Leading oncologist and UNSW academic Dr Antoinette Anazodo has been recognised at the 2018 NSW Health Awards and Premier’s Awards for her groundbreaking research into fertility preservation for young cancer patients.

Dr Anazodo picked up a swathe of awards last week, winning the Rising Star PhD Candidate Award and the Improving Government Services Award at the NSW Premier’s Awards.

At the NSW Health Awards, Dr Anazodo and her team won the People’s Choice Award for developing the first public oncofertility service in NSW that provides comprehensive medical and psychological fertility care to cancer patients of all ages. The project, titled ‘Eggspectation’, has led to all adolescent and young adult cancer patients in NSW having equitable and timely access to oncofertility care.

“The awards are an amazing recognition of the work I have done individually and with a wonderful team to develop a new service which benefits from cross campus collaboration across a multidisciplinary group of colleagues,” says Dr Anazodo, who is a conjoint lecturer in the School of Women’s & Children’s Health at UNSW Medicine and a paediatric and adolescent oncologist at Sydney Children’s and Prince of Wales Hospitals.

“I hope that I can utilise these awards to advocate for ongoing equitable access to reproductive care for cancer patients at diagnosis and into survivorship, as well as continue research partnerships.”

Dr Anazodo is completing her PhD at UNSW and is working on several national and international projects on reproductive concerns that will form the basis of her post-doctoral research work.

Oncofertility care involves reviewing and discussing fertility risk and fertility preservation at the time of cancer diagnosis, as well as the management of medical and psychological reproductive complications. With the advent of precision medicine and new novel therapies we need to study the effect of these drugs on the reproductive outcomes of cancer patients.

“The loss of reproductive function is one of the most distressing adverse consequences of successful cancer treatment following successful cure. Despite fertility preservation guidelines, studies have shown that traditionally there has been low access to oncofertility care and support,” says Dr Anazodo.

Her PhD project, ‘Future Fertility – Reproductive Concerns of Cancer Patients’, identified the key components of how to best address the barriers for people accessing fertility treatment once diagnosed with cancer and how to develop better services and educate healthcare professionals. Her work has resulted in the development of the first oncofertility registry providing ‘big data’ on uptake, utilisation, complication and success of fertility care for people with cancer.

Dr Anazodo’s Premier's Award for Improving Government Services recognised her work with a team at the Sydney Children’s Hospital for implementing several initiatives to improve oncofertility care across the Randwick campus through quick and affordable oncofertility care for children, adolescents and adult patients.

“There has been a 63% increase in access to oncofertility care in the last five years for patients seen through Royal Hospital for Women referred from Sydney Children's Hospital, Prince of Wales Hospital and Royal Hospital for Women cancer centres,” she says. 

“Perceived barriers to fertility preservation in cancer patients were low with most patients saying they never or rarely experienced any barriers and patients reported high satisfaction rates.”

Dr Anazodo also successfully applied for new Medicare items numbers that will provide funding for oncofertility care.

These initiatives have led to significant improvements in the uptake and utilisation of oncofertility care, improvement in patient satisfaction and reproductive related quality of life measures.