Cancer Council WA Fellowship awarded to ECU’s Dr Mary Kennedy to benefit cancer patients

Trainer working with senior woman at the gym using tablet

Edith Cowan University (ECU) researcher Dr Mary Kennedy has been awarded $225,000 over the next three years in a bid to make sure every cancer patient in WA receives a referral for exercise from their cancer care team during treatment. 

Dr Kennedy, who was awarded Cancer Council WA’s 2023 Postdoctoral Fellowship, said exercise is important for people with cancer, yet fewer than 13 per cent of patients are getting a referral. 

Dr Mary Kennedy

“Research has shown the multiple ways exercise works as an important medicine for people with cancer, increasing survival, helping to alleviate negative side effects of treatment, and improve quality of life,” Dr Kennedy said. 

“This Fellowship will look at how people are currently referred to exercise oncology services, design a new process to increase referrals, then evaluate the results. 

“This is not a people issue; this is a system issue. To embed genuine, long-term change, we need 

to invest as much time and effort into developing robust implementation strategies, as we do in gathering evidence and conducting research to demonstrate the effectiveness of a program.” 

Dr. Kennedy was invited to join the multi-disciplinary international Moving Through Cancer (MTC) Task Force in January 2021. 

The Task Force is an initiative of the American College of Sports Medicine and has been assembled to achieve the bold goal of making exercise standard practice in oncology by 2029. 

“This funding from the Cancer Council will also assist my work co-funded by the Future Health Research Innovation Fund through the Implementation Science Fellowships 2021 program, which aims to integrate exercise into cancer care in the South West region of Western Australia” 

Today, Dr Kennedy is closely aligned with GenesisCare. 

Together their work has focused on ensuring patients with cancer have access to exercise through integrated exercise programs. 

“People living with cancer benefit from exercising during treatment in many ways and our research with Edith Cowan University has demonstrated that radiotherapy patients value being connected with high-quality exercise consultations as part of their routine care,” GenesisCare Radiation Oncologist Dr Yvonne Zissiadis said. 

“We look forward to continuing our work with Dr Kennedy and the ECU team to support the case for exercise therapy to be embedded as standard practice in cancer care.” 

Cancer Council WA Cancer Prevention and Research Director, Melissa Ledger, congratulated Dr Kennedy. 

“Our Research Fellowships support outstanding cancer researchers to undertake research that can reduce the risk of cancer and the impact of cancer,” Ms Ledger said. 

“We are committed to achieving the best outcomes for cancer patients and their families, so it’s important for us to support research such as Dr Kennedy’s, which will bridge the gap between research and practice in exercise oncology.”