News and announcements

Farewell Lawrie Wright

On the occasion of his retirement, much is likely to be said or written on the various roles that Lawrie Wright has played in the evolution of The Cancer Council Australia and the Clinical Oncological Society of Australia (COSA). This editorial is prompted by Lawrie’s role as Managing Editor of Cancer Forum, a role he has played from the time of his appointment to the then Australian Cancer Society. My own involvement with the publication dates from about that time in the mid-70s: a time when the Editorial Board consisted of Lawrie, the late Fred Gunz and me. Our meetings were at the then King and Castlereagh Street offices of the Society. And I think it’s fair to say that both Lawrie and I learned the business of scientific publishing from Fred who was then, among other things, editor of Pathology. ‘Learning the business’ involved everything from Fred’s meticulous review of any manuscript through to the basis of creative and productive contact with those who saw fit to provide us with manuscripts.

As all present readers are doubtless aware, a professional journal lives or dies largely on the quality of material it is able to publish. And extracting (for want of a better word) that material from authors who invariably have a range of professional commitments that rank ahead of their obligation to a local journal is something that requires tact and persistence. And more tact and persistence. Though the close attention he pays to manuscripts remains one aspect of Lawrie’s contribution to Cancer Forum, his crucial role has been to maintain a creative relationship with those who (for the most part) gave an initial obligation to contribute and have to be ’followed up’.

Since Lawrie has been at the helm Cancer Forum has changed. The layout has evolved to match current publishing practice. And, of equal importance, the adoption of particular themes (as ‘Forums’) has been so successful that we have the benefit of distinguished and authoritative professional contributors on a regular basis. I’m sure that much of this evolution has involved detail of which I and the other members of the Editorial Board have been oblivious. But it has all been under the one Managing Editor. Cancer Forum and Australian professionals in the field of cancer – for whom the journal exists – are in Lawrie’s debt.

BW Stewart
on behalf of the Editorial Board


The Cancer Council Australia’s Vice-President, Mrs Judith Roberts, and the Medical Director of the Australian Cancer Network, Professor Bruce Barraclough, were made Officers in the General Division in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Mrs Roberts received her award in recognition of her service to the community – particularly through leadership roles in a range of women’s health, social service, family and multicultural organisations and boards; and to education through Flinders University, the Senior Secondary Board of SA and the Helpmann Academy.

Professor Barraclough’s award was in honour of his service to medicine as a surgeon; to medical education, particularly the development of high-level surgical training facilities; and to the community through fostering improvements in the delivery of safe, quality healthcare in Australia.

And the winner is…

Every year, the World Health Organisation’s Collaborating Centre for Cancer Education runs the international summer school ‘Oncology for Medical Students’. This year, The Cancer Council Australia held a cancer-related essay competition for one Australian medical student to attend the summer school in Vienna.

From 24 entries, the winner of The Cancer Council Australia’s essay competition is Troy Keith. Mr Keith is a final year medical student at the University of Tasmania, Hobart. His essay, “Gastrointestinal stromal tumour prognostic parameters: case report and literature review”, has won Mr Keith tuition at the summer school from 28 August to 6 September 2003. He also wins an airfare, accommodation and living allowance.

The summer school aims to help students become familiar with cancer care in general practice, reduce fear for patients with cancer, understand cancer-related problems in other countries and interact with other future medical doctors.

A copy of Mr Keith’s abstract follows.


This paper is a critical review of the evaluation of malignancy and prognostic parameters used in gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GIST). Incorporated is a case report of a duodenal GIST identified and treated at our institution. GIST represents a spectrum of mesenchymal tumours that include benign and malignant variants, which can arise from anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract. A central pathogenetic event recognised in most GISTs is KIT activation (a tyrosine kinase receptor) believed to be the result of oncogenic mutations. Imatinib mesylate, highly effective in vitro in reducing KIT tyrosine activity, has revolutionised the treatment of metastatic GIST, and is discussed along with other treatment options. Traditionally three key prognostic factors used in GIST have been mitotic rate, tumour size, and anatomic location. However, the unpredictable behaviour of GIST has led to development of immunohistochemical differentiation markers including CD117 (detecting KIT protein). In addition genetic markers have been used as prognostic parameters, including KIT activating mutations, cytogentic aberrations and telomerase activity.

