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19 Oct 2017
Press Release

Closing the Cancer Outcomes Gap for Regional Victorians

  • Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre
  • Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre
  • Southwest Healthcare
  • Deakin University

Regional Oncology Leads appointed

There remains a significant gap between outcomes for cancer patients in rural, regional and remote areas versus metropolitan areas. Despite efforts by health services and governments in recent decades, the five-year survival rate for patients in regional Victoria sits at 65 per cent compared to 69 per cent in metropolitan areas*. To help address this disparity, the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) alliance has appointed two new Regional Oncology Leads charged with boosting access for regional patients to best-practice cancer research, treatment, care and importantly - clinical trials.

The VCCC brings together 10 major hospitals, research and academic institutions in a powerful alliance, working together strategically to integrate cancer research, workforce education and patient care. This new Regional Oncology initiative will expand the benefits of Australia’s first comprehensive cancer centre to encompass more of the Victorian community and enhance existing programs and services.

To drive this important initiative, the VCCC is delighted to announce the appointment of Dr Craig Underhill as Regional Oncology Lead and Associate Professor Ian Collins as Deputy Regional Oncology Lead. Dr Underhill is a medical oncologist and Director of Cancer Services at Albury-Wodonga Health and Clinical Co-director of Hume Regional Integrated Health Services, and A/Prof Collins is Visiting Medical Officer at Southwest Healthcare, Warrnambool; Conjoint Clinical Associate Professor in the School of Medicine at Deakin University, and Director of Cancer Research at SouthWest Oncology, Warrnambool.

As highly experienced specialists, both Regional Oncology Leads are keenly aware of the complex challenges that need to be overcome, yet optimistic about the potential and opportunity for these roles to make a real difference for regional Victorians. “Unfortunately there continues to be a gap in cancer services between regional and metropolitan Victoria. This program is a great opportunity to address these disparities,” said Dr Underhill.

The Regional Oncology Leads will play a key role in ensuring that more Victorians benefit from the VCCC’s collaborative programs of work including the expansion of clinical trials, fostering education opportunities for the cancer workforce, and improving partnerships and networks with regional cancer centres. Programs include investment in tele-trials to enable regional patients to participate in Melbourne-based clinical trials via their nearest regional centre.

Commenting on the appointments, Executive Director of the VCCC, Prof Grant McArthur said, “A key principle of the VCCC is to improve cancer outcomes for all Victorians. This is a very important initiative for the community. I am thrilled that our regional focus will be led by two people who are both accomplished and passionate advocates for cancer research and treatment - and for the needs of regional Victoria.”

Further information:
Avalee Weir
Head of Communications t. 03 8559 7222 m. 0416 130033 e. avalee.weir@unimelb.edu.au

* Source: Cancer Council Victoria