The Hudson Institute, named after Professor Bryan Hudson, the first professor of medicine at Monash University, was formed by the merger of the previously separate Monash Institute of Medical Research and the Prince Henry’s Institute into a consolidated research centre.
The Institute is based in a new, state-of-the-art Translational Research Facility (cost $84 million) collocated with the Monash Medical Centre (hospital) in Clayton. It enables professional interaction of clinical, academic / teaching, and scientific streams around a medical research program.
Cancer research is one of six designated research fields covered by the Institute. We were shown over the facilities by the head of patient services for clinical trials, Sheryl-Ann Hawkins and Professor Ron Firestein, head of Cancer Research. Presentations were made to the Group members by Professor Firestein and Dr Arun Azad, who holds appointments with both Monash University and Monash Health. Dr Azad is in charge of a clinical and translational prostate cancer research program. He is the lead Australian investigator for two clinical trials in advanced prostate cancer patients.
The presentations provided a ten year perspective on cancer research and recent breakthroughs in medical technology. The developments around prostate cancer in particular, which had a reputation for being intractable, were noteworthy. The advances in computing power and biomedical technologies such as genome sequencing had opened the way for discoveries in the behaviour of cells and potentially important fields of research and treatment. The goal of much of this research is “precision medicine” where the characteristics of the behavior of cells in a particular person can be analysed and then treated with highly customised therapies. A related line of research involves using knowledge of human immune systems to discover treatments (using check point inhibitors) that can inhibit and attack cancer cells (immunotherapy). Dr Azad mentioned several clinical trials that are open or soon to open for advanced prostate cancer.