Professor Mark Smithers receives John Zalcberg OAM Award for his dedication to gastro-intestinal cancer research

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Surgical oncologist Professor Mark Smithers AM was honoured for his 30-year commitment to discovering better treatments for gastro-intestinal cancers at the 23rd Australasian Gastro-Intestinal Trials Group (AGITG) Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM).

Professor Smithers was recognised as this year’s recipient of the prestigious John Zalcberg OAM Award for Excellence in AGITG Research. This award is presented annually by the AGITG, Australasia’s only non-profit organisation dedicated to conducting clinical trials into all 10 gastro-intestinal cancers.

As a pioneer of AGITG, Professor Smithers has been a dedicated and committed member. Throughout the years, he has held various leadership roles and has consistently contributed to the robust design of AGITG clinical trials, which help to find a better way to treat patients and improve their life expectancy.

Most recently, Professor Smithers input and work as the Surgical lead on AGITGs’ largest ever international trial (TOPGEAR trial – Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Europe) assessing the role of preoperative radiotherapy for resectable gastric cancer, positioned him as the leading recipient of the John Zalcberg OAM Award for Excellence in AGITG Research.

This multidisciplinary study involved the collaborative efforts of radiation oncologists, medical oncologists and surgeons to determine the optimal adjuvant regimen for potentially curable gastric cancer. In June 2021, patient recruitment was completed. This could not have been achieved without the dedication of team members like Professor Smithers. The AGITG team will soon be able to answer one of the most important questions in Upper GI oncology worldwide, how to determine the best combination of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery to improve cure rates.

“It’s a great honour to be the recipient of this year’s John Zalcberg Award,” says Professor Smithers. “I’m incredibly proud to be a founding member of AGITG. Back in 1991, a handful of researchers came together to try and improve the outcomes for their patients – back then 36% was the five-year survival rate for Australians diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer, by establishing better collaboration amongst all the specialists that treat the disease, through the development of clinical trials of new treatments of combinations of known treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Thirty years later, that small group has grown to over 1,500 Australian and New Zealand medical professions all united by the shared goal of creating a world free from GI cancer. There’s no doubt in my mind that over the three decades, we’ve seen improvements in outcomes for patients with GI cancers, and we all remain highly committed to continuing these improvements both in patient survival and improvement of their quality of life.

Chair of the AGITG, Dr Lorraine Chantrill, says “Professor Smithers is highly deserving of this award, and it is so fitting that his achievements have been recognised at our ASM which is celebrating the organisation’s 30-year milestone. It’s truly special to be able to commemorate achievements of the past three decades and looking ahead to a future of innovative research and breakthroughs.”

Source: AGITG 


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