Accelerating research translation into routine practice
New research, knowledge, insights and treatments are being discovered each year. But these discoveries are only valuable if they can be used and applied in practice, and the VCCC Alliance has taken strides to accelerate the research pipeline from bench to bedside and transform cancer outcomes for more Victorians.
Overcoming barriers for young Australians to access clinical trials
It is well-recognised that adolescents and young adults (AYA) can get ‘lost’ in the divide between paediatric and adult cancer care, and barriers in access to clinical trials is just one consequence.
As part of the VCCC Alliance’s Strategic Research Plan 2017-20, the Increasing AYA Access to Clinical Trials program made significant headway in implementing system-level change to address this problem, and its recent findings have the potential to change the game for this cohort in Australia.
The program delivered on several key initiatives, including:
- Creating processes for movement of adolescents and young adults with cancer between cancer services to get better access to trials
- Creating frameworks for greater communication and collaboration between paediatric and adult cancer centres
- Developing guidelines to assist with navigating ethical considerations in designing new trials with age eligibility that is more encompassing of the AYA age range
- Engaging with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) which led to their endorsement of the US FDA’s guideline on including adolescents and young adults down to age 12 in cancer clinical trials open in adult cancer centres.
“[The TGA endorsement] is an enduring shift in thinking at a national level that we expect, over time, will move that dial towards broader access to cancer clinical trials for AYA being the norm in Australia. If our work makes a real difference to the outcome for just one AYA with cancer, then our program has been a fantastic success.” – Associate Professor Justine Ellis, VCCC Alliance Associate Head, Research
Molecular Tumour Board drives connection in precision oncology
Now entering its ninth year, the VCCC Alliance Molecular Tumour Board (MTB) is a multidisciplinary style forum that brings together both clinicians and scientists to provide opinion on the clinical interpretation and implications of molecular pathology test results of tumours.
The MTB has proven to be an essential component of the genomic ‘pipeline’, providing a regular, real-time opportunity to discuss and consider scientific and clinical issues with the aim to improve genomic literacy for healthcare professionals.
The MTB has evolved with the changing genomic testing landscape. There is an increasing number of cases that present complex genomic findings for multidisciplinary discussion. Meetings have a current average of 50 attendees each month, while the database has grown to over 340 contacts from across Australia.
According to a survey conducted in November 2020, 85 per cent of respondents are satisfied or very satisfied with MTB meetings, while 91 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that presentations are of high standard. Crucially, fewer than 3 per cent felt MTB did not fill an unmet need for their institution.
Data Hub leads to better collection and use of data than ever before
Officially launched in November 2019, the Data-Driven Research Program conducted the first large-scale linkage of primary care and hospital data in 2017 and has been building its infrastructure to enable novel, longitudinal health services research across the continuum of care.
The capabilities established by the program have major potential to impact on models of care into the future. It combines the infrastructure, linked data, and expertise of the alliance to create a research-ready data platform. This new informational insight is helping to drive advances in multiple areas that can enable dedicated programs of work, including value-based healthcare, and targeted initiatives to meet the needs of vulnerable groups.
Centre for Cancer Immunotherapy a hive for collaboration
The Centre for Cancer Immunotherapy (CCI), a joint initiative by Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, The University of Melbourne and the VCCC Alliance - is an incubator space for 10 research groups totalling around 60 researchers. VCCC Alliance lab groups currently occupying the space represent Peter Mac, Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Royal Children’s Hospital and WEHI, with more set to join soon. Multiple research projects are underway, encompassing both adult and paediatric cancer immunotherapy.
In addition to the 2018 appointment of Professor Joe Trapani as Centre Director, Professor Riccardo Dolcetti commenced in the role of Deputy Director and Head, Clinical and Translational Immunotherapy on in November 2020. This is a five-year appointment jointly supported by Peter Mac, the University of Melbourne and the VCCC Alliance.
CCI research was thrust into the spotlight in July 2021, when CRISPR gene editing technology made international news as a potential treatment for COVID-19 – this finding evolved from cancer research undertaken in the CCI lab by Peter Mac and The Doherty Institute.