Patenting human genes – Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry

The Cancer Council Australia has urged exemptions from patent law for the genuine, not-for-profit use of human gene sequences for research and testing.

In a submission to the current Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into the patenting of genes, The Cancer Council said while recognising the need to respect and reward intellectual property, patent law reform should also take into account the public health good of the community.

Its preliminary submission to the inquiry also stated that consideration should be given to reviewing the patentability of naturally-occurring substances such as genetic sequences.

“While we recognise it is important that individuals and organisations should be rewarded for the ingenuity, time and funding they put into scientific research, we have grave concerns about a system that allows exclusive rights to a naturally-occurring substance if such rights are to the detriment of public health,” the submission states. “We also seriously question the ethics of patenting such a discovery.”

The Cancer Council strongly believes that, pending the outcomes of the Commission’s inquiry, the publicly-funded genetic testing being performed at specialist clinics around Australia and not-for-profit genetic research should be allowed to continue, without penalty.

In February this year, more than 40 stakeholders attended a workshop on the patenting of genes and implications for cancer control, convened by The Cancer Council.

The Commission is due to release an issues paper – outlining the key issues it will cover in its inquiry – in July, and formal submissions will then be invited. Further information is available at

Prostate cancer

A bi-partisan call for measures to improve understanding of the most common form of cancer in Australian men was welcomed by The Cancer Council Australia last month.

A Private Member’s Motion on prostate cancer was moved in the House of Representatives on 2 June by Liberal MP Jim Lloyd, and seconded by Labor MP Wayne Swan. Ten MPs spoke to the motion.

The President of The Cancer Council Australia, Professor Ray Lowenthal, said The Cancer Council recognised the need for better education about the disease, as well as continued research to improve diagnosis and treatment.

“The issues around diagnosis and treatment of the disease are not straightforward, and men deserve the best possible information and advice to help them make important decisions such as whether to be tested,” he said.

The Cancer Council believes that in the absence of strong medical proof that testing for prostate cancer saves lives, it is up to individual men to decide whether to be tested. Before they make this decision, they need to be fully aware of the pros and cons.

“We would support a balanced education campaign to help men reach an informed decision about whether or not to be tested,” Professor Lowenthal said.

Find a specialist

Three more professional bodies are joining with The Cancer Council Australia to help people with cancer “find a specialist”.

Members of the Medical Oncology Group of Australia and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists are now listed online through The Cancer Council’s website.

The site also will soon have a link to a list of members of the Australian Society of Gynaecologic Oncologists.

These three additions join links that direct consumers to membership lists of the Colorectal Surgical Society of Australia, the Australian and New Zealand Head and Neck Society, Australasian Chapter of Palliative Medicine, the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand and the Urological Society of Australasia.

CEO profiles

In each edition of Cancer Forum this year we will be profiling the CEOs of The Cancer Council Australia’s member organisations.

The Cancer Council South Australia
Associate Professor Brenda Wilson

The Cancer Council South Australia appointed Associate Professor Brenda Wilson as Chief Executive Officer in February 2003.

Associate Professor Wilson has worked in the health industry for 33 years, mostly in large teaching hospitals in South Australia and also overseas. She trained as a nurse at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and has worked in a range of clinical, management and executive positions. Her most recent appointments include Executive Director of the Flinders Medical Centre, Executive Director of the Lyell McEwin Health Service, and Chief Executive and Director of Nursing at the Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre.

Associate Professor Wilson holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA), a Bachelor of Business (Health) and a Diploma of Applied Science (Nursing). She is a Fellow of the College of Health Service Executives and a Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing Australia. She is also a surveyor for the Australian Council on Health Care Standards (ACHS).

She was the recipient of the Telstra SA Business Women’s Award for the Corporate and Government Sector 2000 and the Johnson & Johnson Wharton Fellow 1999, which enabled her to attend the Wharton School of Management in Philadelphia.

Associate Professor Wilson’s appointment followed the resignation of Associate Professor Kerry Kirke, who had held the position of Executive Director since 1998.

