The ABACUS group
A/Prof Carolyn Nickson heads the ABACUS group, which is working on three overlapping programs that aim to reduce the burden of breast cancer:
- Policy, evaluation and implementation studies about existing health services for breast cancer
- The development and validation of breast cancer risk assessment tools, for accurate population-level risk assessment, advice and management to assist with early detection of breast cancer
- Clinical and health economic modelling of the benefits, harms and costs of various risk-based approaches to breast cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment
Our research team is closely linked to Cancer Council New South Wales, with several staff working remotely as the Cancer Research Division’s breast cancer group (Pathways-Breast), headed by A/Prof Nickson. ABACUS also includes additional researchers working on University-led projects. ABACUS collaborates widely with clinicians, health service providers and research organisations.
- A major program of work funded by the Australian Department of Health exploring options for more risk-based breast screening protocols in Australia.
- The Breast Risk Assessment in Victoria (BRAVO) project in collaboration with BreastScreen Victoria and the Peter McCallum Cancer Centre. This project has been supported by the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre’s Precision Prevention and Tailored Screening program. The collaborative team is working together to better understand the feasibility, costs and acceptability of routine risk assessment within the BreastScreen Victoria program, aiming to pilot its protocol in selected screening sites soon.
- Clinical and health economic modelling of population-wide screening protocols using the Policy1-Breast model (part of the Cancer Council NSW suite of cancer screening models). This has included government-commissioned modelling to estimate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on BreastScreen services.
- Development of breast cancer health economic model components with A/Prof Dennis Petrie and Ms Karinna Saxby at the Centre for Health Economics at Monash University.
- Development of a clinical and health economic model for population-wide genetic screening for breast and ovarian cancer high-risk pathogenic variants, including cascade testing of potentially high-risk relatives, with researchers from the Peter McCallum Cancer Centre, drawing on information from the lifepool l cohort.
- Comparison of mammographic breast density measurements in terms of predicting (i) breast cancer risk, (ii) the sensitivity and specificity of mammographic screening, and (iii) the impact of any improvements in risk assessment on clinical and health economic outcomes of risk-based screening. This includes the AutoDensity tool developed by our team in collaboration with CSIRO.
- The development and validation of breast cancer risk assessment tools that incorporate questionnaire, mammographic breast density and genetic information, using machine learning approaches to optimise use of available information. This has included validation of the Gail model on the Australian lifepool cohort, with ongoing work in collaboration with researchers from the Peter McCallum Cancer Centre and Cancer Council NSW.
- Epidemiological analyses of health outcomes in the lifepool cohort, focusing on female cancers
- A/Prof Carolyn Nickson (team leader, epidemiologist)
- Dr Pietro Procopio (data modeller, programmer, image analyst)
- Dr Louiza Velentzis (epidemiologist, writer)
- Ms Lara Petelin (data modeller and analyst)
- Dr Sabine Deij (research fellow)
- Ms Amanda Tattam (communications and stakeholder consultation)
Cancer Council NSW
Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre
Australian Department of Health
Saxby K, Nickson C, Mann GB, Velentzis L, Bromley HL, Procopio P, Canfell K, Petrie D. The financial impact of a breast cancer detected within and outside of screening: lessons from the Australian Lifepool cohort. Aust N Z J Public Health. 44 (3). 2020 Apr 20: 219-226.
Bromley HL, Mann GB, Petrie D, Nickson C, Rea D, Roberts TE. Valuing preferences for treating screen detected ductal carcinoma in situ. Eur J Cancer. 2019 Dec;123:130-137
Dench E, Bond-Smith D, Darcey E, Lee G, Aung YK, Chan A, Cuzick J, Ding ZY, Evans CF, Harvey J, Highnam R, Hsieh MK, Kontos D, Li S, Mariapun S, Nickson C, Nguyen TL, Pertuz S, Procopio P, Rajaram N, Repich K, Tan M, Teo SH, Trinh NH, Ursin G, Wang C, Dos-Santos-Silva I, McCormack V, Nielsen M, Shepherd J, Hopper JL, Stone J. Measurement challenge: protocol for international case-control comparison of mammographic measures that predict breast cancer risk. BMJ Open. 2019 Dec 31;9(12)
Nickson C, Velentzis LS, Brennan P, Mann GB, Houssami N. Improving breast cancer screening in Australia: a public health perspective. Public Health Res Pract. 2019 Jul 31;29(2)
Lew JB, Feletto E, Wade S, Caruana M, Kang YJ, Nickson C, Simms KT, Procopio P, Taylor N, Worthington J, Smith D, Canfell K. Benefits, harms and cost-effectiveness of cancer screening in Australia: an overview of modelling estimates. Public Health Res Pract. 2019 Jul 31;29(2). pii: 29121913. doi: 10.17061/phrp2921913. PubMed PMID: 31384886.
Nickson C, Velentzis LS, Brennan P, Mann GB, Houssami N. Improving breast cancer screening in Australia: a public health perspective. Public Health Res Pract. 2019 Jul 31;29(2). pii: 2921911. doi: 10.17061/phrp2921911. PubMed PMID: 31384884 .
Li T, Tang L, Gandomkar Z, Heard R, Mello-Thoms C, Xiao Q, Gu Y, Di G, Nickson C, Shao Z, Brennan P. Characteristics of Mammographic Breast Density and Associated Factors for Chinese Women: Results from an Automated Measurement. J Oncol. 2019 Mar 19;2019:4910854. doi: 10.1155/2019/4910854. eCollection 2019. PubMed PMID: 31015834; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6444251.
