Cancer experts come together at RANZCR’s 70th Annual Scientific Meeting

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By Lucy Hutton, RANZCR 

Around 1,000 radiologists and radiation oncologists from around Australia, New Zealand and beyond gathered in Auckland last week for The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists’ (RANZCR) 2019 Annual Scientific Meeting.

Held at SkyCity Convention Centre from 17-20 October, the 70th Annual Scientific Meeting reflected on the latest research in clinical radiology and radiation oncology, and explored emerging issues for the professions including the deployment and use of artificial intelligence (AI) tools. RANZCR published a set of ethical principles for use of AI in medicine earlier this year, and recently opened a consultation on standards of practice for AI in clinical radiology.

RANZCR was honoured to host a large complement of international keynote speakers across both professions including:

  • Dr David Beyer – Dr Beyer has published more than 40 peer reviewed articles on cancer treatments and guideline development with an emphasis on prostate cancer. He has been actively involved in cancer care policy development throughout the past decade of health care reform.
  • Dr Drew Moghanaki – Radiation oncologist and clinical investigator within the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Dr Moghanaki focuses on lung cancer research and implementation.
  • Prof Arjun Sahgal – Prof Sahgal is an international clinical and research leader in the field of high precision stereotactic radiation to the brain and spine for both metastases and primary tumors.
  • Dr Michelle S Ginsburg – Based at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Dr Ginsburg’s research focuses on detection, characterisation and measurement of thoracic malignancies and improving techniques to assess tumour response.
  • Dr Andrew J Grainger – Dr Grainger works closely with a team of musculoskeletal radiologists providing MSK imaging services. He has a particular interest in sports imaging and imaging arthritis.
  • Dr David Panicek – Dr Panicek shared his expertise in oncologic imaging, with a focus on musculoskeletal tumours.
  • Dr David Sacks – Interventional Radiologist, Dr David Sacks, has authored and co-authored over 120 scientific publications and book chapters, and is committed to the education of physicians offering interventional stroke care.
  • Dr Paula Woodward – Dr Paula Woodward’s clinical and research focus is pelvic and foetal imaging.

Radiation therapy can enhance survival rates in elderly brain cancer patients

According to data presented at the conference, elderly patients with Glioblastoma (primary brain tumours) and good baseline performance status had similar survival outcomes to younger patients when treated with the Stupp protocol.

The Stupp protocol consists of radiation therapy and concomitant chemotherapy to treat specific brain tumours called glioblastoma, but due to its intensity, is usually only an option for younger patients.

The analysis suggested that patients aged over 65 years who are functioning well following surgery may be better served with the same treatment used in younger patients aged under 65 years, as opposed to a more conservative approach.

Lead researcher Dr Brendan Liu said: “We found that when stratified for performance status elderly patients had similar survival outcomes compared with the younger cohort, without a significant increase in side effects or impact on quality of life.

Elderly patients who managed well following the initial diagnosis and surgical procedure may benefit from a longer course of combined radiation therapy

“This suggests that elderly patients who managed well following the initial diagnosis and surgical procedure may benefit from a longer course of combined radiation therapy and concomitant chemotherapy, which can provide better prognosis and survival outcomes for the patient.”

Underuse of radiation therapy in cancer treatment remains a concern

New data presented revealed many cancer patients in Australia and New Zealand continue to miss out on radiation therapy in their treatment.

The research found that only 25 per cent of cancer patients in NSW received radiation therapy compared to the optimal rate of 45 per cent. This matches previous data for New Zealand, which shows that less than a third of patients will actually receive radiation therapy, despite half being likely to benefit from having it during their cancer journey.

Lead researcher and Australian radiation oncologist Dr Roya Merie said: “These figures concerningly show that use of radiation therapy is well below the optimal figure in treating cancer effectively.

“This deficit has significant negative impacts on patient outcomes and it is important that strategies to overcome such shortfalls are developed to improve radiation therapy use and ensure patients receive the most appropriate treatment for them.”

In terms of the New Zealand context, Chair of RANZCR’s New Zealand Radiation Oncology Executive Committee, Dr Carol Johnson said, “We know that the intervention rate in some of the regions of this country may be only 28 per cent, such as in Northland, Te Rawhiti and the West Coast. These have all got low intervention rates compared to the bigger centres where intervention rates are generally up around 40 per cent. A big reason is the problems around travel – it’s very inconvenient.

“We’ve calculated that in one year up to about 2,000 patients are missing out on radiation therapy. Some of that is life-saving and some of it gives patients an improved quality of life.”

Number of radiation oncologists in Australia and New Zealand increasing

The results from RANZCR’s Radiation Oncology 2018 Workforce Census were also presented at the conference.

Statistics showed that the number of radiation oncologists practising in Australia and New Zealand has increased significantly. Since 2014 the number of radiation oncologists has risen from 439 to 514; a 17 per cent increase. Trainee numbers have remained stable and trainees reported increased job satisfaction with their career and workplaces.

Targeting Cancer in leaps and bounds

The annual Targeting Cancer Fun Run, which aims to raise awareness of radiation therapy was again a highlight of the program.

Targeting Cancer is an initiative of RANZCR’s Faculty of Radiation Oncology and promotes radiation therapy as a safe, effective and underused treatment option for cancer.

Almost 100 people including radiation oncologists, trainees, sponsors, exhibitors and consumers took to the pavement around the Viaduct Basin for the Fun Run, which was sponsored by GenesisCare.This year’s fastest female and male runners were Drs Gracie Keown and Adam Byrne, who received their prizes, sponsored by Auckland Radiology Group, at the ASM Gala Dinner.

Impressive research recognised

Also at the ASM Gala Dinner, various researchers were recognised for their achievements. RANZCR congratulates the following radiation oncology award winners:

  • Dr Christopher Williams who won the Varian Prize for ‘The diminishing role of neck dissection in node positive HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer following (chemo)radiotherapy’
  • Dr Michael Jones who won the Chris Atkinson award for Best Radiation Oncology Scientific Paper Presentation for ‘FDG-PET parameters predict for recurrence in anal cancer – results from a prospective, multicenter clinical trial’
  • Dr David Chang who won the David Wigg Prize for Radiobiology Research for ‘Polymeric nanoparticles for targeted cancer cytotoxicity and radiosensitization’
  • Dr Sweet Ping Ng who won the Elekta Award for advances in the use of technology in radiation therapy for ‘Changes in apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) in serial weekly MRI during radiotherapy in patients with head and neck cancer’, as well as the Radiation Oncology Wiley Exhibit Award for ‘Prognostic Significance of Pre-treatment Neutrophil-to-lymphocyte Ratio in Patients with Oropharyngeal Cancer Treated with Radiotherapy’.

The 70th annual ASM was an inspiring and energising occasion thanks to the collaborative atmosphere that was fostered by all who attended. The dedication and passion reflected the spirit of the radiation oncology community, which RANZCR is proud to lead.

For more information on RANZCR’s 70th annual ASM or to revisit the program visit You can also catch up on all the action on Twitter: @RANZCRcollege #RANZCR2019


The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR) is the peak body advancing best practice across clinical radiology and radiation oncology for the benefit of patients and the healthcare system.

RANZCR’s role is to drive the safe and appropriate use of clinical radiology and radiation oncology to optimise health outcomes. Through leadership, education and advocacy, we support 4,500 members to provide quality services to patients. We administer world-class training programs for admission into our professions, accredit training sites, assess overseas-trained specialists, and oversee professional development by our members.


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The ONA Editor curates oncology news, views and reviews from Australia and around the world for our readers. In aggregated content, original sources will be acknowledged in the article footer.

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