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Medical Health Aged Care, Science

New funding fuels ground-breaking research into facial reconstruction methods for cancer patients

Passe & Williams Foundation 4 mins read
Dr. Xiao Liu, researcher at Wollongong University has received $700,000 to support research into a 3D-printed solution to facial reconstruction for cancer patients

Sydney, Australia, 4th February - In a significant stride towards revolutionising rehabilitation for head and neck cancer patients, Dr. Xiao Liu has received $700,000 to fund vital research into jaw reconstruction methods.


A researcher at the University of Wollongong, Dr. Xiao Liu  will be focused on developing a pioneering dental implant known as a ‘3D-printed resorbable scaffold’. The funding announcement, which coincides with World Cancer Day (4th February), is the latest in a series of ‘mid-career fellowships’, collectively worth nearly $4million, granted by the Passe and Williams Foundation. 


For patients who have undergone radiation therapy for head and neck cancers, dental implants can be crucial for their quality of life post-treatment. 


Explaining the importance of the research, Dr. Xiao Liu said; “Oral cancer ranks among the most prevalent cancers globally, often needing surgical intervention involving the partial removal of the jaw. Unfortunately, this procedure can have a huge impact on the patient’s quality of life post-treatment, and many often struggle to reintegrate into their work and personal lives. 

“Our aim is to significantly improve the quality of life for post-cancer patients. We want to develop a hybrid 3D-printed scaffold that not only facilitates rapid osteogenesis, or bone growth, but is also partially resorbable - meaning it will naturally integrate with the surrounding tissue,” said Dr. Xiao Liu. 

While the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) medical specialty can be an overlooked area of healthcare, the funding could mean a vital step forward for patients. Latest figures from Cancer Council estimate more than 5,300 Australians were newly diagnosed with head and neck cancer in 2023.

“Receiving this Mid-Career Fellowship from the Passe and Williams Foundation is a testament to the importance of advancing research in the field of oral rehabilitation”, continued Liu. 

One such patient is Mandy Keleher, who was diagnosed with oral cancer in February 2020.

“Oral cancer was not something I had ever heard of before my diagnosis, as it’s not something that’s often talked about. It was only after visiting the dentist that I was referred to the hospital for further checks, after developing bleeding gums and a growing gap in my tooth. I cannot praise the doctors and nurses who looked after me during that time enough, they were amazing. I think any research into these illnesses and how to improve quality of life for patients, can only be a good thing.”

Speaking about the decision to grant the fellowship, Dr. Jeanette Pritchard, CEO of the Passe and Williams Foundation, said: "We are always thrilled to support the highest calibre projects and people. Dr. Liu’s research has the potential to make a lasting impact on the field of oral rehabilitation and most importantly, survivors of head and neck cancer." 

The Mid-Career Fellowship from the Passe and Williams Foundation will be used over the next four years to fund Dr. Liu's research.  enabling further development of cutting-edge technologies and methodologies in the creation of the 3D printed implant.

“The University of Wollongong has a track record of supporting innovative research that has a tangible impact on society, and Dr. Liu's work exemplifies this commitment. The funding from the Passe and Williams Foundation underscores the collaborative effort to advance scientific breakthroughs that can transform lives.” continued Dr Pritchard. 

More information about the project can be found at

Key Facts:

Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) healthcare funders, the Passe and Williams Foundation, has awarded  its most recent ‘mid-career fellowships’

Dr. Xiao Liu, researcher at Wollongong University has received $700,000 to support research into a 3D-printed solution to facial reconstruction for cancer patients

While ENT can be an overlooked area of healthcare, an estimated 5,300 Australians were newly diagnosed with head and neck cancer in Australia in 2023 (Cancer Council)

About us:

Passe and Williams Foundation:

Passe & Williams Foundation* improves the health of people with ear, nose and throat (ENT) conditions by funding life-changing medical research, surgery and care.  Operating since 1991,  the Foundation has committed more than $83 million to the best people and projects across the sector, resulting in world-leading medical advances. Passe & Williams Foundation is dedicated to advancing excellence in Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, and ensuring Australia and New Zealand remain at the forefront of world clinical and scientific practice. The Foundation was established by Barbara Williams in 1986 to honour the memory of her two husbands, Garnett Passe and Rodney Williams. It became operational following Barbara's death in 1991, with a purpose to advance the ENT medical specialty in Australia and New Zealand. Life-changing advances made possible by the Passe and Williams Foundation range from every newborn baby receiving a hearing screening test, to early detection of head and neck cancers. The Foundation funds an annual awards program and hosts the influential Frontiers conference, led by a Board and management team made up of sector leaders and experts. More information:

*Passe & Williams Foundation is a registered business name of The Garnett Passe and Rodney Williams Memorial Foundation.

Contact details:



Media enquiries 

0497 221 929
0481 577 123

Note to editors

Dr. Xiao Liu: Bio

Xiao is a senior research fellow at the University of Wollongong, specialising in advanced materials and biomedical engineering. After completing her Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering (China, 1998) and a Master’s degree in Biology (Singapore, 2005), Xiao completed her doctorate in Chemistry at the University of Wollongong in 2009. Her expertise encompasses bio-fabrication with an emphasis on 3D cell printing, innovative biomaterial design and surface modification strategies to augment material-tissue interactions towards improving patient outcomes, particularly in the field of jaw reconstruction and oral rehabilitation.



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