Facilities & Platforms

The Ingham Institute proudly boasts some of the most medically advanced technologies and research platforms to facilitate our world-class medical research.

The Institute is home to these state-of-the-art facilities:

Our facilities enable world-first research, training and technology to be explored and developed. Ultimately we redefine and improve the treatment of disease and inform the nature of care across numerous health conditions.

Explore the facilities online or better still, come and see for yourself with a guided tour of our Institute. Our doors are open to the community and those that share our vision and mission. None of our research is possible in isolation, collaboration is fundamental to our success.

The Australian MRI-Linac is state of the art cancer therapy system that combines an MRI scanner with a linear accelerator to provide real-time MRI guidance of radiation therapy.  This will allow highly accurate treatments that target the tumour and avoid normal tissues with treatments that can be adapted to individual patients in real-time as the beam is being delivered.

One of only four such systems in the world, the Ingham Institute system is unique in that it utilises a patient rotation device and an inline beam-field orientation. The first phase of the project began with a temporary installation of an ex-clinical scanner in December 2015, which allowed the first experiments using an x-ray beam in a high magnetic field. The current system is based around a unique split bore open magnet which was installed in April 2016. After almost a year in development the first human images were acquired in 2017, followed soon after by integration of the radiation guidance. In January 2019 the team performed the world’s first MRI guided treatment with an ‘inline’ MRI-Linac in a study of rat brain tumours.

A clinical trial of this technology in cancer patients is currently being planned (MANTRA). Future developments will explore the feasibility of this design for next generation charged particle treatments under MRI guidance.

Group Leader

Associate Professor Gary Liney

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Cancer Pathology focuses on research on common human cancers such as breast, prostate, colorectal and oropharyngeal cancers, specifically in the investigation of biomarkers of prognosis and treatment response.

Studies are undertaken on innovative methods of treatment in animal models that can be subsequently translated to human cancer management such as targeted alpha therapy. The group is also interested in in-vitro modelling of newly discovered genes or molecules that may be important in the pathogenesis of some of the common human malignancies.

The group has had a major finding in relation to oropharyngeal cancer (OSCC), discovering that Cyclin D1 confers significantly worse outcomes in patients with HPV-related OSCC.

Cancer Pathology is also leading Prostate Cancer research, focused on improved biomarkers for detection, prognosis and therapy.

Early detection and improved prognostic testing for prostate cancer will reduce the incidence of fatal metastatic disease and reduce the need for hormonal replacement therapy.

Group Leader

Professor Soon Lee

Under the direction of Scientia Professor Michael Barton, CCORE researchers aim to improve cancer outcomes through research and the implementation of best practice measures into routine clinical practice. CCORE researchers have a broad interest in all areas of cancer management.

Our research extends from the individual cancer patient level to cancer services at state, national and international levels.  CCORE research has led to a number of large collaborative studies that have had a major impact on policy and practice in relation to state, national and international strategic planning projects for cancer services. CCORE researchers have been very productive with many peer-reviewed articles published, contributions to National Tumour Guidelines and commissioned reports. Benchmarks for radiotherapy service delivery that CCORE developed have been adopted throughout Australia, Europe and Great Britain.

 

 

Group Leader

Scientia Professor Michael Barton

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The Gastro-Intestinal Viral Oncology Group focuses on infectious causes of gastro-intestinal cancer with a special emphasis on Barrett’s oesophagus, a precancerous condition of the oesophagus.

This was the first group in the world to hypothesise (2009 & 2010) and publish (2013, 2014, 2015) evidence to show that human papillomavirus infection is strongly incriminated in the aetiology of Barrett’s dysplasia and oesophageal adenocarcinoma.

The following are world first discoveries made by the Group led by Professor Shan Rajendra.

