancer agents.
Key researchers

Learn more about research at the Sydney Pharmacy School.

Our Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Research Group conducts research on cancer etiology, prevention, early detection and survivorship, with particular focus on skin cancer and a strong emphasis on translational outcomes relevant to cancer control policy and clinical practice.

Our expertise is in quantitative and qualitative research design, as well as observational, intervention and data linkage studies.  We have strong national and international multidisciplinary engagement including collaborations with clinicians, health economists, psychologists, sociologists, bioethicists, geneticists, laboratory scientists and others.

Research highlights
  • We have received an NHMRC grant project grant for a study that aims to determine if giving information about genetic risk of melanoma improves prevention and screening in the Australian population. The aim is that results from the study will improve how we prevent melanoma and other skin cancers, with eventual translation to other types of cancer.
  • Our researchers are leading the world in tobacco control. Evidence they gathered to support plain packaging of cigarettes was highly instrumental in introducing Australia’s pioneering plain packaging legislation, which has helped reduce smoking rates in Australia.
Key researchers

Learn more about research at Sydney School of Public Health.

Research in cancer at the Sydney School of Health Sciences is transforming knowledge and making an impact upon clinical practice in areas such as early diagnosis, treatment of the disease and its side-effects, and the development of novel pharmaceuticals that can diagnose and treat cancer at the same time.

Our international leaders in cancer research are improving diagnosis by using novel imaging techniques and new technologies. In rehabilitation, we are challenging long-held beliefs about problems arising from cancer treatment, developing better interventions, and treating the consequences of medical intervention.

Recent highlights
  • Our researchers, in collaboration with BreastScreen NSW and the Sydney Breast Clinic, have designed a web-based program that improves radiologists’ skills in detecting breast cancer. The program has been used by 95 percent of radiologists in Australia.
Key researchers

Learn more about research at the Sydney School of Health Sciences.

Centres, institutes and groups

  • Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Research Group
    Based out of the Sydney School of Public Health, we conduct research on cancer etiology, prevention, early detection and survivorship, with particular focus on skin cancer and a strong emphasis on translational outcomes relevent to cancer control policy and clinical practice.
  • Cancer Research Network
    The Cancer Research Network links researchers from across the University, its teaching hospitals and affiliated research bodies. We facilitate collaborative cancer research with the goal of achieving international excellence.