Identification of biomarkers associated with cancer spread

Dr Annette Lim

Mechanisms that facilitate the metastatic potential of oral cancer

Dr Annette Lim from Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital was awarded a 2016 Clinician Research Fellowship.

Clinician Research Fellowship

Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital

2016 - 2018


Dr Lim is a consultant medical oncologist based at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital who was awarded a Clinician Research Fellowship to support a laboratory-based research program investigating the use of liquid biopsies in head and neck cancer patients, and the roles of the immune system in the development of more advanced cancers.

Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common cancer worldwide and despite treatment advances, less than 50% of patients are cured. The incidence of oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma (OCSCC) is increasing and predominantly affects young patients (<40 years) who develop tongue cancers without any known risk factors. Current staging criteria are not consistently able to identify patients with cancers at risk of treatment failure, nodal involvement or metastases. Current methods are also unable to identify premalignant lesions at risk of transformation.

The research project has successfully partnered with ~100 participants, to collect more than 1,200 blood specimens, and 200 tumour specimens over three years with recruitment completed mid-2018. The outcomes from the project include a publication in The New England Journal of Medicine, conference presentations, a successful Fellowship award, the submission of three additional grants and two fellowship applications, and further healthcare and university collaborations. This research will facilitate the identification of biomarkers that can predict a high risk of developing OCSCC and will significantly revolutionise patient care from a primary to tertiary setting.

Dr Lim is grateful to the WA Department of Health and the Raine Medical Research Foundation for their support through this Fellowship, which has allowed her to perform research that ultimately leads to improvements in patient outcome and utilisation of healthcare resources.