The Cancer Council Northern Territory
Helen Smith

Helen Smith was appointed as Director of Cancer Services for The Cancer Council Northern Territory in February 2003.

A Registered Nurse and Registered Midwife, Mrs Smith also holds a Diploma in Nursing Education. She has a wide range of management experience in the private sector including sports administration, but her background is mostly in nursing in Victoria and the Northern Territory, including a position as Assistant Director of Nursing of Sacred Heart Hospital in Moreland, Victoria (now called John Fawkner Private Hospital).

Before joining The Cancer Council NT, Mrs Smith was unit manager of the Medical Surgical Unit at Darwin Private Hospital. This encompassed both the chemotherapy and palliative care units.
Mrs Smith’s appointment follows the resignation of Brian McCarthy.

The Cancer Council NSW
Dr Andrew Penman

A Graduate of the University of Queensland Medical School, Dr Andrew Penman subsequently pursued training in internal medicine and public health in the US. Between 1978 and 1982, as Director of the MEDEX program at the University of Washington in Seattle, his major interests were in the development and training of physician assistants and nurse practitioners and in health services research. During this period he acted as a consultant to US AID and the World Health Organisation on primary health care development projects.

Dr Penman returned to Australia in 1983 and for 13 years held a succession of positions with the Health Department of Western Australia – as Medical Officer in Halls Creek, Director of Public Health in the Pilbara Health Region and then on the Executive of the Health Department as Assistant Commissioner for Country Operations, Assistant Commissioner for Public Health, General Manager Public Health Services and Chief Health Officer.

In 1996 Dr Penman moved to New South Wales to take up the appointment as Director, Disease Prevention and Health Promotion for the NSW Health Department, and subsequently as Deputy Chief Health Officer.

In June of 1998, Dr Penman took up his appointment as Chief Executive Officer of the (then) NSW Cancer Council.

Dr Penman’s interests in health have been wide-ranging. In public health and disease prevention he has had strong interest in sexually transmitted disease control, especially in remote rural areas, and has been instrumental in developing environmental health maintenance programs for Aboriginal communities, establishing community-based education programs, in diabetes, injury control and in alcohol, tobacco and other drug issues.

In clinical care, he has played a role in bringing a public health perspective to the development and evaluation of clinical services, exemplified most clearly by his authorship of the goals and targets for clinical services in Western Australia and The Cancer Council’s role in getting commitment to improving cancer care. In mental health, Dr Penman has an interest in early interventions to prevent the subsequent development of mental disorders, and in cancer control Dr Penman’s key interests are tobacco control, screening and adoption of best treatment practice.

The November edition of Cancer Forum will profile The Cancer Council Tasmania’s Executive Director, Lawson Ride; The Cancer Council ACT’s Executive Officer, Joan Bartlett; and Professor Alan Coates AM, CEO of The Cancer Council Australia.

Daffodil Day

Two million fresh daffodils will be in full bloom to help The Cancer Council Australia spread the message of hope for all touched by cancer on Daffodil Day – Friday 22 August.

By purchasing a daffodil in memory of a loved one, to celebrate a survivor, or in the hope of creating a cancer-free future, supporters will help The Cancer Council Australia reach its fundraising target of $9.5 million.

Funds raised in August support research into the causes and potential cures for cancer, and fund support programs for patients and their families, a Cancer Helpline, and education programs aimed at preventing cancer.

To order merchandise or fresh daffodils to sell to friends, colleagues or customers during August, or to register as a Daffodil Day volunteer, call 1300 65 65 85 or visit

Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea

The Cancer Council Australia’s second largest national fundraising event, Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea, celebrated its tenth birthday in May. More than 38,000 people hosted morning teas throughout the month, and The Cancer Council is confident that its fundraising target of $6.5 million will be met.

An estimated 1.4 million hot beverages were consumed as people around Australia took part in the event during May. While many held a simple morning tea at home or work, others hosted an event for hundreds, incorporating fashion parades, bake-offs, raffles and other activities.

The tenth year of the event was also a great opportunity to introduce a new television and radio campaign. Sydney-based advertising agency Singleton developed a new ad pro-bono, which highlights the social essence of Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea.

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