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Curtin researcher awarded for lung cancer recovery breakthroughs

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A Curtin University researcher’s efforts to discover how people can better recover from lung cancer treatment has seen him named joint Early Career Cancer Researcher of the Year by Cancer Council Western Australia.

Dr Vinicius Cavalheri, from Curtin’s School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, was recognised for his work to advance cancer research, which included 25 published papers over the past 24 months, including two that significantly advanced the understanding of the benefits of exercise in patients following lung cancer surgery and in those receiving treatment for advanced lung cancer.

Curtin University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Chris Moran congratulated Dr Cavalheri on receiving the annual award for his dedicated research.

“Dr Cavalheri’s research promotes the importance of exercise as part of lung cancer care and reducing severity of symptoms. Exercise has an enormous positive impact on patients’ quality of life,” Professor Moran said.

“His prolific efforts typify Curtin’s efforts to transform research outcomes into real benefits – in this case for recovering lung cancer patients.

“This award-winning work is indicative of the high quality of research being carried out at the University in so many fields.”

Dr Cavalheri said he was humbled to be recognised for his work, which he believes provided important initial evidence for the many benefits exercise has for people with such a devastating disease.

“Worldwide, the leading burden of disease due to cancer is from lung cancer. Exercise, which includes walking and/or cycling as well as weight training, can help relieve part of this burden,” Dr Cavalheri said.

“Exercise offers low risk of harm and our findings have demonstrated its benefits. However, the field of exercise training for people with lung cancer is in its infancy and there are many questions still to be addressed.

“Referrals of people with lung cancer to exercise is still uncommon, and we are now working to raise awareness of the importance of exercise during lung cancer treatment and to improve the referral pathway to existing pulmonary rehabilitation or exercise programs for cancer patients.”

Dr Cavalheri is the Allied Health Research Director at South Metropolitan Health Service in Perth. He is also a Cancer Council WA Postdoctoral Fellow who collaborates with clinicians and researchers in Australia and in Belgium, Canada, Holland and Brazil and has presented at research events around the world.

Dr Cavalheri’s work in exercise following lung cancer surgery received the 2019 European Respiratory Society Grant for best abstract in Physiotherapy, and was published internationally. In 2018 he received the Curtin University Early Career Research Award.

Dr Cavalheri was one of two people named 2020 Early Career Cancer Researcher of the Year by Cancer Council Western Australia, with Dr Rachael Zemek from Telethon Kids Institute and previously the National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases also receiving the honour.

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