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06 Apr 2022

Building strong connections for multidisciplinary learning

  • VCCC Alliance

The VCCC Alliance Research and Education (R&E Lead) Breast Cancer program has developed a learning environment where researchers and clinical care teams can share information to improve cancer outcomes.

“At the medical student and trainee level there is limited scope to take a helicopter view of breast cancer, assess the impacts of collated data, and have interactions with a live audience,” says R&E Co-Lead for Breast Cancer, Dr Belinda Yeo. 

VCCC Alliance Breast Cancer Grand Rounds and an online education series aim to provide a shared view of what is happening in the development of breast cancer care and are helping to stimulate discussion and collaborations among experienced and novice researchers and clinicians.

"As a surgical trainee and PhD student, the VCCC Alliance Research and Education Breast Cancer program webinars allow me exposure to expert clinicians and researchers in numerous fields. This collaboration is not only educational but inspiring." - Dr Christina Kozul, - General Surgical (SET) Registrar, The Royal Melbourne Hospital and - PhD Student, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre


“Emerging trends and international data change our practice,” says Dr Yeo. “Right now, we are at a promising time in metastatic breast cancer research, and new drug therapies mean we are witnessing more rapid change in access to new therapies.”

Importance of team-based approach

“It is crucial to have a constant dialogue and understand the developments across the broad spectrum of cancer,” says R&E Co-Lead Professor Bruce Mann. 

“We also need to provide informal and formal learning experiences. The primary focus of a cancer ward is the delivery of patient care, not education so anything we can do to provide linkages to additional knowledge is useful. 

“Open and accessible online learning can also help to remove the hierarchies and time pressures that may be a barrier, especially to nurse and allied health clinicians.” – Professor Bruce Mann 

The Breast Cancer Grand Rounds showcase the latest developments in breast cancer-related research locally, nationally, and globally, and provide a forum consistent with today’s team-based approach to patient care and treatment of cancer. 

“The Grand Rounds provide a tremendous online meeting place,” says Professor Mann. “Learners in breast cancer research, prevention, detection, and treatment and with different subspecialties can take a collaborative approach to problem-solving. 

“We also work closely with consumers to ensure that our educational programming is relevant and impactful. Collaborations with Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) and the various colleges – such as Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and Breast Surgeons of Australia and New Zealand help us to communicate multiple perspectives.” 

Introduction to challenging and complex decision-making

“The education series is a clinically-driven online space where we share strategies and different approaches from all of the multidisciplinary aspects of breast cancer,” says Dr Yeo.

“It also introduces trainees and others to that very dynamic clinical environment which can be challenging and complex.” – Dr Belinda Yeo

“We may focus on the area of reconstruction or, earlier this year, we covered some tricky case presentations from some experienced surgeons and oncologists from the Austin, RMH, Monash Health, The Women’s, and Peter Mac.”

Recently the program partnered with Breast Surgeons of Australia and New Zealand to profile an expert panel of surgeons from across Australia and New Zealand for a close look at axillary dissection and de-escalating axillary surgery after neoadjuvant chemotherapy.

Presentations from the Grand Rounds and education series are housed on the VCCC Alliance website as an online learning library. (Use the filter Interest: Breast Cancer). They will soon be available via a new digital oncology learning hub - a dedicated online learning space for the cancer workforce.  

Join the next Grand Round Breast Cancer

The next Grand Round on 20 April 2022 will feature Associate Professor Anita Dunbier, leader of the Breast Cancer Research Group at the University of Otago, who will review research that suggests commonly used anti-oestrogen therapies may prime breast cancers to respond to immunotherapies. Translation of these findings into the clinic has the potential to improve outcomes for oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancer.

For more information on the R&E Lead, Breast Cancer program, contact VCCC Alliance, Program Manager, Distributed Leadership, Dr Jasper De Boer, e: jasper.deboer@unimelb.edu.au.

Image: Dr Eric Winer, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute USA at pre-COVID R&E Lead Breast Cancer Symposium.

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