Brendon Coventry

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Brendon Coventry
Brendon Coventry attending a function at Ayers House in Adelaide, South Australia.jpg.png
Brendon Coventry in 2011
Born Brendon Coventry
1959 (?)
Nationality Australian
Alma mater Flinders University (MBBS)(Ph.D.)
Known for Melanoma vaccine
immune cycle
Scientific career
Fields Surgical Oncology
Institutions University of Adelaide
Royal Adelaide Hospital
Australian Melanoma Research Foundation

Brendon Coventry MBBS PhD FRACS (born 1959) is a Surgical Oncologist, Immunologist, and medical researcher from Adelaide, South Australia. He is an Associate Professor at The University of Adelaide and practises at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, he is also the Research Director for the Australian Melanoma Research Foundation.[1][2]

Coventry's major research contributions have been made in the field of immunology;[3][4] in 2014 he published a seven-volume work on complications in surgery with Springer Publishing.[5]

His work and his views on the Australian health and tertiary education systems more generally have been widely reported in Australian news media in recent years, with journalist Rebecca Urban from The Australian calling him a "cancer pioneer".[4][6][7][8][9][10]

Education and qualifications[edit]

Coventry graduated from Pulteney Grammar School in 1976,[11] he later graduated from the School of Medicine at Flinders University and became a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.[1] His PhD on immunology and tumours was conferred in 1992.[12]

Melanoma vaccine[edit]

Beginning in the late 1990s, Coventry noticed that some of his patients responded better to the Melanoma vaccine better than other patients despite receiving identical treatment.[6] When local cancer tumours where injected with the vaccine, cancers that had not been injected began to shrink as well, thus indicating an immunogenic relationship,[13] these observations led him to speculate that the immune system operates in a cyclical manner, with peaks and troughs. Operating on this theory, Coventry was able to increase complete response rates to treatment of advanced melanoma from 7% to 17% and without significant negative side effects.[4][14]

Publishing in the Journal of Translational Medicine in 2009, Coventry led a team which demonstrated that the immune cycle could be seen in fluctuating levels of C-reactive protein in the blood of a given patient.[3][15] According to Coventry, "[t]he immune system works in waves that seems to be switching on and off constantly. And now what we're trying to do is see whether we can identify periods or phases in that cycle where we could target the vaccine more effectively..."[4] Crucially, the ability to administer treatment at the most effective time in a patient's immune cycle means that significantly smaller dosages of chemotherapy can be used, which in turn means far fewer negative side effects to treatment.[15]

Coventry, in his capacity as Research Director of the Australian Melanoma Research Foundation, has appeared before committees of the Parliament of Australia. In a 2014 submission to the Standing Committee on Health into Skin Cancer in Australia, it was stated that without the application of the new knowledge on the immune cycle cancer treatment was a "mathematically random" process.[16] It was also revealed that treatment on mice with the new knowledge resulted in a "complete eradication of established tumours in 60% of mice",[16] the 2015 submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs Inquiry into the Availability of new, innovative and specialist cancer drugs in Australia states that the five-year survival rate of patients with advanced cancer is consistent with statistical probability that a patients treatment will be administered at exactly the right place in their immune cycle.[17]

Other research[edit]

In a 20-year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which Coventry co-authored, it was found that metastatic cancer can be located in the body through a process called "lymph node tracing".[18][19]

Coventry with Vice-Chancellor Gavin Brown (left) from the University of Sydney and Diane Ranck (centre) from Flinders University, 2009

Coventry was the lead author on a 2014 study which concluded that "isolated limb infusion is a minimally invasive alternative to isolated limb perfusion for delivering high-dose regional chemotherapy to treat locally advanced limb melanoma."[20] A 2009 study in which Coventry participated discovered that melanoma rates were higher in areas that were coastal or bordered rivers, indicating that exposure was greater in these areas.[21]


Speaking to the Scientific American in 2014, Coventry stated that “[e]normous amounts of money and the brightest minds in biological and medical science have failed to make a big impact in the war on cancer, so maybe it’s time for a new paradigm”.[22][23]

