Cancer Aetiology
& Prevention

Professor Rachel Neale

Group Leader

The Cancer and Aetiology and Prevention Laboratory focuses primarily on understanding the health benefits of vitamin D supplementation, balancing the risks and benefits of sun exposure and reducing the impact of pancreatic cancer.




  • Professor Neale leads the NHMRC-funded D-Health Trial involving over 21,000 older Australians. The D-Health Trial aims to understand the impact of vitamin D supplementation on mortality rate, cancer incidence, cardiovascular disease, and many other health outcomes such as falls, fractures, respiratory tract infection, mood and memory. The participants finished taking their supplements in February 2020, and the team is now focussed on analysing data and preparing results for presentation
  • working to understand clinician and public understanding of how to balance the risks and benefits of sun exposure, and to model the optimal amount of sun exposure, in order to inform policy decisions
  • funded by the Medical Research Future Fund, our group is leading a randomised controlled trial of a counselling service for people and families caring for somebody with pancreatic cancer
  • using a national linked dataset to identify subgroups of the population who are at high risk of pancreatic cancer, and among whom screening may be warranted
  • funded by Mylan, we are leading a clinician working group to develop a checklist that will support early diagnosis of pancreatic diseases


  • Dr Bridie Thompson, Research Officer
  • Dr Mary Waterhouse, Research Officer
  • Catherine Baxter, Project Manager
  • Briony Duarte Romero, Research Assistant
  • Sabbir Rahman, Student
  • Hai Pham, Student
  • Sitwat Ali, Student
  • Tessa Dingle, Student

Internal Collaborators

External Collaborators

  • Pancreatic Case Control Consortium Collaborators, across Europe and USA
  • Professor Susan Evans & Professor John Zalcberg, Monash University
  • Professor Jon Golledge, James Cook University
  • Robyn Lucas, Australian National University
  • Associate Professor David Wyld, Dr Matthew Burge & Dr Melissa Eastgate, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital

D-Health Collaborators

  • Dallas English, University of Melbourne
  • Bruce Armstrong, University of Sydney
  • Alison Venn, University of Tasmania
  • Peter Ebeling, Monash University
  • Rachel O’Connell, University of Sydney
  • Jolieke van der Pols, Queensland University of Technology

We gratefully acknowledge support from:

  • National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)


Balancing the risks and benefits of sun exposure: communicating a complex message

Suitable for Honours, Masters and PhD students. The sun has risks and benefits for health. It causes skin cancer and eye diseases, but also produces vitamin D and has other benefits. Finding the balance is challenging, and it is not the same for all people. This project will work with communications experts and implementation scientists […]

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Understanding variability in management of patients with pancreatic cancer

Suitable for Masters and PhD students. Patients with pancreatic cancer have poor outcomes, and there is evidence that some patients do not receive optimal care. We have established a data linkage platform that will enable students to examine variability in care, factors associated with suboptimal care, and associations between care and survival.

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Reducing diagnostic delay in patients with pancreatic cancer

Suitable for Masters and PhD students. Pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnose and many patients describe diagnostic delay. However, the extent, causes and consequences of diagnostic delay in Australia are not well understood. This project will involve interviews with patients and their families, along with analyses of linked data, to explore this issue and devise […]

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