Dr. Sunil Rai's research to improve breast cancer care in rural NSW

By NSW Regional Cancer Research Network (NSWRCRN) posted 22-03-2024 10:45 AM


Dr Sunil Rai is a Medical Oncologist based at North West Cancer Centre in Tamworth Hospital. With a passion for enhancing the wellbeing and experience of his patients, Dr Rai's research and involvement in clinical trials are gaining recognition.

Recently awarded a Clinician Research Fellowship from the NSW Regional Cancer Research Network, Dr Rai is spearheading a project entitled, “Assessing the feasibility and clinical and patient-reported impacts of the use of ctDNA testing in adjuvant breast cancer: A rural pilot study.”

The project's primary objective is to evaluate the practicality, cost-effectiveness and patient experiences associated with Circulating Tumour DNA (ctDNA) testing in the management of breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy in regional and rural settings.

CtDNA testing offers promising potential to inform prognosis and predict disease recurrence. For breast cancer patients, the persistence of ctDNA during and after neoadjuvant treatment has been identified as a key predictor of poor tumour response.

Despite the potential benefits, ctDNA testing is not yet standard of care in adjuvant breast cancer care due to initial costs and current logistical challenges. This gap can be particularly prominent in rural areas like Tamworth, where access to advanced genetic profiling is often limited. As a consequence, patients receive standard management of their cancer, involving frequent clinic visits that can result in increased cost, time and potential risks for both the patients and the health service. Dr Rai's Clinician Research Fellowship is a step toward bridging this gap. Dr Rai aims to leverage the information generated by the project to understand the feasibility of ctDNA testing for adjuvant breast cancer patients. In future, the project outcomes will help to tailor clinical management, and optimise monitoring intensity, with the goal of reducing the burden on patients.

The fellowship is designed to boost translational cancer research capacity in the Central Coast, Hunter New England, Mid-North Coast, and Northern NSW regions, by supporting regional clinical staff to conduct research within their institutions. Dr Rai's project aims to work towards improving cancer outcomes in rural communities that commonly face challenges in healthcare.

The NSW Regional Cancer Research Network is funded by the Cancer Institute NSW through a Translational Cancer Research Capacity Building Grant and established through NSW Regional Health Partners.