Who would have imagined that worldclass, ground breaking medical research and clinical trials are being conducted in the Macarthur region? In a modern, high tech facility at the back of Liverpool Hospital sits the research facilities of The Ingham Institute of Applied Medical Research. As part of their vital research clinical trials are regularly conducted in hospitals right across Macarthur.
The Ingham Institute, founded by the community for the community is constantly finding better ways to improve health. One of Australia’s most respected philanthropists, Bob Ingham OA founded the Institute, and it continues to be supported by Mary Fairfax AC, OBE.
The Ingham Institute proudly operates a unique partnership with South Western Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD), UNSW Australia as well as Western Sydney University. The Ingham Institute is proud to say ‘100% of funds raised for the Institute go directly to support medical research at the Institute’. I was fortunate enough to speak with Professor Michael Barton OAM, Research Director.
The five research streams conducted by Ingham Institute are:
• Cancer Research
• Clinical Sciences
• Population & Health Services Research
• Injury & Rehabilitation
• Mental Health
The five research streams are divided amongst more than 40 research groups. The research conducted by The Ingham Institute has the potential to benefit virtually everyone in our society. According to Prof Barton, “The Macarthur region with it’s wide variety of socio and ethnic backgrounds is perfect for our medical research as it covers so many scenarios.”
Blood test for cancer
It is fascinating to hear Prof Barton speak about working on a ground breaking blood test for cancer. According to the Professor, “This may largely replace expensive biopsy surgery.”
Small blood samples are donated by patients with cancer. The samples go through a number of complex procedures until only the cancerous cells remain. It is incredible to watch a machine that can pick up one single human cell. These cells are then incubated and allowed to multiply to give the talented researchers as many cells as they need for their research.
One of the most exciting items currently at the Ingham Institute is the MRI-Linac machine that has recently been developed and installed. According to Prof Barton “This is the same idea as testing a tumour’s behaviour without taking the tumour out. The human body is not static, so the tumour is moving yet this machine allows us to target the tumour specifically, and to image the tumour as well as normal tissue while the patient is being treated.”
This is truly cutting-edge technology being developed just down the road. According to Prof Barton “There are four prototypes of this type of device in the world, and we have one of them. This is the only one in Australia, there are three competing models in other parts of the world.” With a true gritty Australian attitude Prof Barton went on to say, “We hope our particular model will lead cancer treatment in the next two to three decades.”
Other Research Areas
The amount of research being done by the Ingham Institute is mind boggling, and there is definitely too many to go into detail here. One important clinical trial at Campbelltown Hospital is the treatment of Diabetes Foot. The team are trialling a treatment where the problem is targeted internally as well as externally with promising early results.
This approach came about through the collaboration of different research teams presenting to each other as well as the public. This fosters strong bonds across the Institute, and results in teams making suggestions to each other to broaden their approaches.
While walking through the facility one term you don’t want to hear is infectious diseases. But Ingham’s are tackling this head on, and if there is an outbreak in a hospital the team are there in an instant. Swabbing everything that could possibly be touched in the spread of the disease the team does not rest until they find the source of the outbreak. One example that was cited was a sink that was eventually identified as the source, which was quickly cemented solid to avoid any further spread.
A tour of the Ingham Institute research facility is a fascinating and very eye opening experience. It is encouraging to have such a facility on our door step, particularly with plans well advanced to grow the research into the Macarthur area.
This is certainly a facility to support for the future of us all. You can support as an individual or through corporate engagement, knowing that your money will be spent locally. You can contact the Ingham Institute through their website at http://inghaminstitute.org.au or by phoning them on 8738 9000.