  • Demonstrated that both increasing hr-HPV viral load and integration status is linked with more severe disease along the Barrett’s metaplasia-dysplasia-adenocarcinoma sequence.
  • In a prospective study showed that persistent hr-HPV infection and p53 overexpression (mutation of a tumour suppressor gene) are associated with treatment failure after endoscopic treatment of Barrett’s dysplasia and oesophageal adenocarcinoma
  • Discovered that HPV associated oesophageal adenocarcinoma had a distinct distribution of molecular aberrations/genomic abnormalities compared with HPV negative oesophageal cancer indicating different biological mechanisms of tumour formation
  • Hybrid sequences containing HPV16 and the human genome were identified in oesophageal cancer providing evidence for a host-viral interaction
  • Recently discovered a molecular signature characteristic of HPV driven Barrett’s dysplasia and oesophageal adenocarcinoma.

The discovery of an infectious agent i.e high-risk HPV 16 and 18 as a aetiological factor in dysplastic and cancerous oesophageal tissue is bringing about a paradigm shift in basic, translational and clinical studies involving Barrett’s oesophagus and adenocarcinoma. It is tempting to speculate that in the near future we may be able to ablate and vaccinate against this condition.

The Group’s findings have been subject of invited lectures and oral presentations at the EUROGIN (European Genital Infections and Neoplasia) Conferences in Florence 2013, Seville 2015, Salzburg 2016, Amsterdam 2017, OESO Conferences in Paris 2013, Geneva 2017, United European Gastroenterology Week (UEGW) in Vienna, 2014 & 2016, 5th Asia-Pacific Gastroesophageal Cancer Congress, Brisbane 2015, and the British Society of Gastroenterology, Endoscopy Masterclass, Nottingham 2015.

The group is supported by the Oesophageal Cancer Research Fund [Directors: Professor Shan Rajendra, Mr. Manu Gupta, Ms Maryanne Chehade] Sam Fayad (COO, Dyldam), Tony Merhi (CEO, Merc Capital),Michael Khattar (Renaissance), Kishen Enterprise Pty Ltd, Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research.

Current research collaborations are with the German Cancer Institute, Heidelberg, Germany, Queen’s Medical Centre, University of Kansas, USA, University of Nottingham and University of Derby, UK.

Group Leader

Professor Shan Rajendra

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The Haematology research group started over 30 years ago under the leadership of A/Professor David Rosenfeld with a view to improve the laboratory and clinical services provided by the Haematology and Pathology departments in Liverpool.

In 2011, with Dr. Silvia Ling as the team leader, the research group moved to the Ingham Institute. Dr. Ling, a clinical and laboratory haematologist, is also Sydney’s South West expert in multiple myeloma and her team at Ingham has been focusing on understanding the mechanisms of drug resistance in this incurable disease. Dr. Ling’s team has also been working on detection of genetic markers that are clinically relevant in haematological disorders and malignancies such as myeloproliferative neoplasms, acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes.

Group Leader

Dr Silvia Ling

The Cancer and Inflammation group has core interests in lung, brain and colorectal cancer, DNA damage responses, innate immunity, immunotherapy and liquid biopsy. The aim of our group is to identify biomarkers which can be used to personalise patient care but also understand the biology underlying how these biomarkers function. We utilise molecular and cellular biology, pre-clinical models and patient analysis and clinical trials to elucidate novel biological processes which can improve future patient treatment. A key interest is in the role of innate immune pathways is modulating cancer growth and responses to treatment.

Current Projects:

  • Defining predictive biomarker signatures for NSCLC immunotherapy response via liquid biopsy.
  • DNA damage and induced inflammation as predictive biomarkers for response to systemic therapy and survival outcomes in colorectal cancer.
  • Understanding the molecular mechanisms linking DNA damage and inflammation.
  • Examining the immunotherapy and immune responses in thyroid cancer.
  • Analysis of the roles of PI3-Kinase like kinases in cancer and neurodegeneration
  • The role of RNA quality control pathways in regulation of inflammation

Team:

Dr Alexander James, Dr Pei Ding, Marra Aghajani, Tess Lai, Dr Tamiem Adam, Dr Eunice Dai, Tara Chandaran, Sami Mubarek

Team Leader

Dr Tara Roberts

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The Centre for CTC Diagnostics & Research (CCDR) are currently studing circulating tumour cells (CTCs) and circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) from cancer patients blood samples and analyse these using highly sensitive methods the team have developed to do the following:

  • To aid personalised cancer therapy by enabling the detection of clinically important cancer biomarkers from blood samples.
  • To establish blood-based techniques to monitor cancer therapy response.
  • Ultimately, to help tailoring cancer treatment using non-invasive economical techniques.

