The primary purpose of the Scientific Committee is to determine the scientific portfolio of the group through endorsement of submitted clinical trial concepts and research proposals, and oversighting activities of the working groups and research panels. The Scientific Committee meets approximately 4 times per year. Generally the Scientific Committee meeting held in conjunction with the Annual Scientific Meeting is open to all TOGA members. If you would like to submit a concept for TOGA endorsement, please see ‘Developing a research concept‘.
A/Prof Thomas John is a medical oncologist specialising in Thoracic malignancies and genetics working at the Peter MacCallum hospital in Melbourne. He received his medical degree from Monash University and PhD from University of Melbourne in 2008. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship with Prof F.Shepherd and Prof M. Tsao in Toronto before returning to Melbourne.
He is a member of ASCO, ESMO, IASLC, AACR, and MOGA. He is an associate editor for the Journal of Thoracic Oncology and is actively involved clinical trials and translational research in lung cancer and mesothelioma.
He was an author and investigator on several trials using Osimertinib, including the initial Phase I AURA study, AURA3, FLAURA and ADAURA.
Prof Ben Solomon (MBBS, PhD, FRACP) is a Medical Oncologist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, Australia, and the Scientific Chair on the TOGA Board.
He has been involved in the clinical development of targeted therapies in lung cancer, including the phase I through to phase III clinical trials with crizotinib that led to its approval in the treatment of ALK-rearranged NSCLC. Ben also co-leads the TOGA ASPiRATION study and led the OSCILLATE study.
Prof Nick Pavlakis has nearly 20 years’ experience in the treatment and research of thoracic and gastrointestinal cancers. He is the current Chair of the TOGA Board has previously served on the Boards of Northern Cancer Institute and COSA.
Nick has served on the leadership committees of numerous national/international collaborative group trials in lung cancer, mesothelioma and gastrointestinal cancers. He was involved in the development of Australian clinical practice guidelines in lung cancer and mesothelioma, and has served as faculty of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer(IASLC) World Conference on Lung Cancer, its Mesothelioma task force and is current deputy chair of the IASLC Continuing Medical Education Committee; and is a faculty member of the MOGA/ASCO/ACCR Australia and Asia Pacific Clinical Oncology Research Development Workshop (ACORD).
Lillian Leigh is an Australian lawyer and a patient research advocate. She is appointed by the Federal Health Minister as a Member of the Advisory Council of Cancer Australia and the Australian Health Ethics Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). Lillian is also an appointed Member of the Consumer and Community Advisory Group of the NHMRC.
Lillian serves on the TOGA Board and is the current Membership and Advocacy Chair. She brings to this position her experience as a former member of the Management Advisory Committee and Consumer Advisory Panel of the Australasian Lung cancer Trials Group under the auspices of Lung Foundation Australia. Lillian is also an Executive Committee Member of Cancer Voices NSW, and an Advisory Board Member of Woolcock Institute’s Lung Cancer Research Network.
Her interests include health equity, health policy, and consumer involvement in research. Lillian has been a faculty member of the Medical Oncology Group of Australia’s ACORD Protocol Development Workshops, a mentor of the IASLC’s Supportive Training & Advocacy in Research and Science (STARS) Program, and an invited speaker in multiple national and international events. She was a recipient of the Patient Advocacy Award at the 17th IASLC World Conference for Lung Cancer in Vienna.
Prof Ken O’Byrne is a Consultant and Professor in Medical Oncology recently moved to the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) section of the Translational Research Institute (TRI) from St James’s Hospital and Trinity College, Dublin. He has conducted translational ‘bench-to-bedside-and back-again’ research over the past 25 years with a focus on solid epithelial tumours, in particular in thoracic malignancies.
Ken was the founder of the British Thoracic Oncology Group (BTOG), and founder member of the European thoracic oncology platform (ETOP), and has held committee positions of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC).
Ken has been involved in the design of and running phase I, II and III clinical trials encouraging the incorporation of biomarker studies, both prognostic and predictive, where possible. He has published over 250 manuscripts in peer reviewed journals and books and has edited 2 books in thoracic oncology.
Dr Malinda Itchins is a thoracic medical oncologist at Royal North Shore Hospital, GenesisCare, and North Shore Private. In 2020 she graduated from her doctoral studies investigating drug resistance in ALK-rearranged non-small cell lung cancer both preclinically, and via a TOGA clinical trial in progress, ALKternate. Malinda is the Lung Cancer Chair for the Clinical Oncology of Australia (COSA) Council. She is Primary Investigator on a number of lung cancer clinical trials and her research focus to date has been in patterns of care, the real-world experience and drug resistance in oncogene driven lung cancers. She is passionate about the evolution of precision medicine in lung cancer.
