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27 Feb 2017
Press Release

Leading the way

  • Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre
  • Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
  • Monash University

VCCC Research & Education Program Symposia shine a light on key issues

A key role for the Research & Education Leads is to work within their tumour stream to identify and facilitate opportunities for collaborative research and integrated education to expedite delivery of promising treatments and models of care that will benefit patients.

Innovative research meetings are an important means of disseminating relevant new and emerging research in novel areas and assessing potential for further collaboration among VCCC partners.

Recent Workshops: Lung Cancer and Pancreatic Cancer

Evidence of the benefits of exercise and physical activity in the management of cancer is growing, particularly for cancers with improved survival rates such as breast and prostate cancers. In lung cancer, where respiratory function is frequently compromised, exercise can be challenging but nevertheless may improve quality of life, even though survival time may be relatively short. However, a role for allied health personnel who can provide guidance on exercise in the multidisciplinary management of patients is frequently lacking.

A symposium on Exercise and Lung Cancer, hosted by A/Prof Gavin Wright VCCC Research & Education Lead for Lung Cancer, was held at the VCCC on the evening of 27 June. The program brought together physiotherapists and medical specialists in anaesthesiology, respiratory medicine radiation and medical oncology and in palliative care from across the VCCC. It examined the role exercise can play across the care continuum for patients with lung cancer.

More than 100 participants, including many allied health practitioners, nursing and medical staff, heard evidence that exercise prior to surgery can improve surgical outcomes, can potentially make initially inoperable patients fit for surgery, may improve tolerance for treatment, quality of life in metastatic disease and contribute to palliative care. The take-home message from the evening was that exercise should not be overlooked as a therapeutic intervention in lung cancer. Further action will be taken to establish closer ties between allied health personnel and medical specialists in lung cancer towards collaborative research activity.

Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of any cancer and is associated with a multitude of genetic mutations which may explain why it is so hard to treat. Although a less common cancer, its incidence is growing with over 3,000 cases estimated in Australia this year. Collaborative efforts, between those who care for patients and those who research the mechanisms underlying pancreatic cancer, are essential if progress is to occur in tackling this challenging disease.

On Wednesday 19 July at WEHI, A/Prof Peter Gibbs VCCC Research & Education Lead for Gastrointestinal Cancers, hosted a symposium Pancreatic Cancer: Registries, Trials and Translational Research. The aim of the symposium was to bring the field together across a diverse range of clinical experts: gastroenterologists, surgeons, oncologists and clinical trials specialists, and with clinical and scientific researchers. Fifty-five attendees and presenters from across VCCC and Monash University gathered.

The potential of new avenues maximising the use of patient data for understanding clinical management and contributing to research in this difficult cancer was featured. Registries, where actual clinical data is captured, can provide an important repository of information about clinical outcomes, treatment patterns, selection for clinical trials and can also assist scientific research. Research into circulating tumour DNA, molecular profiling of pancreatic cancers, the use of organoid cultures and animal models to understand molecular pathways was also illustrated.

The niche expertise of those working in pancreatic cancer care and the outstanding scientific research provides encouragement that the VCCC can become a collaborative hub for real progress against this devastating disease.

The Exercise and Physical Activity in Lung Cancer symposium was recorded and can be viewed as a free webinar. 

Contributed by Dr Elizabeth Johnson, Program Manager