THOUSANDS of researchers can be found in the laboratories of Westmead each day.
To the outsider it may appear like inconspicuous work, but to those in the know, those labs house discoveries advancing worldwide medicine.
One of those researchers in the white coat is professor Anna deFazio, who is committed to translational research and programs that improve the treatment outcome for women with ovarian cancer.
As head of the Gynaecological Oncology Research Group at Westmead Millennium Institute and head of research within the Gynaecological Oncology Department at Westmead Hospital, her concentration on translational research recently saw her appointed as Professor of Translational Cancer Research at the Sydney West Translational Cancer Research Centre.
"Translational research was traditionally about translating results from the laboratory into the clinic . . . but we take it one step back and translate questions from the clinic into the lab," Professor deFazio said.
By attending multi-disciplinary meetings, where clinicians discuss the conditions they look at when deciding treatment options, researchers can turn the discussion into a question to look at in the lab.
One such project, completed under the Australian Ovarian Cancer Study, has overhauled the medical guidelines for who should be tested for the BRCA1 and BRACA2 gene mutations commonly linked to ovarian and breast cancer.
"[Previously] the guidelines revolved around how many people in the family had breast or ovarian cancer and at what age," Professor deFazio said.
"Perhaps one of the most important findings [from the Westmead study] was that up to 50 per cent of patients didn't have a family history so under normal circumstances they would not have been tested [for the gene mutations].
"This led to a change in NSW guidelines for testing . . . a lot more women are recommended for testing." This allows a patient to undergo rigorous surveillance and be educated in risk-reducing surgery — as Angelina Jolie recently did."