A/Prof Steven Kao is a medical oncologist at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. He completed his PhD at the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute where his research focused on predictive and prognostic factors in malignant mesothelioma. Steven has a wide clinical, translational and psycho-social research interest in thoracic cancers including malignant mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancers, and was instrumental in developing the mesothelioma biobank at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research.
Steven is also very actively involved in clinical trials in the oncology setting, both investigator-initiated and those supported by the pharmaceutical industry. As an early career researcher, Dr Kao has been chief investigator on a number of successful research grants, with over $5.25m of competitive funding and has over 50 publications in total, including over 35 original articles in peer-reviewed journals. In recognition of his research achievements, Steven has received Cancer Institute NSW Premier’s Awards for Outstanding Cancer Research in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
Dr Rebecca Tay is a medical oncologist at the Royal Hobart Hospital and Icon Cancer Centre. Dr Tay completed specialist medical oncology training in Melbourne followed by a clinical research fellowship in lung cancer at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, United Kingdom.
Dr Tay is extensively involved in clinical research as a principal/sub-investigator for several active clinical trials and is the state-representative for the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA) Regional and Rural Group.
A/Prof Haryana Dhillon is an Associate Professor in Psycho-Oncology at the University of Sydney. She is a Director of the Centre for Medical Psychology & Evidence-based Decision-making, School of Psychology at the University of Sydney where she co-leads the Cancer Survivorship Research Group. She is a Behavioural scientist with more than 25 years in cancer clinical research, in particular post-cancer diagnosis supportive care and psycho-oncology, encompassing cancer survivorship, health literacy, communication, education and symptom management. Haryana is active in several of the Australasian Cancer Cooperative Trials Groups, and is committed to the collaborative research process.
Prof Fraser Brims is a Consultant Respiratory Physician at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and Director of Early Years Clinical Skills at Curtin University Medical School. He is the Deputy Director of the Institute for Respiratory Health and Chairs the Western Australian Mesothelioma Registry. His main research interests include clinical and epidemiological aspects of occupational (particularly asbestos) related lung disease, mesothelioma and the detection of early lung cancer using low dose CT scans.
Dr Michael Harden is a consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, Australia. Initially training as a chemical engineer, Michael subsequently completed his undergraduate medical degree followed by a postgraduate higher degree with a Masters Degree in Biomedical Engineering majoring in Cardiovascular Fluid Dynamics and Physiological Fluid Mechanics.
Michael trained at Royal Hobart Hospital in Tasmania and Prince of Wales and Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. He then obtained his Fellowship from The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in Cardiothoracic Surgery. He completed an advanced Cardiothoracic Fellowship at Royal Melbourne Hospital, gaining specialist training in Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery and Adult Cardiac Surgery. He is fully trained in minimally invasive thoracic surgery and was an invited speaker at the 4th Asia-Pacific Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery Conference in GuangZhou, China, in 2013.
Dr Venessa Chin is a Medical Oncologist working at The Kinghorn Cancer Centre, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, in the fields of lung and head and neck cancer. She worked with the Personalised Cancer Therapeutics group during her PhD, which looked at using genomics to inform therapeutic discoveries in pancreas cancer. Her work included a meta-analysis, in vitro and in vivo analysis of rationally selected drug targets, and analysis of metastasis formation in real time. She is now a post-doctoral researcher in the Garvan-Weizmann Centre for Cellular Genomics where her work focuses on how cellular genomics can guide management decisions in cancers of the lung and oropharynx.
A/Prof Kate Sutherland is a Laboratory Head, Cancer Biology and Stem Cells Division, at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI). She completed a Bachelor of Science (Hons) degree and PhD from The University of Melbourne in 2005. From 2006-2012, she undertook postdoctoral studies under the mentorship of Prof Anton Berns at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, before returning to Melbourne in 2013 to establish an independent research group at WEHI.
Her research program is dedicated to understanding tumour heterogeneity in lung cancer. Her work has established new approaches and technologies to study lung cancer, leading to seminal findings on new genetic drivers, the immune microenvironment, and the role of the metabolome in lung cancer. Kate has been the recipient of funding from Worldwide Cancer Research (UK), NHMRC, the Victorian Cancer Agency and holds the Julie and Alston Centenary Fellowship.
A/Prof Shankar Siva is a Radiation Oncologist and current Cancer Council Victoria (CCV) Colebatch Fellow. He leads the Stereotactic Ablative Body Radiotherapy (SABR) program at the Peter Mac and is internationally recognised for his work in high technology radiotherapy delivery. He completed his PhD focusing on translational investigations in precision high-dose lung radiotherapy and published the first original research from Australia on the use of the SABR technique.
