DAGLISH resident Gary Lee has received the 2019 Cancer Researcher of the Year Award for his research in improving the lives of cancer patients.
The UWA Professor of Respiratory Medicine was rewarded for his work in improving cancer patient care and leading two Australasian Malignant Pleural Effusion (AMPLE) trials across Australia, New Zealand and Asia.
Dr Lee’s first trial, completed in 2017, involved testing an implantable catheter in cancer patients with pleurisy – an inflammation of the lung lining causing cancer fluid build up in the chest.
Pleurisy would lead to severe breathlessness and requires hospitalisation and invasive fluid drainage procedures.“WA data showed cancer patients with pleurisy spent in total 8000 hospital days per year in hospital and costing more than $10 million dollars in the public health sector alone,” Dr Lee said.
“The new catheter allows, for the first time, patients to drain their fluid at home whenever they become breathless.
“It allows patients with advanced cancers to spend significantly less time in hospital and more time at home with family – this treatment can save over 14,000 hospital bed days across Australia a year.”
Dr Lee said before this method, people spent 11 per cent of their remaining life in hospital for whatever reason but in using the catheter, the figure has reduced to 6 per cent for those with advanced cancer meaning patients can spent a lot more time outside of hospital.
The second trial published in mid-2018 optimised a fluid drainage process that would stop the cancer fluid forming in many patients, allowing the device to be removed.
“We put these studies together on a lot of small and large grants and we have had national grants and funding from Cancer Council as well,” Dr Lee said.
Dr Lee said WA was now leading the world with treating pleurisy in cancer patients, with each tertiary centre including Sir Charles Gairdner (SCGH), Royal Perth and Fiona Stanley hospitals all with a lung specialist that specialises in treating pleural diseases.
“Previous to having these physicians there it didn’t exist – we started all these movements in the past 10 years,” he said.
“At SCGH, we have a centralised service for all patients with Pleural effusion and majority are looked after by me and my team -we are one of few centres in the Sothern hemisphere which has a centralised Pleural service which can improve efficiency and safety, improve patient flow, and infections.”