Bridging science and medicine: How Dr Joel Poder is advancing cancer care

Dr Joel Poder is a Senior Medical Physics Specialist at St George Hospital Cancer Care Centre, working at the intersection of science and medicine. His expertise lies in applying technical skills from a physics background to ensure the safe and optimal delivery of radiation for cancer patients.

Dr Poder completed his studies at the University of Wollongong, receiving an undergraduate degree in Medical Radiation Physics and a Master of Science degree specialising in Medical Physics. His studies culminated in a PhD where he developed a device for comprehensive in-vivo validation of brachytherapy (a form of radiation therapy) treatments for prostate cancer.

His passion for medical physics is evident in his extensive publication record, which includes approximately 40 manuscripts in peer-reviewed scientific journals. His published research covers several topics but focuses primarily on in-vivo treatment verification in brachytherapy and optimising stereotactic radiotherapy treatments for patients with brain metastases.

“I’m very grateful to have close links with both the University of Wollongong and the University of Sydney to assist our team in producing this research,” shared Dr Poder.

Dr Poder is currently involved in a research project titled “Quantifying robustness of prostate cancer radiomics features across imaging devices,” a sub-project of a larger study examining the use of quantitative imaging techniques to monitor patients’ response to radiotherapy treatment for prostate cancer. These quantitative imaging techniques include multi-parametric magnetic resonance imaging (mpMRI) and prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) positron imaging tomography (PET).

Dr Poder explained: “The current standard for measuring the success of prostate cancer treatment is a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. One disadvantage of using a PSA test in determining the success of radiotherapy treatment is that multiple PSA tests are performed over a period of time to confirm the suspicion of treatment failure, leaving the patient anxious and vulnerable to the development of metastases. The use of imaging techniques may be beneficial in overcoming this disadvantage. In collaboration with a team of researchers from the Biologically Targeted Radiotherapy (BiRT) team at the University of Sydney, we are exploring imaging methods to provide accurate early measures of treatment response.”

“Quantitative imaging involves extraction of imaging features from standard imaging techniques and is used to assess tissue function in contrast to anatomical imaging, which involves qualitative review of imaging studies.  These quantitative images unlock the ability to perform advanced analysis techniques such as radiomics. Radiomics refers to the extraction and analysis of a large number of quantitative features from medical images using advanced computational techniques. Such features can be correlated (using machine learning techniques) with treatment outcomes to identify patterns, associations, or predictive markers. Radiomics, however, is an emerging field, and before clinical use, the selected features for treatment response must be validated and tested for robustness.”

SSMRF’s funding for this project will support the 3D printing of a device to test the robustness of radiomics features across multiple imaging devices at St George and Sutherland hospitals at multiple time points.

This will enable the selection of only the most robust radiomics features when using them for future clinical trials, ensuring that any feature selected could be used at any hospital around the world wishing to participate in such a clinical trial.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.

Dr Poder’s work exemplifies the crucial role of medical physics in advancing cancer treatment and personalised medicine. His dedication to research and innovation underscores the ongoing efforts to improve patient outcomes and quality of care in the field of oncology.

Dr Poder enjoys spending time with his family outside of work, particularly his 2-year-old son, at local parks and cafes.

Pam with Dr Joel Poder 1 2
Dr Joel Poder awarded Early Career Medical Research Grant Today at the SSMRF office at St George Hospital SSMRF CEO Pam Brown presented Dr Joel Poder with his certificate awarding him an Early Career Medical Research Grant funded by Southern Cancer Care.

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