When facing ovarian cancer, Susan Catton saw an opportunity to help others


Susan Catton is a self-described ‘whirling dervish’ who is active, healthy and has an infectiously positive attitude.

In late-October 2022, 66-year-old retiree Susan was diagnosed with Stage 3 serous ovarian cancer. Susan said that once she was diagnosed, everything moved very quickly.

“In the year before I was diagnosed, I had been on the keto diet for stamina and energy and going into my diagnosis, I felt so healthy. We have a great social life; we have lots of friends and are always busy riding our bikes or going on long walks. The rest of me was all right, it was just these cancer cells that decided to invade my body. I’m a person who finds out what the problem is, and I find a solution to it.”

It was this proactive spirit of problem solving that led Susan to enroll to become Mater Research’s first participant in a novel trial evaluating the difference between heated chemotherapy and chemotherapy delivered at body temperature (HyNova clinical trial).

Susan’s GP referred her to an oncologist at Mater Private Hospital Brisbane, who guided her through the process of enrolling into the HyNova trial and what it involved.

“My oncologist explained what the trial involved, and I thought it didn’t sound too hard. I was very happy to help if it meant it would progress chemotherapy treatment for other women.”

HyNova is a randomised clinical trial comparing the effects of chemotherapy drugs given into the abdominal cavity at a temperature of 42°C (versus the usual body temperature administration of 37°C) at the end of surgery. The trial, which is being conducted by the Gynaecology Oncology Research Team at Mater Research, is currently in Phase 2.

Zander Tait, Lead Trial Coordinator for the Mater Clinical Trials Surgical Team, commented on the bravery of participants like Susan.

“Progress in any area of medicine requires brave and selfless people like Susan, who see their treatment as an opportunity to help others and allow our investigators into their journey to help make inroads in the fight against cancer,” Zander said.

With her diagnosis, Susan knew time was not on her side but was reassured by the support and care she received at Mater.

“I was admitted to hospital on the Monday and by the Friday I was in chemo. I didn’t have the luxury of time, but I had full confidence in my oncologist. She just knew all the answers. I felt strong, and I felt calm because I had trust in everything and everyone around me.”

“I am the first HyNova participant in Brisbane, and I’m really impressed with myself. Throughout the whole process, everyone was happy to tell me anything and everything I wanted to know, but initially I didn’t know what to ask. I’ve grown with the process.”

Clinical Director of Gynaecological Oncology at Mater Hospital Brisbane Professor Lewis Perrin said that the treatment of ovarian cancer is developing rapidly at the moment.

“The outcome of this trial has the potential to reach other hospital units across Australia, giving greater access and treatment options to women with ovarian cancer,” Professor Perrin said.

Mater Gynaecology Oncology Clinical Nurse Consultant Bronwyn Jennings said that people who agree to participate in clinical trials are an essential part of research.

“Without women like Susan, we wouldn’t be able to make these progressions in cancer research,” Bronwyn said.

Susan recommends clinical trial participation for everyone who can.

“Definitely do it. I would not change a thing. I trusted my surgeons and the people around me, especially the nurses who are angels. I’ve never had so much care given to me. Knowing that I can help other women in the future get better treatment makes me really happy about my contribution.”

“So much has happened in the eight months since I was diagnosed, and after my last check-up, I am feeling really positive.”

“I try to go for a long walk each day and I’m starting to regain my old lifestyle and socialise more, but I might wait another month or two before I get back on my bike!”

Mater Research is currently running over 200 clinical trials specialising in studies of cancer, neuroscience, maternal and neonatal health, surgical and acute care, respiratory medicine and infectious diseases and IBD.

For any further information, including information on how to access clinical trials Mater Hospital Brisbane, click here

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