Service to oncology recognised in Australia Day Honours

Cancer care

By Mardi Chapman

25 Jan 2024

Associate Professor Judy Kirk

Associate Professor Judy Kirk has recently retired from clinical practice to spend more time with her own family after decades caring for generations of other families within the Familial Cancer Service at Westmead Hospital.

Her 42-year career has been recognised with a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the General Division for significant service to medicine, and to medical research, particularly in the field of cancer genetics.

Associate Professor Kirk, who originally trained in paediatric oncology, told the limbic that she was fortunate to have had some wonderful mentors who taught her about research which then led her to studying cancer genetics at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Centre in Seattle, US.

She came back to Australia in 1994 about the same time BRCA1, the first breast cancer susceptibility gene, was identified. BRCA2 was identified soon after – a further sign of the direction her career would take.

Director of the Familial Cancer Service at Westmead Hospital from 1995 and a foundation member of the Kathleen Cuningham Foundation Consortium for Research into Familial Breast Cancer (KConFab) in 1996, Associate Professor Kirk is still a member of KConFab’s executive committee and chairs its ethics reference group.

Naturally, she has seen huge changes over that time – in testing, targeted therapies for patients and in emotional support for high-risk family members.

“So there are some hundreds of cancer predisposition genes, and the ones that people hear about most are those which predispose to breast and ovarian cancer, but also they’re bowel cancer families and melanoma families and mixed cancer families where people including children are at very high risk.”

She is “really delighted and very honoured” to be recognised for her contribution which includes caring for those families, research and its translation into clinical practice via the development of guidelines, and teaching.

Associate Professor Zarnie Lwin

A/Prof Zarnie Lwin

Associate Professor Zarnie Lwin, from the Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital and The Prince Charles Hospital, has also been recognised with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the General Division for her service to medicine in the field of neuro-oncology.

She told the limbic she was “incredibly humbled” for the recognition.

“It’s a testament to all the people who have supported me in a background in all of these roles over the past 15 years.

In particular, she recognised the bravery of her patients and their carers which was inspiring and motivating in the difficult field of brain cancer and her other area of interest of lung cancer. 

Associate Professor Lwin is a clinical fellow in the Sid Faithfull Brain Cancer Lab at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and a senior lecturer at the University of Queensland.

She is active in local and international organisations including the Cooperative Trials Group for Neuro-Oncology (COGNO), the Asian Society for Neuro-Oncology (ASNO), the Society of Neuro-Oncology (SNO) and the World Federation of Neuro-Oncology Societies

Among her many contributions, she is the current Deputy Chair of COGNO’s International Collaborative Research Sub-Committee, inaugural Chair of ASNO’s education and outreach committee, and she has just finished a 4-year term as co-chair of SNO’s International Outreach Committee.

Associate Professor Lwin is also an executive editor of the journal Neuro-Oncology Practice. 

Her research interests include improving outcomes in culturally and linguistically diverse communities, survivorship and informal care, health services research, and workforce studies.

Professor Joseph Trapani

Immunologist Professor Joseph Trapani was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the General Division for his distinguished service to medical research, particularly immunology and the development of immune-based cancer therapies, and to the community.

Professor Trapani has had a long relationship with the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre including as Head of the Cancer Immunology Program and Cancer Cell Death Laboratory since 2000 and as Executive Director, Cancer Research from 2009 to 2018.

In 2023, he was inducted as a Distinguished Fellow of Peter Mac – its highest honour – recognising sustained excellence in cancer treatment, care, research, or education, underpinned by significant contribution to the Centre.

Professor Trapani was also the Inaugural Head of the Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology at The University of Melbourne from 2012 to 2018.

His contributions to medical research have previously been recognised with numerous awards including an NHMRC Prize for Excellence in Health and Medical Research (2008), and inductions as Fellow of the Faculty of Science, Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (2011), Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Science (2015) and Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (2018).

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