Shankar leads multiple clinical trials in the treatment of cancer, including investigator-initiated clinical trials led by TROG. His international commitments include positions on the Board of Directors of the Radiosurgery Society (RSS), the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) Advanced Radiation Technology (ART) committee, American Society of Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) Science Council, and Course Director of European Society for Radiotherapy (ESTRO) SBRT Asia. He has research interests in high-tech radiotherapy delivery, SABR and radiation immunology.
Dr Sarah Heynemann (MBBS/BMedSci, MBioeth, FRACP) is an early-career medical oncologist who completed her oncology training across various hospitals in Victoria (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Bendigo Health, St Vincent’s Hospital). Subsequently she has pursued clinical and research interests in lung cancer via fellowships at Austin Health and in 2021 was the lung fellow at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, Sydney. Currently she works part-time at St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne as the clinical trials fellow and is a PhD candidate within the Faculty of Medicine and Health at The University of Sydney investigating the topic ‘Ethical and epistemic implications of emerging trends in the cancer clinical trial landscape’ in conjunction with a multi-disciplinary clinician and ethicist supervision team. Sarah is also involved locally in medical student education and sits on a hospital HREC.
Dr Rachael Dodd is a Senior Research Fellow at The Daffodil Centre, a joint venture between Cancer Council NSW and The University of Sydney. Rachael completed a Masters in Health Psychology and a PhD in Psychology at University College London, UK. Rachael’s work looks to improve health communications across a range of cancer types and screening programs, with a current focus on lung cancer. Her research to date has focussed around communication in healthcare in combination with assessing psychosocial impacts of cancer diagnoses. Rachael is currently part of a collaborative exploring the potential implementation of a national lung cancer screening program in Australia. Rachael is a strong advocate for connecting fellow academics including opportunities for Early Career Researchers.
Dr Laird Cameron is a Medical Oncologist specialising in lung, mesothelioma and head & neck malignancies. Laird is dual trained and gained membership as both a general physician and medical oncologist with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. Laird completed a clinical fellowship in lung and head & neck malignancies at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, Australia with a strong emphasis on translating new treatments to better outcomes for cancer patients including targeted therapies and immunotherapy. He has peer-reviewed publications in treating ALK-rearranged lung cancers.
Laird has returned to New Zealand, treating patients with lung cancer at Auckland Hospital and Canopy Cancer Care. He leads the medical oncology lung team at ADHB, chairs the New Zealand Lung Oncology Special Interest Group and is committed to improving the health of New Zealanders with cancer through active involvement in research.
Susan McCullough, OAM, has been a patient research advocate for lung cancer since her recovery from a lobectomy of her right lower lobe, due to a ‘lucky find’ of adenocarcinoma in March 2003 at the age of 47.
Sue brings a wealth of consumer involvement, advocacy and patient support experience to her TOGA position, which was recognised in 2019 by the award of an Order of Australia Medal. Initially, Sue formed a face-to-face support group for lung cancer patients at Jacaranda Lodge Cancer Support Centre in 2004, but soon moved into advocacy and research, completing many advocacy, communication and support training courses at Cancer Council NSW, and becoming lung cancer consumer representative for NSW Cancer Institute’s Lung Cancer Research Group.
Sue was a founding consumer representatives for Australasian Lung Cancer Trials Group (the predecessor to TOGA) and is now a member of both the TOGA and Tran-Tasman Radiation Oncology Group (TROG) consumer panels, a member of Cancer Australia’s Lung Cancer Advisory Group, and NSW Cancer Institute’s Lung Cancer Research Group consumer representative. Sue has completed two years of the IASLC’s STARS advocacy training program, which teaches consumer research advocates how to interpret lung cancer research, and is now a mentor to others completing the program.
Amy O’Donnell is a Lung Cancer Nurse Specialist at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. Amy was the first appointed lung cancer nurse in Lifehouse and has developed the role.
Her interests include psychological support and advocacy of patients and their families with lung cancer. She is also interested in increasing awareness for this disease in the general community which hopefully leads to more compassion, research, and support. Amy runs regular lung cancer group education meetings in the aim of bringing patients together to support and facilitate empowerment. In addition to TOGA she is also member of ANZ-LCNF, CNSA, IASLC, and ITONF.
She is currently involved in 2 studies at Lifehouse; a nursing research study that investigates supportive care needs of patients and their families with lung cancer; and another study that looks at long term “survivorship” needs of patients with stable, stage IV non-small cell lung cancer.
Helen Westman is the Lung Cancer Nurse Consultant at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. She has 20 years of cancer nursing experience and has been a specialist lung cancer nurse since 2017. Helen coordinates the care of patients with a suspected thoracic malignancy, working closely with the respiratory team to facilitate rapid diagnosis, and supporting patients undergoing surgery or receiving treatment via medical and radiation oncology.
