Menzies scholarship gives $55k boost to UQ cancer study

Head and neck cancer patients stand to benefit from a $55,000 scholarship awarded to a University of Queensland School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences researcher.

Ms Teresa Brown will use the Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Research Scholarship in the Allied Health Sciences to explore ways of reducing recovery times and shortening cancer patients' hospital stays.

"The scholarship enables me to complete the final stage of my PhD, which focuses on nutrition supplementation before patients start treatment," Ms Brown said.

"By using a feeding tube upon admission, patients receive a nutrition boost early, which we hope to prove will reduce the impact of malnutrition and leave them with improved quality of life.

"Better nutrition maintains muscle, strength and energy levels, and can reduce the length of stay in hospital.

"It also reduces the chance of readmission due to malnutrition or dehydration."

Although a seemingly common-sense solution, Ms Brown's study is the first of its kind in Australia.

Typically, head and neck cancer patients go through three to seven sessions of chemotherapy during a course of seven weeks of radiotherapy and end up losing around nine per cent of their bodyweight over the course of treatment and recovery.

"My team at UQ's Centre for Dietetics Research is hoping to get that weight loss down to less than five per cent - the mark at which weight loss is no longer deemed clinically detrimental," Ms Brown said.

"Traditional nutrition plans have been reactive and relied on a combination of advice from dietitians and a reliance on patients to follow their advised meal plans.

"This can become difficult due to low energy levels, poor appetite and side effects from the treatment, such as pain related to swallowing or severe changes to taste."

The Menzies Foundation  has a long history of supporting allied health research, stretching back to 1988.

CEO Sarah Hardy said that by supporting researchers like Ms Brown, the foundation hoped to enable and inspire the next generation of leaders and contribute to improved community health.

The scholarship covers a two-year period.

Media: Ms Teresa Brown teresa.brown@uqconnect.edu.au , +617 3646 7995; Menzies Foundation - Kate Nolan,   kate.nolan@menziesfoundation.org.au , +61 0408 442 887.