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05 Jun 2019
06-June 2019

Radiation physicist to broaden collaborations

  • Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre


The role of the radiation oncology medical physicist is to ensure therapy radiation doses are delivered accurately, optimally and within a quality assured environment. The physicist must understand the technology, equipment, computers, algorithms and regulations to ensure safe operation and quality of systems for the treatment of patients.

Add the word ‘research’ to the position and you get a Research Radiation Oncology Medical Physicist, focusing on clinical trials.

Facilitation, development and harmonisation

Dr Sarah Elliott has been appointed the VCCC Research Radiation Oncology Medical Physicist, she is located at Austin Health, working with the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre, and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. Sarah also works one day a week at Alfred Health as a medical physicist in radiotherapy, where she has almost 17 years’ experience.

“The opportunity to establish the role of a dedicated clinical trial physicist was just too good to pass up. The VCCC alliance means I have the opportunity to work across metro and regional hospitals, with different people, equipment and structures.”

Sarah said, “This is the first time this role has been made available in Victoria. Physicists can provide a lot of benefits to a trial, from accurate data recording and reporting, to producing a quality assurance framework for data and protocol verification.”

Sarah’s role will facilitate and develop the role of radiation oncology physicists within the clinical trials setting, “Creating collaborative networks and structures will harmonise clinical trial research and reporting, enable our teams to share knowledge and improve trial patient recruitment.”

Networks and knowledge share enable efficiencies

Support for the role comes from the VCCC Building Capacity Through Efficiency Program, to enable sustainable and efficient systems for radiation oncology.

“Through collaborations and consultations, I will be implementing policies, generating quality assurance activities, as well as developing quality credentialing processes for specific trials.”

“Translating research processes into clinical practice combines both science and healthcare. The role of a clinical trial physicist is to use scientific principles for practical advancement, such as contributing to higher quality and effective treatments for patients with cancer.”

New technology to initiate collaborative projects

The MR-Linac combines two technologies – an MRI scanner and a linear accelerator – to precisely image for tumour location in real-time and accurately deliver patient treatment, even when the tumor is moving.

Victoria’s first installation of this state-of-the-art technology is scheduled soon; to be located at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre.

Trials for the MR-Linac use are essential, Sarah said, for proving the clinical benefit of the MR-Linac, “This is innovative and complex technology. Trials will provide proof of clinical benefit, as well as incubate collaborative projects across disciplines such as imaging, radiology and oncology.”