Research

Professor Stephen Tong is dedicated to finding new diagnostics and treatments to improve the care of pregnant women.

He is head of The Translational Obstetrics Group, a team of highly talented clinicians and scientists with an international reputation.

Together, the group is tackling major pregnancy complications that are a threat to the lives of mothers and babies.

Drs Roxanne Hastie (front) Tu’uhevaha Kaitu’u-Lino (behind),
researchers from The Translational Obstetrics Group.

Research Themes

  • Tablets instead of surgery to treat Ectopic Pregnancies

    Ectopic pregnancies arise when the embryo fails to reach the womb. Instead, they embed and start growing in the Fallopian tube.

    They can never be born as live babies. Instead, they are life-threatening as they can erode through blood vessels, causing fatal bleeding. They are globally responsible for thousands of deaths every year.

    Most are treated by emergency surgery.

    Professor Tong’s research team have a vision to develop innovative new medical treatments for ectopic pregnancies that could allow most women to avoid surgery entirely.

    In 2013, the team announced an entirely fresh approach to treat ectopic pregnancies - a single injection of methotrexate followed by seven tablets (gefitinib). Working with friends in Edinburgh, an international consortium has successfully tested this new treatment in three small clinical trials of women with ectopic pregnancies. Excitingly, they have now moved to a major clinical trial that is recruiting women at over seventy hospitals across the United Kingdom (see international engagement).

    More recently, Prof Tong’s group discovered the remarkable possibility of a tablet only treatment (vinorelbine) to treat ectopic pregnancy. The amazing implication is that simply swallowing tablets could replace surgery. The innovative concept is now being tested in a clinical trial in New Zealand.

    If any of these leads are successful, it may radically change the way ectopic pregnancies are treated worldwide. They could make the treatment of this life-threatening condition safer, simpler and more accessible to women across the world.

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  • A blood test to help women avoid stillbirth

    Around one in a hundred and fifty pregnancies in Australia are born still. Stephen’s team at Mercy is trying to develop new tests that flag babies at risk, so they can be safely delivered before it happens.

    The impact of a stillbirth to a family, and to those around them can be immense. While very uncommon, they are a terribly painful outcome. Stillbirth deserves a concerted research effort.

    Stephen, Sue Walker (friend and co-director of Mercy Perinatal) and the Translational Obstetrics Group are searching for danger molecules in the mother’s bloodstream that identifies pregnancies at risk of stillbirth.

    The concept is simple. Many stillbirths occur because the placenta – the life support system – fails. The team is hunting for molecules in the mum’s blood that are increased (or decreased) during the window of time when the placenta unwell and starting to fail, but the baby is still alive.

    And they have found some exciting leads that they are chasing down with urgency.

    The team is also on the hunt for better ways to identify failing placentas via new ultrasound approaches.

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  • Developing new diagnostic and treatments for preeclampsia

    Preeclampsia arises when abnormally high levels of anti-blood vessel factors pour out of the diseased placenta into the mum’s bloodstream. They cause high blood pressure and can damage many of the mum’s vital organs. Once it takes hold, there is no treatment to slow the disease, except birthing the baby.

    Affecting 3-8% of all pregnancies, preeclampsia is one of the most important complications of pregnancy. Finding drugs that can slow, or stop the disease, is a holy grail of pregnancy research.

    Over the last five years, Stephen’s research team - The Translational Obstetrics Group – have used sophisticated laboratory techniques to identify drugs that act on the placenta to decrease the release of disease-causing factors. Their team is known internationally for these discoveries.

    To realise the potential of their find, the team has partnered with collaborators around the world. Together, they are progressing with several national and international clinical trials to see whether any of these drugs can, indeed, be an effective treatment for preeclampsia.

    If any of these trials succeed, the discovery could be a game changer for the field. It could save the lives of many mothers and babies.

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Book in for private obstetrics
care with Prof Stephen Tong

Call us at (03) 8458 4022
Or email us at

LOCATION

  • Private Consulting Suites,
    Level 6, Mercy Hospital for Women 163 Studley Road, Heidelberg 3084

CONTACT

  • Email:

© 2019 Prof Stephen Tong

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