The VCCC Alliance is so much more than the sum of its parts. We have 10 member organisations, we are supported by the Victorian Government, and we partner
with multiple organisations across the health, medical and not for profit sectors as well as industry.
Underpinning all of this are the contributions of hundreds of people: consumers, scientists, educators, doctors, allied health professionals, nurses and administrators who give their time and expertise to work together towards a shared goal: better outcomes for all.
Our In Person series invites you to meet just a few of these exceptional people. Find out what drives them and how their work contributes to our collective impact.
I wanted to give back. The care my husband received while going through throat cancer treatment was appreciated and we were really happy with it.
People tend to think that working in the cancer space is depressing and horrible and not something that they want anything to do with – but it can be really interesting, particularly the research and trials side.
I’ve been contributing to the VCCC Alliance for about six years. I live in Albury Wodonga and heard about the alliance through Regional Integrated Cancer Services.
I bring a regional perspective which is quite different to the viewpoint of people in metropolitan areas. I’m realistic – you can’t have everything living up here. I found this out when I was flown to Melbourne to have a heart bypass. I had two heart attacks 11 years ago. I collapsed in Darwin and the medical staff said, you are going to Melbourne tonight and you need a double heart bypass. I was given a less than five per cent chance of surviving my heart attack!
I love the people I have met through the alliance – consumers and healthcare professionals. I value the experience I have been given and the confidence it has given me to speak up. When I first joined in the meetings I thought, I’m not up to this. Now I speak up. I’m allowed to have an opinion like everyone else. I feel wanted and valued. I want to be involved. Five years from now I’d like the VCCC Alliance to become well known in the general community, not just in the cancer space.
My husband is doing fine now. We are dealing with the long-term effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy – heart issues, neuropathy, a lot of skin cancers. If we had known about these long-term effects eight years ago when he was diagnosed, we still would have gone ahead with treatment and thought ‘we’ll deal with that stuff later’. On the whole, he’s really good.
In my clinical role I work predominantly with colorectal cancer patients but also those with pancreatic cancer.
Ultimately, I do it to make a difference. Firstly, as a clinician and the patients I treat, and secondly by conducting research that teaches ways to better treat and manage patients. That’s probably my biggest motivation – working in the research space and making advances that are relevant to hundreds of thousands of people.
One of the research projects I’ve worked on that is having the most impact is investigating circulating tumour DNA, or ctDNA. What is interesting to us is identifying minimal residual disease. When patients have had surgery to remove cancer and it looks like it has been successful, we try to work out who is at most risk of cancer returning and therefore who would most benefit from chemotherapy, and who may not need it. Our WEHI group is looking at this in colorectal, pancreatic and ovarian cancer, examining ctDNA after surgery and stratifying the risk. We are the first in the world to do a randomised study that shows this information can be used to treat patients.
A lot of my research is around the concept of personalised medicine and trying to get better at defining which patient to treat in certain ways. A common misconception is that we are already in an era of personalised medicine, whereas in most instances, people receive a generic treatment. We are not as far along as we would like to be.
The VCCC Alliance includes a number of research institutes, hospitals and universities working together. You can only do so much working alone. With collaboration we can do a lot more.