Bromley HL, Petrie D, Mann GB, Nickson C, Rea D, Roberts TE. Valuing the health states associated with breast cancer screening programmes: A systematic review of economic measures. Soc Sci Med. 2019 May;228:142-154. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.03.028. Epub 2019 Mar 21. Review. PubMed PMID: 30913528.
Cheasley D, Li N, Rowley SM, Elder K, Mann GB, Loi S, Savas P, Goode DL, Kader T, Zethoven M, Semple T, Fox SB, Pang JM, Byrne D, Devereux L, Nickson C, Procopio P, Lee G, Hughes S, Saunders H, Fujihara KM, Kuykhoven K, Connaughton J, James PA, Gorringe KL, Campbell IG. Molecular comparison of interval and screen-detected breast cancers. J Pathol. 2019 Jun;248(2):243-252. doi: 10.1002/path.5251. Epub 2019 Mar 8. PubMed PMID: 30746706.
Nickson C, Procopio P, Velentzis LS, Carr S, Devereux L, Mann GB, James P, Lee G, Wellard C, Campbell I. Prospective validation of the NCI Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool (Gail Model) on 40,000 Australian women. Breast Cancer Res. 2018 Dec 20;20(1):155. doi: 10.1186/s13058-018-1084-x. PubMed PMID: 30572910; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6302513.
Mann GB, Nickson C, Elder K. Treatment Intensity Differences According to Participation in a Population Screening Program. Ann Surg Oncol. 2019 Feb;26(2):698-699. doi: 10.1245/s10434-018-07113-w. Epub 2018 Dec 18. PubMed PMID: 30565041.
Elder K, Nickson C, Mann GB. ASO Author Reflections: Impact of Breast Cancer Screening Beyond Mortality Reductions. Ann Surg Oncol. 2018 Dec;25(Suppl 3):687-688. doi: 10.1245/s10434-018-7001-9. Epub 2018 Nov 9. PubMed PMID: 30414033.
Tavakoli Taba S, Baran P, Lewis S, Heard R, Pacile S, Nesterets YI, Mayo SC, Dullin C, Dreossi D, Arfelli F, Thompson D, McCormack M, Alakhras M, Brun F, Pinamonti M, Nickson C, Hall C, Zanconati F, Lockie D, Quiney HM, Tromba G, Gureyev TE, Brennan PC. Toward Improving Breast Cancer Imaging: Radiological Assessment of Propagation-Based Phase-Contrast CT Technology. Acad Radiol. 2019 Jun;26(6):e7-e89. doi: 10.1016/j.acra.2018.07.008. Epub 2018 Aug 25. PubMed PMID: 30149975.
Elder K, Nickson C, Pattanasri M, Cooke S, Machalek D, Rose A, Mou A, Collins JP, Park A, De Boer R, Phillips C, Pridmore V, Farrugia H, Bruce Mann G. Treatment Intensity Differences After Early-Stage Breast Cancer (ESBC) Diagnosis Depending on Participation in a Screening Program. Ann Surg Oncol. 2018 Sep;25(9):2563-2572. doi: 10.1245/s10434-018-6469-7. Epub 2018 May 1. PubMed PMID: 29717421.
Pattanasri M, Elder K, Nickson C, Cooke S, Machalek D, Rose A, Mou A, Collins JP, Park A, De Boer R, Phillips C, Pridmore V, Farrugia H, Mann GB. Uptake of adjuvant breast cancer treatments recommended by multi-disciplinary meetings. ANZ J Surg. 2018 Jan 23. doi: 10.1111/ans.14368. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 29363225.
Reports to government
Nickson C, Procopio P, Deij S, Velentzis L. COVID-19 scenario modelling for cancer screening programs: The BreastScreen Australia Program. May 2020
Nickson C. Hughes S, Campbell D, Freeman V, Carle C, Velentzis L, Procopio P, Deij S, Grogan P. Canfell K. for Cancer Council Australia. Optimising Early Detection of Breast Cancer in Australia: Phase II Interim Report. May 2020
Nickson C. Morgan A, Hughes S, Freeman V, Carle C, Velentzis L. Grogan P. Canfell K. for Cancer Council Australia. Summaries of Evidence: Australian screening outcomes by risk groups; Risk assessment; Mammographic breast density and screening outcomes; Overdiagnosis by risk group; Alternative screening modalities by risk group; Costs, benefits and harms of risk-based breast cancer screening: modelling studies; Potentially valuable data reports. Optimising Early Detection of Breast Cancer in Australia. August 2019
Nickson C. Morgan A, Velentzis L. Grogan P. Canfell K. for Cancer Council Australia. Environmental Scan - Clinical Services. Optimising Early Detection of Breast Cancer in Australia. August 2019
Nickson C. Morgan A, Grogan P. Canfell K. for Cancer Council Australia. Stakeholder Report. Optimising Early Detection of Breast Cancer in Australia. November 2019
Nickson C. Grogan P. Canfell K. for Cancer Council Australia Cancer Council Australia’s roadmap to evaluate, and potentially implement, more risk-based, personalised approaches to breast cancer detection and screening. Optimising Early Detection of Breast Cancer in Australia. August 2019 (3 pages) Contribution=80% (Study design, project liaison, data analysis, report preparation).
Nickson C, Lockie D, Petrie D, Clemson M, Munro J. Assessment of Return on Investment from using Tomosynthesis (DBT) in BreastScreen Assessment: Interim Report to the Department of Health and Human Services. 17 August 2016.
Lockie D, Nickson C, Aitken Z. Evaluation of Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT) in an Australian BreastScreen post-screening assessment service: A report for the Victorian Department of Health and BreastScreen Victoria. 1 May 2014.
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