The Surgical Oncology Group has long standing interests in the management of oesophageal, gastric and pancreatic cancer, melanoma and soft tissue tumours. Melanoma in particular has seen significant changes in management over the last decade with much needed improvements in survival. Our research group is involved in studies which seek to further improve patient outcomes. Genomics have underpinned major advances in our understanding of oesophageal, gastric and pancreatic cancers. Incorporation of genomics into clinical practice is a necessary next step for precision cancer care.

The Surgical Oncology Group's research encompasses:

  1. Clinical research, including randomised controlled clinical trials
  2. Laboratory based research, including molecular biology
  3. Translational research integrating the laboratory and clinical domains, including radiomics
  4. Clinical practice guidelines.

Improved clinical practice through clinical trials

Professor Barbour is the principal investigator for a response-based pre-operative therapy trial in oesophageal cancer (the "DOCTOR" study, NHMRC APP011782). The DOCTOR trial is multicentre clinical trial and includes a genomic study (APP1139071). In addition, the clinical research program has been focused on outcome studies and quality of life using our prospective database of over 1000 patients with oesophageal cancer.

Professor Barbour is also the principal investigator for the phase II peri-operative chemotherapy trial for pancreas cancer through the "GAP" study. The GAP study has led to the successful development of the MASTERPLAN trial, funded by MRFF, of chemotherapy and stereotactic radiation therapy in borderline and locally advanced pancreatic cancer (CIE Barbour).

In addition, Professor Barbour was the site investigator for the International Cancer Genome Consortium pancreatic cancer study at the Princess Alexandra Hospital and Greenslopes Private Hospital and this work has led to several publications in the Nature journal.

Laboratory based research

Professor Barbour’s research has focused on using genomic, epigenomic, mRNA expression and next generation sequencing data to classify oesophageal adenocarcinoma, pancreatic cancer and melanoma and to identify biomarkers of outcome.

The Surgcial Oncology Group maintains 2 tissue banks (HREC/10/QPAH/152: Oesophageal, Gastric and GIST Tissue Bank; HREC/10/QPAH/153: Melanoma and Soft Tissue Bank). These tissue banks facilitate active collaborations with 12 research groups from across Queensland including: Mater Research, QIMR, UQ, and Metro South Hospitals. In addition, our research group has an industry collaboration with Roche to investigate blood biomarkers in oesophageal adenocarcinoma.

Translational research

Our group has actively worked towards improving cancer staging in Australia. Professor Barbour was a member of the working party for the Cancer Council Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Cutaneous Melanoma. The chapters on Sentinel Node Biopsy, the Use of Investigations and Follow Up. The guidelines are completed and published.

  • Professor Andrew Barbour

    Senior Lecturer
    School of Medicine
    The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute
  • Dr Vanessa Bonazzi

    Research Fellow
    The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute
  • Dr Lauren Aoude

    NHMRC Research Fellow
    The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute
  • Dr Harald Oey

    Bioinformatics Officer
    The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute

Our current research projects focus on:

  1. Whole genome sequencing of oesophageal adenocarcinoma
    1. Intratumour heterogeneity
    2. Genomic evolution
    3. Circulating biomarkers for precision medicine
    4. Neoantigens and immune response
    5. Radiomics
  2. Whole exome sequencing of melanoma
    1. Intratumour heterogeneity
    2. Circulating biomarkers for precision medicine
    3. Radiomics
  3. Clinical Trials
    1. MASTERPLAN for pancreatic cancer

Student projects

  • Use circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) from stage III/IV melanoma patients to confirm the feasibility of using ‘liquid biopsy’ as a non-invasive test for assessing tumour burden. This will be used as a biomarker for prognostication and monitoring of treatment response.

In the last three years we have received funding from:

  • Queensland Health Advance Fellowship to determine utility of ctDNA for precision medicine in BRAF wild type Stage III and IV melanoma
  • Princess Alexandra Hospital Program Grant for Cancer Evolution Biobank
  • NHMRC Development Grant with Dr Barbara Rolfe (UQ) regarding the role of Complement C3a and neutrophils in melanoma
  • ASSC Grant with Dr Jason Lee (QIMR Berghofer) investigating the role of cholesterol on melanoma
  • PdCCRS investigationg radiomics as biomarkers for genomic subgroups and survival in melanoma
  • NHMRC Project Grant with Dr Nic Waddell (QIMR Berghofer) whole genome sequencing study of patient samples obtained from DOCTOR trial
  • MRFF MASTERPLAN clinical trial of chemotherapy and stereotactic radiation for pancreatic cancer
  • SERTA Grant investigating T cell response to tumour neoantigens in long term surivors of oesophageal cancer
  • Avner Foundation with Dr John Hooper Theranostic biomolecules for improved diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer.
  • Roche Diagnostics ctDNA: Towards biomarkers of progression and prognosis in Oesophageal Cancer

We have a long-standing collaboration with Dr Nicola Waddell from QIMR-Berghofer, and also with Dr Barbara Rolfe on the role of complement and neutrophils in melanoma control.

We have collaborated recently with Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald at the University of Cambridge on oesophageal cancer genomics. We have partnerships with cancer clinicians researchers in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Our group also collaborates with the Australasian Gastrointestinal Trials Group (AGITG) in the conduct of clinical trials and translational studies.