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14 Jul 2021

VCCC Executive Director's Message July 2021

  • Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
  • VCCC Alliance
  • Cancer Council Victoria

A vision for architecture as more than the sum of its parts 

On Friday 6 August, The Hon Martin Foley, Minister for Health will join us at a special virtual event to launch the VCCC’s Strategic Program Plan 2021–24, which is supported by the Victorian Government through a $27 million investment over the next three and a half years.

Over the past 18 months, hundreds of experts from 35 organisations have actively contributed to shaping and forming this new plan. They have come together with shared agenda, bringing leadership, expertise, knowledge and determination to make things better. Through debates, consultations, brainstorming and discussions, these experts – including consumers - have distilled and prioritised the needs, ideas and opportunities that will help us to further improve the exceptional cancer care for which this state is renowned. The result is a comprehensive, creative and exciting plan that will deliver a return on investment that brings us ever closer to our goal of better outcomes for patients with cancer in Victoria and beyond.

Everyone is invited to join us as we officially launch the plan and set out what we will be aiming to achieve over the next few years. 

Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre anniversary

June marked the fifth anniversary of the opening of the $1 billion purpose-built treatment, education and research facility that is the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre. 

The building has brought together some of the world’s best clinicians and scientists and provided the ideal environment for collaborative innovation in cancer prevention, detection and treatment.  I have seen a seismic shift in collaboration, pleasingly not just between the building partners but beyond the precinct and indeed across the state. I think this is indeed fulfilling the vision of sharing and collaboration so eloquently and passionately communicated by United States President, then Vice-President Joe Biden when he opened the building in 2016.


President Joe Biden at the 2016 opening of the VCCC

As home to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, the building has supported a major uplift in Peter Mac’s capacity in research and patient care, in collaboration with Melbourne Health and The Women’s. It has also provided new state-of-the-art cancer research facilities for the University of Melbourne, Melbourne Health, and other leading cancer research organisations. The Centre for Cancer Immunotherapy adopted the new approach of co-locating scientists from multiple partners together in one area of the building embracing a philosophy of collaboration that has huge potential to improve the outlook for patients with cancer in our state.

The building has also been a launching pad for the VCCC as a joint venture of 10 leading clinical, academic and research organisations, and it will continue to play a key role as we evolve to officially become known as the VCCC Alliance. This distinction from the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre acknowledges the role the alliance plays beyond the building and across the state for people with cancer no matter where they live. 

Vaccination crucial for patients with cancer

I've often expressed how fortunate we are to have such an advanced healthcare system in Australia. However, as the pandemic rolls on, and we continue to ramp up our vaccination programs, COVID-19 represents a real threat to patients with cancer.

The Victorian COVID-19 Cancer Network’s Got Cancer Get Vaccinated campaign shares a message that remains critical. Patients with cancer are much more likely to develop serious illness from COVID-19, and internationally 1 in 4 patients with cancer who contract COVID-19 die of the disease. In aged care, the comparable statistic is 1 in 3 representing a stark reminder of the need to advocate for people with cancer to be vaccinated. The Medical Oncology Group of Australia (MOGA) has produced excellent guidelines that set out the risks and benefits – important for all treating staff to understand so they can provide accurate advice to patients. Also recommended is the Cancer Council Victoria and Peter Mac fact sheet

Throughout the pandemic, our colleagues at the Victorian Cancer Registry (VCR) have been monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on cancer diagnoses. Population-based cancer registries provide a predictor not just for what we can expect but what we need to prepare for. With pathology notifications still well down on normal, the indirect effect of COVID on screening and early presentation of cancer is a concern. Work needs to be done to get Victorians back to their usual healthcare to continue to maintain Victoria’s world-leading outcomes for patients with cancer. The VCR is expected to announce further details about this phenomenon and the scale of its impact later this year. I’d like to congratulate Dr Luc te Marvelde and Prof Sue Evans of VCR on their exceptional work and willingness to provide information to guide the decisions and priorities of the Victorian COVID-19 Cancer Network. 

Prof Grant McArthur
Executive Director

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