A/Prof Helen Wheeler is a Medical Oncologist specialising in primary brain tumours. A/Prof Wheeler gained her medical degree from the University of Sydney.
After a short stay in the UK, A/Prof Wheeler returned to Royal North Shore Hospital where she undertook further medical training and laboratory research in the Kolling Institute and eventually took up a position as a consultant Medical Oncologist in 1990.
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Dr Wheeler became interested in primary brain tumours after a group of Neurosurgeons began asking oncologists if they could help in managing their patients with brain tumours. There was little to offer these patients in the early 90’s apart from Surgery and Radiotherapy.
Since the 90’s Dr Wheeler has continued to be involved with both clinical and laboratory research. She has set up numerous collaborations with neuro-oncologists and scientists both nationally and overseas, and works in a multidisciplinary team of clinicians to deliver state of the art therapy to patients.
Dr Wheeler supervises a number of national and international clinical trials run through RNSH. She supervises Medical students, Registrars and a number of laboratory research projects, including those currently in process for brain cancer at the TBCG tumour bank in the Bill Walsh Lab, RNSH.
Dr Wheeler has witnessed the evolution of technology which now allows rapid analysis of tumour genetics, resulting in an explosion in the basic understanding of the underlying abnormalities that contribute to Glioma development and resistance to therapy.
Over the years she has recognised what a struggle it is for both patients and carers to manage with this disease, and how unrecognised their needs are. Dr Wheeler has campaigned for more community services to become available and involved a number of colleagues and health professionals to help with this cause. She realises that unless these barriers can be overcome, patient participation in clinical trials – which will ultimately lead to treatment breakthroughs – can be almost impossible, slowing progress enormously.
A/Prof Howell is the Research Director of the Bill Walsh Translational Cancer Research Laboratory, Kolling Institute of Medical Research, Royal North Shore Hospital (RNSH) and Senior Lecturer, University of Sydney.
She directs the TBCG brain cancer laboratory-based research with A/Prof Helen Wheeler.
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A/Prof Howell has extensive expertise in molecular genetics and in vivo modelling which she has applied to understanding the molecular mechanisms of cancer and identifying disease biomarkers. Her laboratory is focused on improving treatment and outcomes for brain cancer patients through the development of novel immunotherapies, overcoming chemoresistance and the identification of prognostic and predictive biomarkers. Recently published work from the laboratory has been recognized by an invitation to A/Prof Howell to speak at the Society for Neuro-Oncology 2016 Annual Meeting in Arizona, USA.
A/Prof Howell led a successful application to the Cancer Institute NSW in 2016 to acquire major equipment that recapitulates in pre-clinical models of brain cancer, the targeted radiotherapy brain cancer patients receive. This equipment will be the first such system on the eastern seaboard of Australia. It will facilitate laboratory-based research into novel anti-cancer therapies that can be combined with standard of care radiotherapy and is a major advance for research into brain cancer as well as other cancers treated by radiotherapy.
Dr Amanda Hudson PhD
Dr Hudson is an early career researcher who undertook her PhD in the Institute for the Biotechnology of Infectious Diseases at the University of Technology, Sydney, focusing on the identification of novel drug or vaccine targets for control of a parasitic worm.
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In 2011 Dr Hudson transitioned into human cancer research where she worked on establishing and characterising pre-clinical chemo-resistant models of mesothelioma. In late 2014, Dr Hudson joined the The Brain Cancer Group as a postdoctoral research fellow working alongside A/Prof Helen Wheeler and A/Prof Viive Howell.
Her current research involves investigating a novel anti-glioma vaccine for brain cancer patients and understanding why cancers stop responding to treatment.
Dr Kelly McKelvey
Dr Kelly McKelvey is an early-career researcher who undertook her undergraduate and PhD studies in the Departments of Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Physiology respectively, at the University of Otago, New Zealand.
She is an immunologist who has worked in a range of therapeutic areas including diabetes, stroke, wound healing, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and pregnancy.
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Dr McKelvey’s work has involved human and animal biomedical research, as well as human phase I clinical trials.
In 2017 Dr McKelvey joined TBCG to examine the interactions of brain cancer cells with the inflammatory (immune and blood coagulation) system to improve brain cancer treatment response, and alleviate treatment-induced symptoms.
This work is performed in concert with A/Prof Viive Howell, Dr Connie Diakos, A/Prof Helen Wheeler, and Sydney Vital.
Dr Kelly McKelvey is the Matt Callander Beanie for Brain Cancer HMRI Fellow (funded by the Mark Hughes Foundation) in The Brain Cancer Group, Bill Walsh Translational Cancer Research Laboratory at The University of Sydney Northern Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine and Health, and the Northern Sydney Local Health District (Kolling Institute).
