June 20, 2015  Print

A collaborative study between research groups at the Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research and the University of Sydney is the first realisation of the intended potential of the Institute’s new building.

The University of Sydney has awarded Strategic Priority Area for Collaboration (SPARC) funds to lead investigator, Clinical Associate Professor Kristina Kairaitis from the Ludwig Engle Centre for Respiratory Research, Westmead Millennium Institute.

The project is a one year prospective study aimed at better understanding how cancer impacts on sleep and the quality of life of patients.

Researchers from the Ludwig Engel Centre for Respiratory Research will work closely with a multidisciplinary team from the melanoma, breast and gynaecological cancer research groups from the Centre for Cancer Research at Westmead Millennium Institute, as well as researchers and clinicians from the greater Westmead campus and the University of Sydney. See below for a list of collaborators.

“Our multi-disciplinary team includes expertise in oncology, clinical sleep disorders and sleep physiology, psycho-oncology, clinical epidemiology, and cancer biology – so it brings together a broad sweep of perspectives and approaches to this fairly new area of cancer research,” says A/Prof Kairaitis.

“By defining sleep phenotypes within cancer populations we hope to identify new risk factors for cancer morbidity and mortality by linking specific sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnoea, to tumour characteristics and clinical outcome. 

“There have been no other studies conducted in this area, and our results have the potential to translate into better clinical care for cancer patients,” said A/Prof Kairaitis.

It is an important opportunity for Westmead Millennium Institute to lead a strategic collaboration and exploratory investigation into such a new area of research.

A/Prof Kairaitis says the idea was sparked in 2014, when a visiting expert in sleep and cancer, Prof Javier Nieto from the University of Wisconsin, Madison delivered an oration at Westmead Millennium Institute.

“We had the idea and knew it would be a great project. We had also moved into our new building and with so many of the relevant experts under one roof we were able to really accelerate getting it off the ground. 

“There’s a sense of momentum and fresh opportunity within the Institute now that comes from having conversations with other researchers and learning from each other’s different perspectives and approaches. It’s a breeding ground for innovation and collaboration.

“The more we can develop collaborative projects among our research groups, the better placed we are for attracting more funding and being on the radar of world-class researchers,” A/Prof Kairaitis concludes.

The collaborative team on the sleep and cancer project:

  • Clinical Associate Professor Kristina Kairaitis, Ludwig Engel Centre for Respiratory Research, Westmead Millennium Institute (Sleep and Respiratory Research)
  • Associate Professor Terence Amis, Ludwig Engel Centre for Respiratory Research, Westmead Millennium Institute (Sleep Research)
  • Professor John R Wheatley, Ludwig Engel Centre for Respiratory Research, Westmead Millennium Institute (Sleep research and sleep physician)
  • Professor Graham Mann, Centre for Cancer Research, Westmead Millennium Institute (Melanoma Research)
  • Professor Anna deFazio, Centre for Cancer Research, Westmead Millennium Institute, Translational Cancer Research (Gynaecological Cancer Research)
  • Dr Gerard Wain, Department of Gynaecological Oncology, Westmead Hospital, University of Sydney (Gynaecological Oncology, clinical trials)
  • Professor Christine Clarke, Centre for Cancer Research, Westmead Millennium Institute (Breast cancer)
  • Dr Elisabeth Elder, Westmead Breast Cancer Institute (Breast cancer surgery)
  • Dr Haryana Dhillon, Centre for Medical Psychology and Evidence-based Decision Making (Psycho-Oncology, behavioural science, Cancer Survivorship research, clinical trials)
  • Dr Nathaniel Marshall, Woolcock Institute and Sydney Nursing School (Clinical epidemiology & sleep science)