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Cancer Recovery

The courage to shine

University of Canberra researchers are working in collaboration with the Canberra Hospital’s Oncology Unit and ICON Cancer Centre to research cancer recovery and life after cancer for patients and their loved ones.

The PACES (pre-habilitation, activity, cancer, exercise and survivorship) research group came together in early 2019 and consists of academics at the University of Canberra who are passionate about conducting research in oncology.

The research is a multi-disciplinary approach to improvement for not only the person with cancer, but their loved ones too.

PACES investigates the effect of exercise on cancer patients and those living post-cancer. Initially it focussed on providing group exercise classes at the ICON centre. However, in 2020 it has evolved to include telehealth options (online classes) and one on one classes to minimise risk to participants concerned about exposure to COVID-19.

“It’s been a game changer for me. I have stage 4 cancer, I can’t go to the gyms now they have reopened, it’s too risky.” - Kathy, current PACES participant

Whether online or in person, the classes improve the strength and fitness of participants and have been proven to improve overall health outcomes for those battling cancer and/or recovering from it.

People with any type of cancer can be referred or can self-refer into the program.

"The benefits are incredible. Patients are building their strength back up, they are able to complete their chemotherapy and their treatment much easier if they’re fitter and stronger".

100 per cent of funds raised go directly to the University of Canberra Cancer Research & Recovery Fund.

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I came to nursing to make a meaningful difference to what matters most to people affected by cancer, and most importantly, the areas in which they are in most need of support and intervention.

Catherine Paterson Ph.D
PACES Researcher and Clinical Professor Ph.D,
(All Distinctions: BA, MSc, PgCert LTA, FHEA, Non-medical prescriber, RAN)

The benefits are incredible. Patients are building their strength back up, they are able to complete their chemotherapy and their treatment much easier if they’re fitter and stronger.

Dr Kellie Toohey
PACES Researcher and Clinical Assistant Professor,
University of Canberra

I have seen the referrals for patients with a diagnosis of cancer increase by more than 4000 per cent in four years in our department. It’s amazing to see the uptake in this group. I want to ensure that all patients have access to the expertise of an Exercise Physiologist.

Rebecca Cesnik
Higher Degree by Research academic
University of Canberra

Leading the world’s research into cancer care

PACES focusses its research activity on three distinct themes: prehabilitation, physical activity in people affected by cancer, and life after cancer.

At it’s core, PACES focuses on:

  • nutrition and physical activity
  • supportive care
  • mental health and social well-being during and post chemotherapy

Research projects

Explore some current reasearch projects.

  • Investigating various aspects of prostate cancer specifically regarding the impact of radical prostatectomy, expected outcomes, influence on incontinence and quality of life.
  • What are the experiences and unmet needs of people affected by chemotherapy induced alopecia?
  • Evaluating and increasing physical activity of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
  • Use of honey as a treatment of oral mucositis for oncology patients.
  • Risk Assessment, Prediction and Prevention of Venous Thromboembolism in Ambulatory Cancer Patients with Solid Tumours.
  • Predictors of risk and prognosis of venous thromboembolism in patients with Upper Gastro-intestinal cancer and lung cancer in Australian Capital Territory.
  • The feasibility and impact of light resistance-based exercise during chemotherapy infusion.
  • The impact of exercise counselling and education on patients with primary and secondary ovarian cancer.
  • Does exercise dose reduce the development of osteoporosis and sarcopenia in prostate cancer patients undergoing androgen deprivation therapy (ADT).

Why the research matters

So far, the program has seen some amazing results.

  • Over 500 patients successfully complete the program.
  • Increase in treatment success rates for patients.
  • Increase in mental health.
  • A reduction of side effects such as bone loss, pain, fatigue, cardiovascular and respiratory issues.
  • Improved chemotherapy completion rates.
  • Improved peripheral neuropathies.
  • Improved prognosis.
  • Decreased recurrence.
  • Improved mortality rates.

Your support is vital

With many cancer patients unable to attend work while receiving treatment and during recovery their day-to-day costs can really add up and having to pay to participate in the program can be yet another burden.

How can you help?

  • Donating $5000 will ensure that the PACES team can continue to drive research forward in cancer survivorship care.
  • Donating $1000 will see one client through a full research pre-habilitation program which includes: exercise, nutrition, and psychology.
  • Donating $250 will fund a client through a 6-week exercise program.
  • Donating $75 will fund one hour of vital PACES research.
  • Donating $30 will pay for a client’s initial exercise session.

“A few months ago it got really hard financially. So I said, “I’m going to reduce the sessions.” And Mel (Moore, UC Cancer Wellness Clinic Supervisor) said “No. You need this, you have to come.” So she found funding for me through the University. It’s amazing. It’s a really important program.” Kathy – PACES participant with stage 4 cancer.

PACES also offer seed funding grants for its researchers in order to support the development of special projects.

For example, during the COVID shut down, PACES researchers needed to devise a telehealth (phone/online consult) option for patients who could no longer visit in person but still required rehabilitation. Researchers quickly investigated how to continue to provide treatment to cancer patients remotely. They have realised that having seed funding opportunities would help them explore new services quickly when the need arises.

A donation of $10,000 would fund a seed grant project for a PACES researcher.

Philanthropic funding is vital to continue the work of PACES researchers. With $90,000 the team would be able to fund a PhD candidate for three years to undertake important research. The outcomes for those with cancer in the community would be life-changing and cannot be achieved without your generous support.

Our goal is to ensure the cancer recovery program is seen as an important part of cancer treatment that becomes available nationally and is fully funded for those who need it.

100 per cent of funds raised go directly to the University of Canberra Cancer Recovery Research Fund.

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Our experts

Dr Kellie Toohey

Exercise Physiology, physical activity, survivorship, chronic disease, rehabilitation, prehabilitation

Research profile

Professor Nick Brown

Movement analysis and motor control

Research profile

Associate Professor Catherine Paterson

Oncology nursing, chronic disease, prehabilitation

Research profile

Professor Karen Strickland

Oncology nursing, chronic disease, health services, digital health

Research profile

Dr Irmina Nahon

Pelvic floor, prostate cancer, rehabilitation

Research profile

Dr Jane Kellett

Oncology palliative care, nutrition and dietetics

Research profile

Dr Reza Mortazavi

Diagnostic pathology, haematology and blood transfusion, thromboemolism

Research profile

Professor Stuart Semple

Physical activity, CVD, exercise, immunology

Research profile

Associate Professor Andrew McKune

Stress physiology, immunology and bioenergetics in adaptation to exercise in cancer stress responses

Research profile

Associate Professor Rachel Bacon

Clinical education and community research, dietetics

Research profile

Professor Desmond Yip (Adjunct)

Development of biological agents in cancer, renal cell carcinoma and GI cancers

Research profile

Make a donation

100 per cent of funds raised go directly to the
University of Canberra Cancer Research & Recovery Fund.

Get in touch

Contact the UC Foundation to
find out more.

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