Over the past 15 years, the Friends of the Mater Foundation has chosen to support research projects at the Mater in the areas of breast cancer, melanoma and surgical oncology.

Some of the projects currently underway are outlined below:

  • A prospective study of immediate and delayed breast reconstruction in women undergoing mastectomy and post-mastectomy radiotherapy for breast cancer.
  • Evaluation of cosmetic outcomes in women having radiotherapy after breast reconstruction.

The majority of women who undergo mastectomy for breast cancer have the option of breast reconstruction. Most of these women have immediate reconstruction with a tissue expander, performed at the time of mastectomy. The expander is then exchanged for a permanent implant at a later date. There is a belief, internationally, that this type of reconstruction cannot be combined with radiotherapy as the radiation can cause extensive scar formation. However, Mater clinicians have found the dual treatments to be successful.
The aim of this study is to evaluate the outcomes of women who have undergone the combination of immediate tissue expander/implant reconstruction and radiotherapy. Funded by the Foundation, the study has the potential to add significantly to world knowledge, and may enable more women to benefit from this type of reconstruction.

Quality-of-Life following Immediate, Delayed or no breast reconstruction (QoLID)

This study looks at the impact of breast reconstruction (immediate, delayed or none) on quality-of-life measures for women with breast cancer undergoing mastectomy and post-mastectomy radiotherapy (PMRT).

It is a prospective, longitudinal observational study, which follows women for five years post-mastectomy. Validated, standardised questionnaires are used to assess their quality-of-life, pain, and aesthetic outcomes prior to, and at regular intervals following, mastectomy. In addition to these patient-reported outcomes, data will be collected on clinical outcomes, such as surgical and PMRT complications and delays in the delivery of adjuvant treatments. The study will also collect long-term outcomes, including locoregional recurrence, disease-free survival and overall survival. Surgeons will rate the aesthetic outcomes for their own patients, and these will be compared with the ratings provided by a blinded breast surgeon.

Survivorship care planning in breast cancer

Many women have ongoing issues related to cancer and treatment in the months and years that follow their breast cancer diagnosis. Often, these are not well addressed with usual follow-up care, and it is thought that a survivorship care plan – a written, long-term strategy developed by women and their specialists at the end of treatment – may help to improve recovery.

A Care Plan booklet is now available containing personalised information on cancer treatment, follow-up visits, and life after breast cancer. Seventy women treated for breast cancer at the Patricia Ritchie Centre for Cancer Care and Research have developed a Care Plan, and they will be evaluated over an 18-month period. The final results will be available at the end of 2014.