UNSW academic Robyn Ward has been awarded the state's top cancer research accolade.

Professor Ward was presented with the second Premier's Award for Outstanding Cancer Researcher of the Year at a gala event in Sydney last week.

Professor Ward's primary research interest is identifying factors that determine people at risk of developing bowel and other cancers.

Professor Ward and her research team recently found an entirely new pattern of disease inheritance, which already has implications for people with a family history of bowel, ovarian and uterine cancers. It has particular relevance for families where the cause of cancer is undetermined or cannot be explained by current genetic tests.

The team found that the presence of a chemical marker, or tag, on a critical gene can also be passed from the parent who is predisposed to cancer to their offspring. The inheritance of the marker greatly increases the offspring's risk of cancer.

The Minister Assisting the Minister for Health (Cancer), Verity Firth said "Professor Ward's breakthrough discovery of disease inheritance is internationally recognised."

Chief Cancer Officer and CEO of the Cancer Institute NSW, Professor Jim Bishop said : "Bowel cancer currently affects one in 26 women and one in 18 men in Australia. Professor Ward's research will be an absolutely essential part of changing this factor over the coming decades."

As well as leading a UNSW research team, Professor Ward is also an oncologist at the Prince of Wales Hospital.