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Assoc. Prof. Kelly-Anne Phillips

Kelly-Anne PhillipsMBBS, MD, FRACP

The inaugural Colebatch Clinical Research Fellowship was awarded in late 2005 to Associate Professor Kelly-Anne Phillips of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre for her work on reducing the burden of breast cancer. The 5-year, $700,000 fellowship is named in memory of Dr John Colebatch AO (1909-2005) to mark his contribution to the Cancer Council and his work in the field of paediatric haematology and clinical trial practice in Australia.

Associate Professor Kelly-Anne Phillips is a consultant Medical Oncologist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, where her clinical practice and research activities are entirely devoted to treating breast and gynaecological cancers and the management of well women who have a strong family history of these diseases.

Associate Professor Phillips attained an MBBS with honours in 1989 and completed her sub-speciality training in medical oncology in Australia in 1996. She then worked as a research fellow at the Princess Margaret Hospital and the Ontario Cancer Genetics Network in Toronto, Canada, before returning to Australia in 1999. In 2001 she was awarded an MD from Monash University for her thesis entitled ‘Hereditary Breast Cancer in Women of Ashkenazi Jewish Descent’.

Associate Professor Phillips has published over 60 research papers in international journals. Her current research is focused on 2 aspects of breast cancer: genetic susceptibility and the long-term side effects of treatment. Specifically, in terms of genetic susceptibility, she heads up a large Australian study of the lifestyle factors that might affect cancer risk in individuals with a strong family history of breast cancer, and another study looking at whether outcomes for breast cancer patients are affected by whether they have an inherited genetic abnormality which caused the cancer.

She also leads 3 international studies: 1 is examining the effectiveness of the drug goserelin in preventing chemotherapy-induced premature menopause in breast cancer patients, and the others examine the impact of breast cancer treatment on women’s memory and concentration.

Goserelin is currently used for a number of other applications but Associate Professor Phillips is the 1st in Australia to use it to try to prevent chemotherapy-induced premature menopause. If successful, goserelin could be used for women undergoing chemotherapy treatment for other types of cancer.

Associate Professor Phillips says the Cancer Council funding was vital in allowing her to continue work as both a clinician and researcher.

'My work with patients is what drives my research, but it can be a bit of a struggle to do both. This funding, which includes salary support, allows me to ease off some of my clinical work and focus on the research. This is why the award is so important. Most clinicians, I'm sure, would love to be more involved in research but don't have the luxury of enough time,' Associate Professor Phillips said.

'It's seeing the patients and understanding their problems that motivates me to do this research. Facing those issues (early menopause, memory loss) on virtually a daily basis with my patients makes me want to come up with the solutions.’

Associate Professor Phillips says it's fitting she's carrying out clinical trials, given that the fellowship is named after Dr John Colebatch AO, a pioneer in the field of chemotherapy trials in the 1950s and 1960s.