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04 Apr 2018
Opinion Piece

Moving forward with urgency

  • Austin Health
  • Western Health
  • Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre
  • Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute
  • National Health and Medical Research Council

April 2018

Moonshot Round Table panel of speakers

On 22 March the US-Australia Cancer Moonshot Roundtable was held in Canberra. Professor Sean Grimmond from the Centre for Cancer Research at University of Melbourne and I attended with representatives from the US National Cancer Institute. Professor Anne Kelso of the National Health and Medical Research Council, Professor Ian Frazer of the Medical Research Future Fund and Andrew Forrest of the Minderoo Foundation were among the speakers.

Two years ago, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the US NCI and the Victorian State Government for promoting and conducting high-quality research and data-sharing.  It therefore came as no surprise that the roundtable opened with themes of urgency and acceleration.  US Charge d' Affaires, John Caruso and Australian philanthropist, Andrew Forrest, put patients at the centre of discussion, setting the scene with personal and passionate remarks.  

In terms of our local moonshot opportunities, coming into view are some clear areas of focus for the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre: cancer immunotherapies as a new dominant treatment; the importance of international genomic research for better outcomes for patients; and growing the opportunity to undertake a greater number of clinical trials more effectively.  

During March at the VCCC we hosted the inaugural State of the Art in Complex Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma Symposium as part of our Research & Education Lead program in Melanoma and Skin Cancer.  The event was attended by 80 clinicians and researchers,  and brought together a range of disciplines, highlighting the challenges in each area and enabling robust discussion on the similarities and differences.  The next steps will be to identify how collaboration may address the most urgent priorities.  Thanks to all who shared their expertise and those who will be engaged in formulating priorities to move toward better outcomes.

Next week, I am looking forward to meeting colleagues and staff at the Olivia Newton John Cancer Research Institute/Austin Health and also Western Health to continue to discuss the opportunities in the Strategic Research Plan (SRP). I encourage anyone working in cancer at these institutions to attend presentations to hear about the full scope of emerging projects and how they might support you, your work and your patients. We will also be presenting the SRP at WEHI later this month and at the VCCC in May.

With the many projects outlined in the SRP moving into development and early-implementation phase, we have been recruiting to build on the strength of our existing team to bring in the additional expertise we need to enable us to support the momentum of our exciting work.  

On the immediate horizon, we are about to commence a search for a VCCC Associate Director. When appointed, they will work alongside me to productively challenge traditional assumptions, optimise operational processes and creatively engage and respond to partners to assist us to realise shared goals.  This position, together with our growing team, new and existing Research & Education Leads and our advisory committees, including people with a lived experience of cancer, will enable us to pick up our pace. 

While at our core the VCCC remains a relatively small team, as a collaborative alliance we are becoming a larger, engaged group, building on our innovative enterprise for the benefit of cancer patients and families, ready to embrace the urgency articulated at the Canberra roundtable. 

More on the Associate Director position will be communicated in coming weeks via our website, and a new weekly VCCC link email, outlining current events and opportunities.

Grant McArthur
Executive Director