Associate Professor Rachel Neale completed a Bachelor of Veterinary Science at the University of Queensland and spent a short time in clinical practice, before deciding that her heart lay in science and research. She completed a PhD in skin cancer prevention at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. A/Prof Neale than obtained an NHMRC Sidney Sax fellowship which enabled her to spend 2 years at the University of Oxford. This enabled her to play a vital role in an international consortium studying the effects of human papilloma virus on the development of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. Upon returning to Australia she established a program of research into pancreatic cancer, and later into vitamin D. In light of her knowledge of both skin cancer and vitamin D she is able to contribute to policy discussions about balancing the risks and benefits of sun exposure, and sits on the United Nations Environmental Effects Assessment Panel which reports to the parties to the Montreal Protocol. She is the deputy coordinator of the population health department and holds adjunct appointments the the Queensland University of Technology and the University of Queensland.
Current QIMR Berghofer appointment
2016 – current: Group Leader, Cancer Aetiology and Prevention
2013 – present: Adjunct Associate Professor, QUT
2011 – 2016: Team Head, Cancer Aetiology and Prevention
2010– 2011: Senior Research Fellow, Cancer and Population Studies
2007 – 2010: Senior Research Officer, Cancer and Population Studies
2007 – present: Adjunct Appointment, UQ
2006: Epigenetics, Cancer Council Queensland
2003 – 2005: Postdoctoral Fellow, Oxford
2000 – 2003: Research Officer, Population & Clinical Studies
Current Area of Research
My research primarily focuses on (1) causes and management of pancreatic cancer; and (2) identifying the health benefits of vitamin D supplementation in the general population.
I completed a case-control study of pancreatic cancer which aimed to identify environmental and genetic risk factors for pancreatic cancer. I now work collaboratively with an international consortium to pool data with the aim of identifying new risk factors which may enable prevention or risk prediction to facilitate early diagnosis.
I completed Australia’s largest study of the variability in care of patients with pancreatic cancer. I now work collaboratively with scientists from Monash University to establish a quality of care register in Victoria and NSW. An NHMRC-funded project nested within the registry aims to provide information to medical providers to facilitate change in practice.
My work has highlighted the very high levels of distress and unmet supportive care needs of patients with pancreatic cancer and their carers. I am now beginning a clinical trial of a supportive care intervention delivered using telehealth technology to support these patients through their pancreatic cancer experience.
I lead the world’s second-largest trial of high-dose vitamin D supplementation, the D-Health Trial. D-Health aims to determine whether vitamin D supplementation influences mortality rate, cancer, cardiovascular disease and a range of other outcomes such as cognition, mood, pain, falls, fractures, osteoporosis, infection, telomere length and the microbiome. Between 2014 and mid-2015 we enrolled 21315 participants and randomised them to 60,000 IU vitamin D per month or placebo, with a planned intervention period for each person for 5 years. Follow-up is ongoing. This work will make a major contribution to discussions about food fortification or routine supplementation in the general population.
My research highlights include:
Findings to suggest that infection with HPV influences risk of skin cancer
Identifying new genetic risk factors for pancreatic cancer, in collaboration with an international consortium
Documenting the proportion of cancers in Australia attributable to modifiable risk factors
Demonstrating the variability in care of pancreatic cancer care in Australia and the need for new referral pathways to ensure all patients receive optimal care.