Increasingly large-scale studies with many thousands of people enable us to research different aspects of cancer in much more detail than ever before. This includes answering key questions such as: Which factors increase cancer risk? What are the patterns of cancer diagnosis, treatments, and outcomes? What is the cost of cancer? How many cancer cases and deaths will occur in the future?
The Methods Group uses epidemiology, genetics, health services and health economic research to answer these questions. To enable future planning for healthcare delivery and inform policy, the Methods Group also uses statistical methods to estimate the future burden of cancer.
Moreover, the Methods Group provides analytical, methodological and systematic literature review expertise across the Pathways to a cancer free future program, as well as other programs delivered by Cancer Council NSW.
The group’s current areas of research focus include:
Identifying cancer journey patternsto inform change and improve outcomes
Cancer is a complex set of diseases, diagnosed and treated within a complex health system. While no one person’s cancer journey will be the same as another’s, large-scale datasets can provide the opportunity to uncover patterns in diagnostic pathways, care and outcomes across populations. By analysing large-scale datasets, the group is identifying patterns and potential inequalities in cancer outcomes.
Estimating the future burden of cancer
By analysing trends in cancer incidence and mortality, the group is using statistical methods to make projections of future incidence and mortality. As well as providing evidence for policy makers to assess future health priorities, the findings can be used to evaluate the impact of potential cancer control interventions.
Investigating the lifestyle and genetic factors associated with cancer
It’s estimated that around one third of cancer cases diagnosed in Australia each year are preventable. The dangers of smoking and sun exposure are well known, but other lifestyle factors such as alcohol consumption, diet, BMI and level of physical activity also play a significant role – both independently and in combination with each other. Moreover, it is known that genetics plays an important role for many cancers. Using data from the 45 and Up Study, UK Biobank, and other large studies, the group is investigating the relationship between these lifestyle and genetic factors and cancer risk, and how these factors can be combined to predict personal risk of cancer.
Calculating the cost of cancer
The cost of cancer care varies significantly by cancer type and stage at diagnosis. The group is analysing direct health system costs, out-of-pocket and indirect costs. The results provide data for cancer modelling and estimating cost-effectiveness in the Pathways program, including the evaluation of potential cancer control interventions.
Through interdisciplinary research and collaboration, we can fill gaps in evidence, identify the most effective cancer control strategies, and reduce the burden of cancer.