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Professor Arlene Chan was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia this year for her services to breast cancer research.

Breast Cancer Researcher Honoured with Order of Australia

In September, Professor Arlene Chan was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for her services to breast cancer research. The clinical trials she leads are helping to increase survival rates in breast cancer patients. 

Medical oncologist and founder of Breast Cancer Research Centre-WA (BCRC-WA), Professor Arlene Chan, was awarded a Member of the Order (AM) of Australia as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours list this year for her services to oncology, particularly breast cancer treatment.

The Order of Australia is the principal and most prestigious means of recognising outstanding members of the community who have benefitted their communities, and ultimately their country.

This is certainly the case with Professor Chan, who has cared for more than 4000 women with breast cancer, including many metastatic patients some of whom are now cured because of their involvement in clinical research that’s the result of evidence based clinical trials.

A breast cancer specific oncologist since 1999, Professor Chan is also an adjunct professor at the School of Medicine at Curtin University, and the Director of the Breast Clinical Trials Unit (BCTU) and Vice-Chair of BCRC-WA, at Hollywood Private Hospital.

She has been the principal investigator of more than 90 breast cancer trials and advises for several pharmaceutical companies involved in breast cancer treatments. Professor Chan has also authored more than 150 publications and spoken at approximately 160 local, national and international breast cancer meetings.

Her areas of interest include clinical research in understanding biological determinants of therapeutic response, optimising symptomatic care in early and advanced breast cancer, and developing data collection systems for clinical research and measuring patient outcomes.

Through BCTU, Professor Chan conducts numerous clinical trials to investigate new and better ways to treat breast cancer. Clinical trials are the only way to find out which new approaches to cancer treatment work better than existing ones and are crucial to finding a cure for breast disease.

Clinical trials are therefore vitally important and they have many benefits. Firstly, they can uncover new and better ways to treat breast cancer. Secondly, patients who participate in trials get access to the most up to date treatments often years before they’re available to the market. This can mean saving a person’s life or giving them more years of life than what they would have had without the trial treatment.  Thirdly, participation in the trials is free; there is no cost to patients.  

Of the 90 clinical trials Professor Chan has overseen, 13 have had an important practice changing impact on the care of breast cancer patients worldwide. A true pioneer in breast cancer research, Professor Chan’s work has added to the understanding and treatment of breast cancer globally and she regularly collaborates with experts from all over the world.

An area Professor Chan is particularly passionate about is increasing the quality of life for breast cancer patients and their families. This is demonstrated clearly by her involvement in clinical trials on a pro-bono basis. The funding she receives from pharmaceutical companies for whom she conducts the trials, is channelled back into BCRC-WA’s operating costs. This means that any donations we receive can be put fully towards support services for patients, their families and loved ones. 

Family support is a subject close to Professor Chan’s heart, as she firmly believes patient care and wellbeing while undergoing treatment is critical to recovery, as it lessens patient stress and stress upon families. 

This belief has been the driver for a dedicated new breast cancer facility for patients and their families that BCRC-WA will open in 2020.

The new centre, to be located at Hollywood Private Hospital, will continue to conduct research and provide first class treatment, but it will also offer an extended range of support services accentuating the level of care that patients and their families can access.

Currently, if you are a breast cancer patient, you have no option but to go all over Perth to access various services and medical professionals. This can be time consuming, stressful and inefficient, not to mention frustrating for patients when they have to repeat their story over and again to different doctors. 

At the new centre, patients will be assigned a breast cancer nurse who will coordinate their care and treatment. The nurse will guide patients seamlessly through each health and medical discipline and provide an expedited process, lessening patient distress. 

When a patient has finished a course of treatment, they need to adjust back to normal life, to ongoing follow-up appointments and to the consequences of their treatment. At the new centre, a team of people will already have been assigned to the patient by this stage and will help them at every step with their survivorship. The same people, those they now trust, will take them through the entire process. 

BCRC-WA’s new centre will be a Western Australian first and will enable us to provide a coordinated approach to patient care where allied health workers and clinicians will be able to work together in one central place.

Together with Professor Chan, BCRC-WA is having a significant impact on the treatment of breast cancer and is seeing higher cure rates and increasing survival rates. WA is fortunate to have a pioneer of breast cancer research – who is also now a Member of the Order of Australia – making such a marked difference to the lives of many.

If you would like to know more about the planned new centre or how you or your organisation can become involved, please contact our office on (08) 6500 5501.

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