Current Projects:

  • Revolutionising circulating tumour cell analysis in castrate resistant prostate cancer: proteomic microscopy and artificial intelligence for precision definition of mechanisms and targets (NHMRC ideas grant; J. Lock, T. Becker, P. de Souza)
  • Better biomarkers to guide treatment for brain cancer (SPHERE CAG project grant; T. Becker, Tara Roberts, David Ziegler, Geoff McCowage, Jonathan Karpelowsky)
  • Detection of clinically relevant breast cancer biomarkers in liquid biopsy.
  • Defining predictive biomarker signatures for NSCLC immunotherapy response via liquid biopsy.

Team:

Dr Yafeng Ma (CTC Operator), Dr Branka Powter (Brain Cancer Liquid Biopsies), PhD candidates: Sarah Jeffreys, Heena Sareen; co-supervision: Pei Ding, Tanzila Khan, Tamiem Adam, Eunice Dai, Gary Ticknell, Masters candidate: Anne-Marie Marivel

Team Leader

Associate Professor Therese Becker

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The Medical Oncology Clinical Trials Unit based at the Ingham Institute and Liverpool Hospital is one of the most active clinical trials units across SWSLHD. The unit conducts a wide range of trials from phase 1 (early drug development) to phase 4 trials, with involvement in large pharmaceutical sponsored, co-operative group and investigator-led clinical trials. In 2018, we opened a new phase 1 clinical trials unit and this has increased our clinical trials capacity significantly.

The unit is committed to increasing access for our patients to clinical trials and to new therapeutic advances. We are also passionate about improving clinical trial access for our large CALD community in SWSLHD. We have strong partnerships with Sydney Southwest Private Hospital and our research partners UNSW Sydney and Western Sydney University. In addition, we are well supported by the Medical Oncology Research Group at Ingham Institute with expertise in liquid biomarkers, tumour immunology and drug development.

Group Leader

Professor Wei Chua

The Medical Physics unit uses basic science and clinical research to improve patient outcomes. The key focus of our research is on radiation oncology treatment and related imaging techniques. Our major research project is the development of a Magnetic Resonance Imaging – Linear Accelerator (MRI-Linac). This is one of only three other similar developments worldwide and will enable real time imaging of patient anatomy during radiotherapy treatment and the potential of improved cancer targeting and a reduction in treatment side effects. Improved cancer targeting will be possible through increased soft tissue contrast available with MRI and the potential of incorporating physiological cancer targeting through advanced MRI pulse sequences.

Supporting this research are other projects assessing the benefits of MRI and other imaging modalities for radiotherapy treatment planning and delivery, the use of advanced radiation dosimeters for treatment verification and the impact of uncertainties in radiotherapy delivery. This work is undertaken within the cancer therapy centres at Liverpool and Macarthur and other collaborating centres. Component projects are focused on specific clinical sites such as lung, breast and prostate. Learn more about Medical Physics

Group Leader

Associate Professor Lois Holloway

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The Oncology Clinical Trials Unit (CTU) of the Division of Cancer Services has been operating since July 1993 within the Cancer Therapy Centres of Liverpool, Campbelltown, Braeside and Bankstown Hospitals. The Radiation Oncology, Medical Oncology, Palliative Medicine, Haematology as well as associated surgical and allied health services are encapsulated within these facilities, providing integrated cancer care to the South Western Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD) which provides cancer services to a population of over one million people in South Western Sydney.

 

The CTU works with research partners, such as Cancer Institute NSW, NHMRC, pharmaceutical companies and UNSW and UWS to develop and improve cancer treatments. There are currently 10 funded clinical trials staff positions within the unit. Further to this, the CTU is currently actively involved in both cooperative group and physician initiated studies as well as industry sponsored studies, with the aim of improving cancer care and providing access for the patients of SWSLHD to newly developed treatment modalities and the best treatment options available internationally, within the carefully supervised context of clinical trials.

