Our People

Penelope Webb

Professor | Group Leader | NHMRC Senior Research Fellow | Coordinator of the Population Health Department

Gynaecological Cancers

+61 7 3362 0281

penny.webb@qimrberghofer.edu.au

 

CAREER HISTORY

Professor Penny Webb has an MA in biochemistry from Cambridge University and a D.Phil in cancer epidemiology from Oxford University. She spent a year working on the Monograph’s Program at the International Agency for Research in Cancer in Lyon, France, before moving to Brisbane in 1995. Professor Webb taught epidemiology in the Public health Program at the University of Queensland for 5 years and, during this time, wrote the first edition of her highly successful textbook ‘Essential Epidemiology: An introduction for Students and health Professionals’ which is now in its fourth edition and has sold more than 35,000 copies worldwide (Webb et al., CUP 2005, 2011, 2017, 2020).

Professor Webb moved to full-time research at the QIMR Berghofer in 2000 and now heads the Gynaecological Cancers Group which she established in 2008. She is also Coordinator of the Public Health Department. Professor Webb is a founding member of the Australian Ovarian Cancer Study (AOCS) Group and the Australian National Endometrial Cancer Study (ANECS) Group, principal investigator of the Ovarian Cancer Prognosis and Lifestyle (OPAL) Study and leads studies that aim to identify factors that influence risk of, and survival following ovarian and endometrial cancer.

 

CURRENT APPOINTMENTS

2016-current: Coordinator, Population Health Department, QIMR Berghofer

2013-current: Honorary Professor, School of Public Health, University of Queensland

2013-current: Adjunct Professor, School of Public Health & Social Work, Queensland University of Technology

2011-current: Principal Research Fellow & Head, Gynaecological Cancers Group, QIMR Berghofer

 

PREVIOUS APPOINTMENTS

2003-2011: Senior Research Fellow, QIMR Berghofer

2000-2003: Research Fellow, QIMR Berghofer

1998-2000: Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Queensland

1995-1998: Lecturer in Epidemiology, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Queensland

1994-1995: Epidemiologist (Monographs Programme), International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France

 

ORCID NUMBER

0000-0003-0733-5930

 

RESEARCHER ID

D-5736-2013

 

CURRENT AREA OF RESEARCH

Professor Webb’s research interests cover all aspects of the epidemiology of ovarian and endometrial cancer from aetiology and prevention, to diagnosis, patterns of care, quality of life and survival. A particular focus is on the role of environmental (non-genetic) factors in the causation of cancer and also the development of sequelae and survival after a diagnosis of cancer. Much of this work is conducted within three national population-based studies, the Australian Ovarian Cancer Study (AOCS, 2002-6), Australian National Endometrial Cancer Study (ANECS, 2007-9) and Ovarian Cancer Prognosis and Lifestyle Study (OPAL, 2012-20), and within two international consortia, the Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium (OCAC) and Epidemiology of Endometrial Cancer Consortium (E2C2). Funding has recently been obtained for a new project (the OVARIAN Study, 2020-25) that will link data from existing routine health data collections to study aetiology, pathways to diagnosis, managements and outcomes for women with ovarian cancer in Australia.

Professor Webb is also leading a new Queensland trial (PROMISE Study, 2020-2024) to assess the use of electronic tools to collect patient-reported outcome data (e.g. symptoms and side-effects) in routine cancer care.

 

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

  • completing data collection for the Australian Ovarian Cancer Study (AOCS, 2002-2005), which is now unmatched anywhere in the world and has enabled >200 publications – many ground breaking in their field
  • first epidemiological evidence that fallopian tube and serous ovarian cancers share a common aetiology (Jordan et al. Int J Cancer, 2008)
  • leading international analyses of self-reported and genetic data that confirmed obesity is a risk factor for some types of ovarian cancer but not the most common and most aggressive high grade serous cancers (Olsen et al., Endocr Rel Cancer 2013; Dixon et al., IJE 2016)
  • completing the first national ‘Patterns of Care’ study for ovarian cancer; this highlighted gaps in care and has been used to inform treatment guidelines (Jordan et al., Gynecol 2013)
  • completing data collection for the Australian National Endometrial Cancer Study (ANECS, 2005-7, 2009-11) which, like AOCS, has enabled many publications including several identifying new genetic risk factors for endometrial cancer (e.g. O’Mara et al., Nature Commun 2018)
  • clarification of the benefits of weight loss to reduce risk of endometrial cancer (Nagle et al. Eur J Cancer, 2013)
  • five papers quantifying the proportions of cancer cases in Australia attributable to hormonal and dietary factors (Nagle et al. [2] and Jordan et al. [3], ANZJPH 2015)
  • paper showing aspirin use may reduce risk of endometrial cancer among overweight and obese women who are otherwise at the highest risk (Webb et al., Ann Oncol, 2019)
  • paper suggesting that women who are physically active and who do not smoke have better survival after a diagnosis of ovarian cancer (Hanson et al. IJC 2020)

 

PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS

2019-current:

  • Queensland Cancer Survivorship Collaborative, Executive Group

2018-current:

  • Brisbane Diamantina Health Partners Cancer Theme, Leadership Group

2016-current:

  • Brisbane Diamantina Health Partners Chronic Disease Theme, Leadership Group

2011-current:

  • Oxford Collaborative Group on Hormonal Cancers, UK

2008-current

  • Australia and New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group
  • Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium, Epidemiology Working Group (Chair 2017-2019)

2006-current

  • Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium (Steering Committee 2017–20)
  • Epidemiology of Endometrial Cancer Consortium

2002-current: International Epidemiology Association

1996-current

  • Society for Epidemiological Research, USA
  • Australasian Epidemiological Association

 

AWARDS RECOGNITION

2019: Lifetime Award, Australasian Epidemiology Association

2018: Best oral presentation prize at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australia and New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group

2013: Named as one of Qweekend’s ‘Best and Brightest’

2011: Webb & Bain. Essential Epidemiology 2nd Edition. ‘Highly Commended’ at British Medical Association Medical Book Competition: Public Health Category

2006: Webb & Bain. Essential Epidemiology. ‘Highly Commended’ at British Medical Association Medical Book Competition: Public Health Category

 

EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND

1995: DPhil (Cancer Epidemiology), University of Oxford, UK

1986-1989: BA Hons/MA Natural Sciences, University of Cambridge, UK