Chemotherapy; It’s a word that inspires a mix of dread and fear, but also hope. Hope for a cure, an optimistic chance at life beyond the cloud of cancer.
And for breast cancer patients, there is now an even greater reason to feel optimistic thanks to Dr Jeremy Long, Director of Sunshine Coast Cancer Services at Nambour Hospital, and a team of Sunshine Coast researchers who have been working on a study aimed at minimising the negative effects of chemotherapy.
The $20,000 project was made possible through Wishlist’s annual Research Funding Round in 2011 along with a $5,000 donation from the Noosa Surf Lifesaving Club. It aims to determine the activity and safety of a drug called Gabapentin for women experiencing acute pain as a result of the chemotherapy drug Docetaxel.
Women taking Docetaxel for early stage breast cancer often have symptoms of aches and pains in muscles and joints for a few days following treatment, which is common but can be severe. Dr Long said while no treatment has been shown to be effective in a clinical trial, the pains appear to be related to nerve damage, and Gabapentin – which is used to treat nerve pain – has been shown to be effective, a theory that his research team has been putting to the test.
“Chemotherapy is necessary for the improvement in survival and outcomes in breast cancer, so we know we have to give it but we want to make the journey as tolerable and reduce as many of the adverse affects as possible,” Dr Long said. “If this does work it will give us a very quick and easy way to manage one aspect of the negative aspects which is very good news for patients.”
While the research team estimates it will take another year to conclude their findings, Dr Long said the project and Wishlist’s funding injection has really stimulated them to look at other homegrown care studies which they “can do really well.”
“As we are growing into a bigger unit we can start doing pilot studies and if those look good we can start to take them to bigger forums where more funding is available,” he said. “It’s really wonderful having the support of Wishlist and we are excited about what this type of research can achieve on a local, and also much bigger, level.”
Each year Wishlist directs $1million towards the funding of medical equipment, various initiatives that support health services, staff education and research projects towards which $150,000 is committed annually.
Wishlist has directed $519,536 since 2009 to local research projects, and as the Sunshine Coast University Hospital draws closer – a hospital driven by teaching and research – Wishlist will be focusing its fundraising efforts more and more on research funding.
On Wednesday, October 30th, the successful applicants to receive funding through Wishlist’s 2013 Research Funding Round will be announced. Five applications totaling $125,000 were approved in two categories; Experienced and Novice.
Successful applicants’ projects must have a direct relevance to the Sunshine Coast Hospital & Health Service’s strategic direction and an impact at a local level on service delivery and patient care.
Wishlist CEO Lisa Rowe said she was impressed by the quality of the applications and excited about what these research projects will deliver to the Sunshine Coast. “We are very excited about the road ahead and fully committed to the fact that research funding will feature more and more in the work we do for this community,” she said.
“Wishlist will focus more fundraising efforts on research funding to develop an ongoing culture of learning and really put the Coast on the map as a leading region for research.”