New research from WSLHD’s Gemma Busuttil is improving gynaecological cancer patients’ quality of life

Western Sydney Local Health District’s (WSLHD) Gemma Busuttil, Radiation Therapist, Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre, has been recognised for her outstanding contributions to medical research and clinical practice with a Westmead Charitable Trust Career Development Award.

Gemma’s research is centred on improving the quality of life for patients undergoing radiation therapy for gynaecological cancers.

Her innovative project, ‘Bone marrow sparing extended-field radiation therapy for gynaecological cancers to reduce haematological toxicity,’ has earned her this prestigious grant, providing critical support for her ongoing research.

“Radiation therapy is a vital component of treatment for many gynaecological cancers, but nearby healthy organs also receive some radiation. This includes the bones in the pelvis where bone marrow produces new blood cells,” Gemma said.

Her project aims to minimise the radiation dose to the lumbar spine and pelvic bone, thereby reducing the side effects such as anaemia and the need for blood transfusions, which are common when radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy.

The significance of Gemma’s work is highlighted by her impressive achievements in the field of brachytherapy, a specialised radiation therapy for cancers such as cervical and uterine cancer.

Among her many accolades, she received the 2023 Australian Society of Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy (ASMIRT) International Travel Scholarship, allowing her to attend an ESTRO brachytherapy course in Europe.

She also earned the Best Oral Presentation award at the Australian Brachytherapy Group 2023 conference and has been invited to be a facilitator for numerous workshops and seminars across Australia.

Gemma’s contributions extend beyond clinical practice into education and patient advocacy.

She has co-authored the NSW Cancer Council patient information brochures on cervical and vaginal cancer, ensuring that patients have access to clear and accurate information about their conditions and treatment options.

I am extremely grateful to have received this Westmead Charitable Trust Career Development Award . The projected research time that this grant will fund will be invaluable in building momentum in my research project.

Gemma Busuttil, Radiation Therapist, Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre

Her research, which has already seen over four years of practical application, seeks to confirm the benefits of her modified radiation therapy planning technique and identify safe radiation dose limits for bone marrow.

Gemma has been a part of WSLHD since 2007, bringing over 16 years of experience in planning and delivering radiation therapy treatments.

Her dedication to quality improvement and patient care has driven her to pursue a Master’s degree, focusing on innovations in the treatment of gynaecological cancers.

Her work not only aims to reduce the side effects of radiation therapy but also seeks to ensure that patients can complete their treatments without significant interruptions, leading to better overall outcomes.

I anticipate that this research will demonstrate a positive benefit to patients, with a reduction in side effects, less treatment breaks, and interventions required.