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08 Dec 2021

First allied health cancer clinical trials unit to be based in regional Victoria

  • VCCC Alliance
  • Barwon Health

A new allied health cancer clinical trials unit specialising in cancer supportive care and survivorship is to be established, thanks to a recent grant co-funded by Cancer Council Victoria and the Victorian Government through the Victorian Cancer Agency.

The three-year project will bring together consumers and leaders from Barwon Health’s Allied Health, Cancer Services and Clinical Trials teams to design and develop a unique Allied Health Clinical Trials Unit based at the Adrian Costa Clinical Trials Centre.

The project team will also be accessing infrastructure through collaborations with Victorian Clinical Trials Education Centre, Clinical Trial Research Support Service, Western Alliance Academic Health Science Centre, Deakin University, Barwon South West Integrated Cancer Service and the VCCC Alliance. The VCCC Alliance will also support and facilitate collaboration and development of relationships with the Regional Trials Network.

Patients won’t have to travel to Melbourne

The new project will ensure that Victorians in regional and rural communities will be able to access innovative, allied health-led trials locally instead of travelling to Melbourne. It will also support clinical trial education, training and capacity building among allied health professionals

Danielle Spence, Head of Strategy and Support at Cancer Council Victoria, said the organisation was committed to improving access to clinical trials, and wanted to address a gap in funding. The Cancer Trials Management Scheme Competitive Grants support projects that address an unmet need and build capacity to conduct and recruit to cancer clinical trials.

'Research into supportive and survivorship care is greatly needed to find
new ways to improve the quality of life for patients and survivors and help to
better understand which interventions should be incorporated into
standard practice so all people can benefit from them.' – Danielle Spence

Shared objectives with VCCC Alliance Strategic Program Plan

The VCCC Alliance Strategic Program Plan (SPP) 2021-24 (link) seeks to increase patient participation in clinical trials and several of its established programs align with the objectives of the Barwon Health initiative.

Strategic Program 4: Drive an innovative, high-performance clinical trial sector through capacity building and Program 7: Fast track innovations in regions with poorest cancer outcomes will work with the project to identify training and resources to support capacity building of the clinical trial workforce incorporating well-established competency frameworks and clinical trial online learning modules in teletrials and registry trials and investigator-initiated trial and research workshops conducted by the University of Melbourne.

Innovative new trial methodologies

As part of the SPP, the VCCC Alliance aims to support high-performance clinical trial units with a multi-faceted approach that introduces and supports new trial methodologies, while expanding the skills base of clinical groups and clinical trials staff overall.

Lead Researcher and Physiotherapist Catherine Williams said, 'I have seen the positive impact that well-timed, specialised programs provided by allied health professionals can have on people living with and beyond a cancer diagnosis. This funding will give us the opportunity to investigate our potential to not only support change in survival statistics but also to empower people with cancer to seek out the best quality of life possible, wherever they are in their cancer experience.'

For more information, contact Jessica Freeman, VCCC Alliance Regional Projects Manager.

Image: Paul Lightfoot, Director, Adrian Costa Clinical Trials Centre, Philip Campbell, Co-Investigator and Catherine Williams, Project Lead and Principal Investigator, Allied Health Oncology Clinical Trials Unit.

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