Top down to team-centric

As an alliance of major public hospitals, medical research institutes and academia – collaboration is our greatest advantage and opportunity. It is demonstrated across almost everything we do, notably through the VCCC Alliance distributed leadership model, which facilitates multidisciplinary, multi-site research opportunities. Our people work together to identify key clinical challenges, creating conditions that are an increasingly common prerequisite for funding.

A VCCC Alliance Distributed Leadership Summit was convened early in the year to review the strategic roadmaps that have been developed for all major cancers, cancer nursing, primary care, and regional and rural initiatives.

RE Lead event pre COVID Dr Winer1

Dr Eric Winer from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute USA at a Research and Education Lead Breast Cancer program symposium in early 2020.

As part of our 2021-24 investment:

  • Twenty-one senior cancer clinician researchers (Distributed Leadership) from VCCC Alliance member organisations will work strategically and collaboratively across multiple institutions
  • Funds have been allocated to support the collection, mapping, and evaluation of critical data from disease-related registries, clinical datasets, and patient-reported outcomes data
  • New education initiatives that address an important evidence gap and that will upskill the cancer workforce will be funded as part of the implementation of the strategic roadmaps
  • Three dedicated program managers will work with the Distributed Leadership to support the implementation of their roadmaps, evaluate cancer tumour stream and cancer-themed projects and activities, and identify opportunities for leveraged opportunities
  • A new implementation science resource will be funded within a VCCC Alliance member organisation and will be incorporated into the program team in the second half of 2021.

Research and Education Lead program

The Research and Education Lead program is a cornerstone of the alliance, providing leading clinician-scientists with protected time and resources to engage and work with networks beyond the typical hospital or laboratory setting.

Initiatives have contributed to attracting significant funding for research projects. These range from data-driven approaches to predict the economic impact of cancer treatments, to developing organoid technology to personalise treatment for patients with head and neck cancer, to testing the addition of immunotherapy to current standards of care for women with advanced endometrial cancer and patients with high-risk subtypes.

Over the past year, VCCC Alliance-enabled collaborations have helped to recruit investigators, prioritise research questions and bring together diverse perspectives to drive meaningful and relevant research that takes us towards our goal of better outcomes for patients with cancer.

breast symposium

229 participants attended this year's breast symposium: Breast Cancer in Young Women.

Tumour stream initiatives

Melanoma and Skin Cancers

The Research and Education Lead, (R&E Lead) Melanoma and Skin Cancers program launched an interactive melanoma education series for clinicians and trainees about the latest advances in melanoma diagnosis and treatment to ensure best practice and equity of care for melanoma patients around Victoria. Two sessions were delivered to 188 participants from across Victoria.

“Our new education series is designed to ensure greater awareness of latest advances in melanoma treatment. It provides access to an interactive setting to translate world-leading research into clinical knowledge and apply this to the diagnoses and management of melanoma using case studies." - Associate Professor David Gyorki.

Head and Neck Cancer

Professor David Wiesenfeld, R&E Lead for Head and Neck Cancer hosted a 2020 forum to bring together 41 laboratory scientists and clinical researchers to better understand cancers of the head and neck therefore assisting the discovery of new and effective interventions for prevention and treatment. Key areas were:

  > Molecular and mechanistic insights in oral cancer development
  > Immune response in oral cavity cancer
  > Progress and pitfalls in developing resources for investigating adenoid cystic carcinoma
  > An organoids platform for oral cancer
  > Immunoprofiling of patients with head and neck and cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma
  >  In vivo microscopy assessment of oral cancer

The program also hosted a symposium on the important but often overlooked topic of intimacy and sexual health to 121 participants. The aim was to give clinicians a better understanding of how to address sexual health issues with patients. It provided the opportunity to discuss common HPV-related concerns encountered in the clinic and to learn more about the interventions and referral pathways for treatment-related sexual issues.

Breast Cancer

The R&E Lead Breast Cancer program convened a symposium: Breast Cancer in Young Women to 229 participants this year. Breast cancer in young women can be a complex disease. Due to its rarity, treatment is often based on data from trials conducted among older women. This means that many aspects of the disease in younger women are not understood and may result in long-term effects of treatment, and specific survivorship issues such as infertility. Keynote for the symposium was Dr Ann Partridge a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Vice-Chair of Medical Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The R&E Lead Breast Cancer program also presented eight multidisciplinary clinical education sessions to 1278 participants and 24 bi-weekly Grands Rounds to 1640 participants.  In this education program Victorian, national and international leaders in breast cancer research and treatment regularly convene to share information. It fills a critical need to coordinate efforts to bring advances in research, technology, and clinical trials to the patient's bedside.

New appointment

This year we welcomed Professor Constantine Tam, as he took the baton from Professor Andrew Roberts as VCCC Alliance R&E Lead, Haematology. Professor Tam is the Clinical Lead for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) and Low-Grade Lymphoma at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Royal Melbourne Hospital and Professor of Haematology at the University of Melbourne.