Miss Cho is a PhD student at the Kolling Medical Research Institute, affiliated with the University of Sydney.
She completed her honours in the Bill Walsh Lab at the Kolling Institute through the University of Technology, Sydney, with a focus on the tumour microenvironment in ovarian cancer.
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Miss Cho currently holds a The Brain Cancer Group PhD scholarship and is working with A/Prof Viive Howell, Dr Amanda Hudson, Emily Colvin, Sarah Hayes and A/Prof Helen Wheeler.
Her project focusses on a subgroup of brain tumours known as low grade or IDH-mutated gliomas.
The major aim of this project is to understand the differences between diagnostic and recurrent tumours in order to identify novel drug targets or biomarkers which can aid in patient management.
Mr Gary Pan joined The Brain Cancer Group team in 2019 as a Biobank Officer for the Kolling Brain Tumour Bank. This position was newly created and specifically designed for the funding from the Yellow Diamond Foundation to The Brain Cancer Group.
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The position will greatly enhance the operation and utility of the Brain Tumour Bank which was established by the founding Directors of The Brain Cancer Group. It will add value to the specimens archived in the Bank which in turn will increase research capabilities and reduce the time to generate research results.
Gary completed a Science degree in Biomedical Science at the University of Technology, Sydney in 2016. He graduated with First Class Honours and was a recipient of the UTS Dean’s Merit Award for academic excellence.
Gary has worked as a Research Coordinator for a molecular screening and therapeutic trials program for rare and uncommon cancers. Gary’s role was to explain the research to prospective patients and obtain informed consent, coordinate the collection of specimens and clinical data from the patients and enter the data into the database systems. All of this required working according to industry standards, understanding and ensuring patient confidentiality and complying with work health and safety procedures. This experience makes him eminently suitable for the tasks to be undertaken in this new Biobank Officer role
He comes highly recommended by both his academic Honours supervisor and the Group Leader for the trials program where he most recently was employed.
Dr Adrian Lee
Dr Lee is a medical oncologist who has completed his training at Royal North Shore Hospital and has a particular interest in neuro-oncology.
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He has recently completed a neuro-oncology fellowship under the supervision of A/Prof Helen Wheeler and is currently furthering his research in malignant brain tumours and clotting through the Bill Walsh Translational Cancer Research Laboratory at the Kolling Institute, University of Sydney with the support of a scholarship from the Rebecca Cooper Foundation.
Dr Lee is also a visiting medical officer at Armidale Hospital where he supervises and co-ordinates the care of general oncology patients in the Armidale region.
He has been the senior medical registrar at Royal North Shore Hospital (2012 -2013) with ongoing involvement in the training of basic physician trainees.
In addition, Dr Lee is also heavily involved with teaching medical students of the Sydney Medical School – Northern – both in clinical tutorials, lectures and examination and basic science research projects.
Neuro Oncology Nurse Practitioner
Marina Kastelan is our Neuro Oncology Cancer Nurse Practitioner; and leads our care co-ordinating team. Marina is a key health professional who is assigned to patients diagnosed with brain tumours to assist them through their treatment.
Marina has been working as a Registered Nurse since 1990 and has a background in Intensive Care & Oncology.
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Marina has worked in Neuro Oncology since 2008 & has completed a Masters of Nursing, Nurse Practitioner.
The Department of Health and Ageing have accredited experienced Oncology Registered Nurses with a Masters Degree in Nursing to collaborate with medical specialists to treat tumour patients.
The Brain Cancer Group has long recognised the need for individual and coordinated nursing care for brain tumour patients with the specific aim of improving the process and treatment pathway for patients with primary brain tumours and their carers. The Brain Cancer Group has developed and supported this specific role since 2011. An emphasis is placed on patient education and ensuring the pathway for both patients and families is smooth. The role adds to a patient’s clinical support during the diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation stages of treatment and beyond.
Marina works in collaboration with Neurosurgeons, Medical Oncologists and Radiation Oncologists, plus other medical specialists; to add nursing expertise to our approach to coordinated care. The Brain Cancer Group leads the Neuro oncology community and has been the only group to consistently support this vital role to meet our high standard of clinical practice.
Marina will visit you and your family during your admission to hospital. She will coordinate your care between your treating medical specialists, hospital ward staff and other treatment providers such as physiotherapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists etc. Our Nurse Coordinator will provide education and support to you and your family and will also be accessible by phone following discharge from hospital should you require additional assistance or support.