Closing the care gap – equity in action in Victoria
The VCCC Alliance marked World Cancer Day 2023 with a dedicated Monday Lunch Live hybrid event featuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research and Education Lead, Professor Kalinda Griffiths, hosted by Professor Sanchia Aranda AM.
In her keynote address, Professor Griffiths discussed how systemic racism had led to gaps in data collection and health outcomes of this population – a gap that can only be closed by better data. The topic was also covered by The Conversation in a piece authored by Professor Griffith. An expert panel broadened the discussion to an appraisal of other complex barriers to achieving equity in cancer care.
Sex and gender bias: Towards gender equity in Australian healthcare
Women wait longer for pain medication than men, and to be diagnosed for cancer. Women are also more likely to have physical symptoms attributed to mental health issues, to have heart disease misdiagnosed, and to become disabled after a stroke.
On International Women’s Day 2023, a special forum hosted by VCCC Alliance, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and The Women’s, highlighted how women are underserved by the systems that should keep them happy, healthy and informed about their bodies.
The Australian Government had recently announced its National Women’s Health Advisory Council to tackle medical misogyny – chaired by one of our invited event speakers, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, Geraldine (Ged) Kearney MP.
“Women have been seriously under-served by medical systems that are supposed to give them both equity and confidence in their healthcare.”
– The Hon Ged Kearney MP, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, Australian Government
This was an opportunity to lead discussion on a thorny issue. A stellar line up of high-profile women joined the conversation, including:
Gabrielle Jackson, Associate Editor (Audio and Visual), The Guardian Australia, and author of Pain and Prejudice
Professor Sue Matthews, CEO, Royal Women’s Hospital
Professor Zoe Wainer, Deputy Secretary for Public Health, Victorian Department of Health
Professor David Speakman, Chief Medical Officer, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Professor Shelley Dolan, CEO, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (now CEO, Royal Melbourne Hospital)
Facilitated by then VCCC Alliance Chair, Emeritus Professor Linda Kristjanson AO, the panel delivered a robust discussion about how to address underlying issues and bring about positive change for women.
“Living with pain and not being believed deprives us of our full humanity, and we deserve better.”
– Gabrielle Jackson, Author, Pain and Prejudice
Genuine breakthrough for cancer research
In the words of Executive Director Professor Grant McArthur, the use of mRNA vaccine technology for individualised neo-antigen vaccines for cancer is a genuine breakthrough. The alliance was honoured to host an event in partnership with The Doherty Institute, featuring Moderna's US-based Chief Medical Officer, Dr Paul Burton speaking on A paradigm shift: advancing mRNA from COVID to cancer. The event explored the world of cutting-edge mRNA technologies, their implications and efficacy in cancer vaccines, and the opportunities in Victoria.
Speakers at our "A paradigm shift: advancing mRNA from COVID to cancer" event.
The seminar highlighted the value of collaboration between industry, clinicians, biomedical researchers and patients, and exemplified achievements to date of this new technology.
“What’s happened with mRNA technology is just a testament to investment in science and what can be delivered for humanity. This is the fastest pace that medical science has moved at in the history of humankind to bring huge benefits for patients and the community.”
– Prof Grant McArthur AO, Executive Director, VCCC Alliance
The event attracted significant media coverage, including almost 250 broadcast, online and print items nationally and internationally, reaching an audience of over 110 million people worldwide.
"It's encouraging to see treatments constantly evolving which are improving outcomes for patients with cancer."
– Dr Karen Innes, consumer and melanoma survivor
Growing the VCCC Alliance brand
As the alliance grows in scope, reach and complexity, we identified the need to build out the brand to support clear communication and differentiate key programs of work. A new sub-brand strategy was introduced to enhance the core brand and enable easy identification of key ongoing programs.
Sub-brands have been developed for four programs to date: the Centre for Cancer Education, the Leadership Academy, Data Connect and the Nurse-Led Research Hub.
The Nurse-Led Research Hub launched its sub-brand at the Cancer Nursing Society of Australia conference, with an eye-catching booth featuring the new logo in signature green on the banner.
In March, the Leadership Academy sub-brand glowed gold at its launch at the Melbourne Zoo.
Launch of the VCCC Alliance Leadership Academy.
Closer collaboration with Monash Partners Comprehensive Cancer Consortium (MPCCC)
A new Overarching Collaboration Agreement (OCA) was established between Monash University (acting on behalf of MPCCC) and VCCC Alliance. This built on the activities of an Action Committee between the entities established in 2017 and supports expansion of collaborative projects and arrangements across a range of opportunities.
One of the first initiatives under the new agreement was the Victorian Precision Oncology Summit, which brought together 200 experts in cancer genomics from around the country. The summit identified opportunities to synchronise efforts that will improve equity of access to molecular testing, which has been a critical roadblock to personalised genomic testing for every patient.
Live graphics were created of key themes discussed at the Victorian Precision Oncology Summit 2023.
One of the core approaches of the VCCC Alliance is to advocate for better patient outcomes, undertaken through a range of mechanisms including consultations, representations and submissions.
In 2022–23, this included significant submissions made to Cancer Australia in preparation for the Australian Cancer Plan, and to the Victorian Government ahead of the State Budget in May.
The submission to the Australian Cancer Plan recommended 12 actions across six priorities to be addressed across a two – ten-year continuum. This included:
Reduce the immediate and medium-term cancer health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic (2 years)
Develop and retain skilled cancer workforce (2–5 years)
Increase access to palliative care (5 years)
Improve system wide integrations to increase efficiencies (5–10 years)
Improve equity of outcomes (5–10 years)
Improve survival rates in poor outcome cancers (8–10 years)
The Australian Cancer Plan 2022–23 was launched in November 2023.
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