Creating a better future of cancer care

Icon Writers / 05 Jul, 2024

A conversation with Icon Cancer Foundation Chair and Icon’s Group Director of Research (Radiation Medicine and Theranostics), Dr Jonathan Ramsay

With a pursuit of innovation and commitment to the best care possible, Icon’s Group Director of Research (Radiation Medicine and Theranostics), Dr Jonathan Ramsay, has helped propel cancer care in Australia, providing new ways to treat cancer.

Read on as Jonathan shares his oncology career and how he’s expanding Icon’s research capabilities.

Pursuing a career in oncology research

Jonathan began his career as a Clinical Oncologist – working in medical and radiation oncology across the United Kingdom and United States. But, after seeing the gaps in cancer treatments and wanting to provide better outcomes for these patients, he decided to focus on radiation oncology and research.

“What drew me to oncology was the science and a desire to help more patients by finding new ways to treat their cancers, “Jonathan said.

“I was always interested in the research side of oncology too, and when I saw the gap in oncology research, I wanted to help fill it.”

Connection at the heart of research

For Jonathan, helping patients during their most vulnerable time makes the profession all the more worth it.

“There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a patient come back after many years, cured from their cancer thanks to a trial or new treatment,” he said.

“I treated a teenager with multiple spinal tumours and a 10 per cent chance of disease control, but 10 years on, I was able to discharge him free from cancer with his wife and children in attendance.

“Research and oncology can be difficult, and trials don’t always work – but these moments stick with you and push you to work even harder.”

Making an impact

Throughout his over 35-year career Jonathan has made a significant impact on the Australian oncology landscape.

“When I moved to Australia, I was given the opportunity to set up a lab at the Queensland Institute of Medical of Research, focused on radiation oncology and tumour biology – making breakthroughs on mechanisms of tumour and normal tissue radiosensitivity,” Jonathan explained.

“While I loved research and the impact I could make, I chose to step away and move back to clinical radiation oncology, helping found and establish Radiation Oncology Queensland (ROQ), now known as Icon Group – which continues to make an impact on cancer patients to this day.”

Expanding our capabilities

Jonathan’s commitment to advancing cancer care has never strayed, and in 2022 he made the decision to take on the role of Icon’s Group Director of Research for Radiation Medicine and Theranostics and Icon Cancer Foundation (ICF) Chair.

“I want to continue to contribute to cancer care and create better outcomes on a global scale,” he said.

“We have a strong history of trials at Icon, and over the next few years, I hope to grow our trials base at Icon, especially in the Investigator Initiated Trials (IITs) space and facilitate more funding.

“The recent relaunch of ICF and focus on sponsors will help bring in this vital funding, allowing our clinicians to do more meaningful research and provide the best care possible.”

Making the best care possible more accessible

With many barriers still in place to accessing clinical trials, Jonathan is working to make them more accessible to more centres and patients.

“There are a lot of barriers to research and trials in regional communities, with a lack of infrastructure to support it,” Jonathan explained.

“To reduce these barriers for regional and rural communities, we need to upskill the workforce in research and provide them with the technical abilities and equipment to deliver these new treatments.

“As we grow our trial and IIT base, we are working to bring more into regional centres by making the trial suitable to the environment – ensuring everyone has access to these groundbreaking trials.”

Beyond locality barriers, Jonathan said independent oncology research still lacks resources.

“Research can involve an enormous amount of time and money, but it’s crucial to advancing treatments – but with a lack of funding available, especially in the IIT space, this type of research is often put on hold.

“We’ll continue to focus on clinician engagement and growing our research capabilities to ensure we can receive funding to conduct potentially life-saving trials, and will continue to work closely with ICF and sponsors to make this possible.”

The future of cancer care

As we look ahead, Jonathan says we can expect promising developments in multiple new and emerging therapies.

“Immunotherapy and precision radiation medicine are two key areas of focus, with encouraging results treating multiple tumour types,” he said.

“We can also expect to see further advances in tailored treatments for malignant tumours and the use of genomics to select the best individualised treatment option.

“At Icon, we are expanding our theranostics program and introducing new precision medicine trials to treat more cancers.

“We don’t have a magic bullet for cancer – it’s too diverse a disease – but with these new treatment options emerging, I look forward to being able to provide a better future for cancer patients.”

Connect with A/Prof Jonathan Ramsay on LinkedIn

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