Helen is committed to patient education and ensuring patients have access to appropriate and relevant resources, acknowledging that information empowers patients to make informed decisions about their care. She also advocates for and supports nurse education and has developed nationally available resources on both lung cancer and immunotherapy. Helen is a member of several nursing oncology groups, and she holds a Master of Cancer Nursing, a Master of Public Health and is currently studying to become a Nurse Practitioner.
Lisa Briggs is a young mother, and allied health professional; Osteopath and Exercise Physiologist, who has been living with Stage IV Non Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) harbouring the ALK mutation since 2014.
She is a member of the TOGA Consumer Panel, Rare Cancers Australia (RCA) Advisory Board, Cancer Australia Lung Cancer Advisory Group (LCAG), Cancer Council Victoria Community Reference Committee (CRC) and Victorian Lung Cancer Registry (VLCR) Steering Committee. Having been on a participant on a clinical trial for 3 years, Lisa has experienced first-hand the impact clinical trials can have on improving outcomes and is passionate about partnering with researchers to help co-design clinical trials that are both patient centric and innovative.
In 2020, she was selected as a participant of the International Association and Society of Lung Cancer (IASLC) Patient Research Advocates Supportive Training and Advocacy in Research (STARS) program and has since been invited to join the International Society of Liquid Biopsy (ISLB) as their patient advocate.
Andrew Bowen is an IT professional having been involved in the Government (all levels) sector for over 30 years. He has a BSc and an MBA (Technology Management). Andrew’s wife Lisa was diagnosed with stage IV Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer in January 2006 and sadly passed away in July 2007. This resulted in him becoming involved with the Lung Foundation Australia, where he became the first consumer to attend the inaugural Australian Lung Cancer Conference (ALCC) in 2006 and all subsequent ALLCs.
Andrew was a consumer representative with the Australasian Lung Cancer Trials Group (ALTG) from 2007, joined Cancer Australia as a consumer advisor for many years where he was part of the Project Working Group that published ‘Risk Factors for lung cancer – an overview of the evidence (2014)’. More recently, Andrew has become a member of the Consumer Panel for the Thoracic Oncology Group of Australasia (TOGA), where he wants to ensure that consumer priorities and perspectives are reflected in in each stage of the research.
Prof Michael Millward is the foundation Chair of Clinical Cancer Research at the University of Western Australia and a Consultant Medical Oncologist at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and Linear Clinical Research, Perth, Western Australia. He has a strong track record in delivering clinical trial outcomes, particularly with novel therapeutics and phase I/II studies. He has extensive clinical and research interests in lung cancer and melanoma. Between November 2008 and October 2012 he was the President of the Australasian Lung Cancer Trials Group. He has published >190 original papers and >300 abstracts at International meetings.
Dr Vanessa Brunelli is a Research Fellow appointed by Queensland University of Technology. Vanessa’s postdoctoral research, a national project investigating the core supportive care components of the specialist lung cancer nurse role that appear most influential on patient experience, is supported by an inaugural Lung Foundation Australia Shine a Light on Lung Cancer Early Career Research Fellowship. Vanessa also holds the position of Nurse Researcher at the Princess Alexandra Hospital. Vanessa is the Chair of the Australia and New Zealand Lung Cancer Nurses Forum (ANZ-LCNF), Co-Chair of the ANZ-LCNF Research and Education portfolios, and Visiting Scholar of the International Centre for Community Driven Research, Geneva. Vanessa’s 20+ years as an oncology nurse drives her strong research interest in improving the disease experience for people living with lung cancer, particularly through strategic cross-sector initiatives that develop scholarly evidence to inform lung cancer nursing workforce policy and practice.
A/Prof Chee Lee works as a Research Fellow and Clinical Lead at the NHMRC CTC. He is also a staff specialist in medical oncology at St George Hospital and the Sutherland Hospital; and a visiting medical oncologist at St George Private Hospital. Chee’s clinical practice is based around lung, gynaecological and other advanced cancers. His clinical and research interests are focused on identifying and developing better strategies to personalise treatment and improve outcomes for patients with advanced cancers. He is also currently a principal and co-investigator on a number of clinical trials that investigate novel therapeutic agents for ovarian, breast and lung cancers.
Chris Brown holds a Bachelor of Science in maths and statistics, and has completed the Masters of Biostatistics administered through the Biostatistics Collaboration of Australia. Chris is a Biostatistician and Research Fellow at the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre (CTC) at the University of Sydney. providing assistance to investigators designing and conducting clinical trials in Australia.
Chris is an author on over 20 peer-reviewed manuscripts and been a co-author on a number of conference presentations and posters at national conferences and large international meetings. A member of the Statistical Society of Australia, his main statistical research interests are in areas of sequential trial design, randomisation methods, time to event and interim analysis.