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03 Apr 2019

Executive Director's Message - April 2019

Investing in Excellence

Tumour streams are the core of our research–led clinical care. I am thrilled that in an announcement this week, over $8m has been allocated for prostate cancer research from the Australian Government and the Movember Foundation. Congratulations to Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre the University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and to Associate Professor Arun Azad, Professor Michael Hofman and Associate Professor Niall Corcoran, VCCC R&E Lead for Genitourinary cancer. This provides a good example of how the R&E Lead programs can be a successful vehicle for nurturing the type of multi-site, multi-disciplinary, collaborative research that correlates with research excellence and impact.  The research covering the cutting edge-areas of genomics, radionuclide therapy and immunotherapy offers real hope for prostate cancer patients.

Since the start of this year, the Australian Government has committed $496 million to cancer research and therapies in Victoria. This exceptional investment reflects both the level of community need in cancer care, and - in focusing specifically on Victorian institutions - highlights the calibre of cancer research and treatment capability in this state.

As an alliance, we often say that we are greater than the sum of our parts, so it is good news for all our members and the broader community when there is such a major uplift in key areas of progress and innovation.

These innovative, collaborative projects will ensure the ongoing transformation in health and medical research in our state, further cementing Victoria’s position at the forefront of cancer research nationally.

Stellar track record in drug discovery and commercialisation

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, already known for its stellar track record in drug discovery and commercialisation has received $25 million to enhance a new Drug Discovery Centre. This investment will enable the translation of world-class Australian biomedical research into life saving medicines for patients. It will build upon the Institute’s own $32.1 million investment which was made possible by philanthropic and state government support, and from the sale of royalty rights for the anti-cancer treatment venetoclax - recently announced for PBS listing for the first time for people with relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).

Cellular therapies will drive innovation in immunotherapy

A $105 million co-investment from the Commonwealth Government to establish the Peter Mac Centre of Excellence in Cellular Immunotherapy will provide access to treatments previously only offered overseas. Peter Mac is a recognised leader in CAR T-cell therapy and has led the nation in its development, performing Australia’s very first CAR T-cell clinical trial in 2007 and now becoming a national centre for delivering care. Implementation of this new area of technology will be supported by innovations like telehealth and teletrials to enhance delivery of care close to the patients home.

"This is the first such facility not just in Australia, not just in the southern hemisphere but indeed throughout the entire Asian region."
Health Minister Greg Hunt.

Clinical trials capacity will grow in regional areas

In a collaboration between Monash University and Alfred Health, almost $25 million will go to a clinical trials hub at the Alfred. The funding will support the Australian Clinical Trials Network’s TrialHub to create partnerships with regional hospitals to expand reach and participation in clinical trials. Bendigo, Casey and Rosebud hospitals will be the first to be involved, with a focus on rare cancers and other rare diseases, prostate cancer and melanoma.

Bio-engineering in a clinical care setting

A $30 million funding commitment was made to St Vincent’s Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery (ACMD). The ACMD consolidates research and development in one centre and is the only facility where biomedical research and development takes place in a hospital. Among the many innovations, researchers have developed a 3D printing technique that produces replacement human bones and uses surgical robots to fit them to cancer patients or trauma victims. 

Congratulations to all the recipient organisations: I look forward to championing the successes that are sure to come in the wake of this significant investment and to seeing the benefits flow for all Australians affected by cancer.

Research and Education Lead Program – Head and Neck Cancer

All involved in the Research and Education Lead Program, Head and Neck cancer are to be congratulated on the development of a compelling program for the first-ever, fully-booked professional development forum for dentists and medical practitioners concentrating on oral and oropharyngeal cancers, held at the VCCC last month. 

This week marks my second anniversary leading the VCCC, and I’m delighted this milestone coincides with the launch of our new improved website which really showcases what the VCCC is all about and will help us to bring the VCCC to all Victorians.

We hope it will be a resource and asset for all alliance members and staff, and the broader cancer sector. From events and opportunities listings, to extensive learning resources, information about our programs, and news from across the sector, the website aims to provide a ‘one stop shop’ for the Victorian cancer workforce.  Thank you to the many people who have contributed ideas, information and perspectives in creating this website.

Professor Grant McArthur
Executive Director

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