“The public is so jaded by cancer research media attention at the moment that they just do not believe ‘breakthroughs’ are occurring any more. And let’s face it, rather embarrassingly, most claimed ‘breakthroughs’ are not proving to significantly advance cancer therapies... It is a real conundrum for researchers today, because ‘early publicity’ is needed for funding, capital raising and professional kudos, but not too helpful for the public who then think that an immediate cure might be just around the corner.” Brendon Coventry, 9 July 2013[24]

He has also been critical of the undue influence of pharmaceutical companies over the Australian health care system, particularly because public tax revenues are used to pay for the inflated costs of treatment and the failure to improve survival rates.[9][10][25] This has meant that billions of dollars have been spent, much of it on newer drugs, but without a corresponding improvement in treatment outcomes for patients with advanced cancer.[7][26]

"The presence of a 'conflict of interest' arising from a bias towards pharmaceutical trials and away from more innovative options, is a very serious consideration and can act to severely retard original innovative progress of Australian research. Any cost savings are more than offset by much higher annual costs from failure to solve the problem of ineffective cancer therapies." Brendon Coventry et al., 2015 [17]

In fact, the effectiveness of treatment for patients with advanced cancer has not had a notable improvement since the middle of the 20th century,[27] despite the discovery of the human immune cycle, the discovery of the ability to manipulate the cycle, and the ramifications of these discoveries for many immunologically related diseases, funding for the clinical trials has not been forthcoming from public grants schemes including the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).[6]

"In Australia, the NHMRC funded $181m on cancer research grants in 2014, and almost 800 cancer patients per week still die of cancer, or over 40,000 Australians per annum." Brendon Coventry et al., 2015 [17]


  1. ^ a b "Discipline of Surgery - Associate Professor Brendon Coventry MBBS PhD FRACS". Archived from the original on 25 March 2012. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  2. ^ Melanoma Research. "Australian Melanoma Research Foundation - Our people". Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Brendon J Coventry et al. CRP identifies homeostatic immune oscillations in cancer patients: a potential treatment targeting tool? Journal of Translational Medicine 7 (2009)
  4. ^ a b c d "AM - Melanoma vaccine increases survival rate 17/04/2014". Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  5. ^ "Surgery: Complications, Risks and Consequences". Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c
  7. ^ a b "Melanoma expert urges research focus on cost-effective treatments". ABC News. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  8. ^ "Comment: A New Dusk". The Monthly. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  9. ^ a b "My Name is Chris: Cancer treatment fundraising for Chris Brugger". NewsComAu. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^
  12. ^ Characterisation of tumour infiltrating lymphocytes in human solid tumours using standard and video image analytic methods for cellular quantitation of immunostained cells Brendon J. Coventry :1991, Flinders University
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Melanoma vaccine giving cancer victims hope". ABC News. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^ a b "Submissions". Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  17. ^ a b c
  18. ^ "The World Today - Melanoma find increases survival rate 14/02/2014". Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  19. ^ Morton DL, Thompson JF, Cochran AJ, Mozzillo N, Nieweg OE, Roses DF, Hoekstra HJ, Karakousis CP, Puleo CA, Coventry BJ, Kashani-Sabet M, Smithers BM, Paul E, Kraybill WG, McKinnon JG, Wang HJ, Elashoff R, Faries MB; MSLT Group. "Final trial report of sentinel-node biopsy versus nodal observation in melanoma," New England Journal of Medicine (2014), 370(7): 599-609.
  20. ^ Coventry BJ, Kroon HM, Giles MH, Henderson M, Speakman D, Wall M, Barbour A, Serpell J, Paddle P, Coventry AG, Sullivan T, Smithers BM, "Australian multi-center experience outside of the Sydney Melanoma Unit of isolated limb infusion chemotherapy for melanoma," Journal of Surgical Oncology (2014), 109(8): 780-785.
  21. ^ Heard AR, Coventry BJ, Milanowski B, Taylor D, "The Geography of Melanoma in South Australia,"Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health (2009), 33(2): 105-108.
  22. ^ Zeeya Merali. "Did Cancer Evolve to Protect Us?". Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  23. ^ "Physicists' model proposes evolutionary role for cancer". Nature News & Comment. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  24. ^ Brendon Coventry (8 July 2013). "Found: a new drug mix to nix breast cancer". The Conversation. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  25. ^ "For cancer patient Chris Brugger, it takes $16,000 every three weeks to stay alive". news. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ "A Matter Of Time - Australasian Science Magazine". Retrieved 28 May 2015.