Group Leader

Dr Michael Harvey

Palliative care provides for people with progressive illness and their families. Led by Professor Meera Agar, the research of this unit is aimed to improve quality of life through the development and evaluation of new interventions to improve symptoms, new models of care that can provide better outcomes to improve quality of life, and to better understand the needs and preferences of people with palliative care needs to deliver health services with compassion, dignity and respect at the end of life. Palliative care research, a field that is relatively new to the research agenda will be of increasing importance as Australia confronts a rapidly ageing community.

The group is currently researching a number of areas, including:

  • Anorexia and cachexia
  • Cancer pain
  • Refractory Breathlessness
  • Delirium prevention
  • Malignant bowel obstruction
  • Uraemic Pruritis

Group Leader

Professor Meera Agar

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The pancreas is a very important digestive organ without which digestion of food and control of body glucose levels are not possible. Two major diseases of the pancreas are inflammation (acute and chronic pancreatitis) and pancreatic cancer. Both conditions are associated with significant morbidity and mortality, and current treatments offer limited benefit. The Pancreatic Research Group (PRG) is widely recognised as a leading group in the world with respect to research into the pathways by which two common life style factors – alcohol and smoking – cause pancreatic inflammation and scarring with consequent loss of pancreatic function. The Group was the first in the world to identify the cells known as pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs), that cause pancreatic scarring and to show that activation of PSCs by alcohol and smoking is responsible for the fibrosis of chronic pancreatitis.

The group has also led the way in showing that the interaction of PSCs (in the cancer stroma/microenvironment) with cancer cells is a major driver of pancreatic cancer progression. Recent findings by the group have also changed thinking about how cancer spreads by showing that stromal cells (PSCs) also travel with cancer cells to distant organs where they possibly help cancer cells to settle and grow, consolidating the position of the Group at the cutting edge of international research in the field of pancreatic fibrosis.

The PRG is now conducting pre-clinical studies to investigate ways to interrupt the relationship between stromal and cancer cells so as to slow down cancer progression. The group’s recent publications have shown that blocking PSC-cancer cell crosstalk significantly reduces tumour growth, and more importantly, eliminates metastasis in early as well as advanced pancreatic cancer. This approach represents a promising novel therapeutic strategy for pancreatic cancer.

Group Leader

Professor Minoti Apte

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The Psycho-Oncology Research Group investigates the psychological, social and behavioural aspects of cancer, from the time of a cancer diagnosis until end of life. This research program is translational in its focus, with its priority research areas informed by the challenges faced by those providing and receiving cancer care; application of the most stringent research methods to develop evidence based practice; and early engagement with key stakeholders and policy makers to maximise evidence-informed cancer care.

The team has a strong track record in undertaking translational and health service research to reduce cancer burden, with approximately $13.6 million in Cancer Institute NSW funding through two Translational Health Service Research Grants, a 5-year Translational Cancer Research Centre (CONCERT) grant and a 5-year Translational Program Grant.

The Psycho-Oncology Group also has an international standing in survivorship research. Research on the impact of cancer on caregivers has been widely cited internationally, with key publications awarded Paper of the Year in both 2013 and 2014: Health Services and Epidemiological, South Western Sydney Clinical School, UNSW. The group a number of research focus areas including: a) a supporting illness self-management, with a number of studies specifically focusing on self-management and coping interventions for couples affected by cancer and for men with testicular cancer; b) facilitating shared decision making through use of decision tools; c) understanding the issues faced by patients from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds and developing strategies to reduce inequities in care they experience; and d) using eHealth strategies to enhance patient-centred care. Some of the team’s work is world-leading. For example, since 2013, the team has been working closely with the Cancer Institute NSW to develop and implement an integrated eHealth decision-support system, called PROMPT-Care, for patient reported data capture, linkage and retrieval to support clinical decisions and patient self-management, evaluation and innovative research. This work is highly translational, has been adopted into the cancer centres in two NSW Local Health Districts and is expected to influence the delivery of cancer care in NSW.

 

Group Leader

Professor Afaf Girgis

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