Dr Matthew Parker

Recipient: Dr Matthew Parker
Intended department: Department of Rheumatology- Salford Royal NHS, the Centre for Musculoskeletal Research and the University of Manchester- Leanne Stafford Award & ARA


A natural history study of patients with statin-associated necrotizing autoimmune myositis and modelling of the MHC-II/HMGCR epitope


I was very grateful for this award and used the grant towards funding an overseas research fellowship in Salford, UK. I planned to pursue my existing interest in autoimmune muscle disease, also termed “myositis” or “idiopathic inflammatory myopathies”, as, although rare, I had witnessed these conditions cause significant suffering for patients and felt that much needed to be done to improve their care and outcomes. Because of the rarity of the conditions, only a few centres around the world see more than a handful of patients regularly and I wanted to maximise my exposure to learn as much as possible. I also wanted to use the fellowship to improve my research skills as I planned to start my own research program on return to Australia. Salford is both a world-renowned centre for neuromuscular disease and myositis in particular but is also affiliated with a world-class academic rheumatology department at the University of Manchester.

During my twelve months in Salford I spent two days per week at the hospital attending the weekly neuromuscular clinics, the neuromuscular pathology meetings and the myositis clinic where I learnt a huge amount about the assessment and treatment of these conditions. I also learnt to perform minimally invasive muscle biopsies, something which is not currently offered by any rheumatologists to my knowledge in Australia. This can help avoid the need for large incisions and/or general anaesthetics in patients who require a biopsy. I was involved in a variety of clinical trials being run in the Department.

I spent my remaining time undertaking my own research based predominantly at the University of Manchester as a Clinical Research Fellow. Over the course of the year I authored and published two book chapters, two review articles, two case reports and one original research article. Two further original research projects have been written up and are awaiting publication and I presented the results of these at four international scientific meetings. The work covered a wide range of subjects including the epidemiology (who gets the disease) of myositis, the performance of new classification criteria, the use of new tests in diagnosis and a review of the current best evidence for treatments. I also published reports on a number of cases that were important learning experiences for me and hopefully, therefore, for others looking after similar patients in the future.

Another great benefit of this fellowship was in fostering an international network of research colleagues that I will continue to work with now back in Australia. I met and worked with researchers from Europe, the USA and Asia and am now in a position to collaborate directly with them which should hopefully in time directly improve the care of Australian patients with myositis. The work from last year will form a substantive part of a PhD which I am due to enrol on in the coming months at the University of Sydney. I am currently busy setting up a myositis clinical service, modelled on the Salford service which I witnessed worked so effectively, and in building a network of Australian clinicians and researchers to help improve the care for patients with these conditions in Australia.

As a result, I feel like I have had a very broad further education which I do not believe I would have been able to gain solely in Australia or without the assistance of the award. I consider myself very privileged to have been supported in such a fantastic opportunity.