Clinical PhD Candidate Profile: Dr Monica Tang

Monica Tang

What is your research about?

I'm a physician who recently completed my specialty training in Medical Oncology, which I undertook through Prince of Wales and St George Hospitals. I studied at UNSW for my undergraduate Medical degree, so I'm very much looking forward to returning to UNSW as postgraduate PhD student.

The incidence of cancer is increasing in Australia, and cancer treatment comes at a significant cost to the Australian health care system. While randomised controlled trials are the gold standard for establishing the efficacy of novel cancer treatments, they have limited external validity and cannot provide much-needed insights into care delivery, effectiveness and long-term toxicities of treatments in routine practice in the general population, including the elderly and those with comorbidities. Observational research using population data is a powerful and untapped resource for enhancing evidence-based care and supporting health care quality improvement and health policy decisions.

The objective of my PhD research is to develop a framework for assessing and monitoring utilisation of drug-based cancer therapy in Australia using routinely collected health data. Using linked health system databases, I will measure the utilisation of chemotherapy and biological agents in cancer patients, examine variations in care and evaluate associated outcomes. In particular, I will focus on common cancers in which the benefit of chemotherapy is well-established, such as breast, lung and colorectal cancers. The outcomes of this research will provide a comprehensive evaluation of the quality of Australian cancer care with regards to appropriate, effective and equitable use of anti-cancer drugs. It will also establish a framework for ongoing and timely monitoring of anti-cancer drug utilisation, to facilitate improvement of quality use of medicine from a clinical and health policy perspective.

What is translational application of your research?

In order for scientific advances to improve patient care and outcomes, it is pivotal that evidence-based clinical guidelines are reflected in routine clinical practice. This T3/T4 translational research project will assess how well anti-cancer treatments transition from the clinical trial setting to real world clinical practice

How would the TCRN PhD top-up Scholarship help you succeed?

The TCRN will greatly benefit my PhD by providing me with support and resources to develop my skills as a clinician researcher. As a TCRN member and top up scholarship recipient, I will have the opportunity to meet and learn from a range of cancer researchers, and participate in forums to broaden and strengthen my knowledge and research skills. As a clinician and a new PhD student, I look forward to becoming part of the translational cancer research community through my involvement with TCRN.