This year’s Cancer In Australia report showed that survival rates in Australia are continuing to improve, and the rate at which Australians are being diagnosed with cancer has been declining since 2008. Five-year survival rates from all cancers combined have improved from 51 per cent in 1988–1992 to 70 per cent in 2013–2017.
This inarguably good news is testament to advances in public health and prevention, as well as medical research and treatments.
These improvements, however, have not been experienced equally across the community and there are still some cancers, including lung, where only one in four patients survive five years.
Overcoming inequities in outcomes – the differences experienced by people living in rural and regional areas and some groups in our community, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – is the very reason why system-wide, system-changing initiatives such as the VCCC Alliance are needed.
The work being delivered through the current Strategic Program Plan 2021-24 is reshaping connections, conversations and building new collaborations that are vital to driving this change. This year this work included a new Implementation Science program to help ensure evidence is successfully translated into practice; a landmark data-linkage project, plus a suite of projects that are improving access to cutting-edge cancer care for people in regional areas.
The presence of this alliance as a change-maker and innovator in the cancer sector has been quite remarkable, indicating both the need it has met and highlighting the value of a truly collaborative approach.
With recent announcements of Comprehensive Cancer Centres to be built in several other states, Australia now has an opportunity to forge a system that really could shift the dial on those inequities at a population level, while investing in cutting-edge research and vital initiatives such as data-sharing, that are critical to overcoming those low-survival cancers.
The VCCC Alliance has matured quickly as an organisation, and I know I speak for the rest of the Board, when I say that we are excited and optimistic about what the future holds.
Moving into the new financial year, the alliance has dynamic new leadership in place with Associate Professor David Kok stepping into the role of Chair of our Cancer Education and Training Committee and Dr Dishan Herath taking the reins as Chair of the Cancer Research Advisory Committee. We are delighted that Ms Jo Cockwill will become the inaugural Deputy Chair of the Cancer Consumer Advisory Committee.
It goes without saying that 2021-22 has been a year like no other. The impact of the pandemic continues to be felt across the community and nowhere more so than by the healthcare sector. Against that challenging backdrop, and in tandem with other major events on the international stage, it’s notable that the alliance community has resolutely retained its focus on the work we are doing for people affected by cancer. This is further evidence of the importance of this work and the dedication of the cancer consumers, scientists, clinicians, educators and administrators who are striving together towards better outcomes for all.
On behalf of the Board, I offer particular thanks to Professor Grant McArthur, his excellent team and to all 250+ members of our various committees and program steering groups for their expertise and dedicated contributions. Thank you as well, to my Board colleagues, for your stewardship of this important alliance that continues to serve our Victorian community. And finally, I offer our appreciation to the Victorian Government for the generous financial support and shared commitment to our mission.
Emeritus Professor Linda Kristjanson AO