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Back to all 05-May-2019
06 May 2019
05-May 2019

Leading advances in clinical trials

  • Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre

The VCCC alliance is leading change in Australia’s clinical trials landscape and increasing access to clinical trials to benefit the Victorian community. Drawing on the collective knowledge, skills, experiences and technologies of the 10 members, the VCCC is uniquely positioned to facilitate creative solutions to a variety of challenges and opportunities in clinical trials. Our strategic approach encompasses all aspects of clinical trials development to:

  • Increase access
  • Overhaul processes
  • Implement innovations
  • Expand the workforce to deliver substantive outcomes

Efforts across the alliance have positioned Victoria as a trailblazer in our region in research-led, consumer-informed and evidence-based cancer care. 

Access to clinical trials closer to home

Most traditional clinical trials are only accessible at large metropolitan hospitals, meaning patients living in regional and rural locations are required to travel to access trial treatment. The teletrials model uses a hub and spoke method, enabling trial implementation beyond the primary hospital location and allowing patients to access trial treatment closer to home. However, the shift requires rigorous procedures, skilled people and connected technologies.

“Based on the COSA Australasian Tele-trials Model, the VCCC Teletrials Program has implemented a method for clinical trial delivery through multiple primary and satellite sites with differing levels of skills and technologies,” VCCC Program Manager Alana Donaldson said.

Increasing the number of trials accessible at regional and rural locations can provide for more recruitment, increase retention and engagement, facilitate data collection in a more natural setting, as well as shorten study time and decrease costs.

Lifting clinical trial capacity

Combining conventional trial methods with registry systems enables simple, pragmatic questions to be answered, at a far lower cost than conventional trials to provide real-world evidence.

The VCCC Registry Trial Program tests a novel design that employs data collected during routine care to produce baseline measures and outcome evidence so that larger numbers of patients can participate in clinical trials.

VCCC Research & Education Lead and program champion Professor Peter Gibbs is a clinician-scientist at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and medical oncologist at Western Health, and says, “Registry trials will enable us to evaluate multiple treatment strategies and give oncologists more insight into the best approaches for improving health outcomes for individual patients.”

Developing the next generation, highly skilled workforce

Expanding Victoria’s clinical trial activity, calls for a highly trained workforce, capable of meeting the increasing demand. An analysis of needs in the sector uncovered a deficit in professional development pathways to support staff from entry level to leadership.

Parkville Cancer Clinical Trials Unit (PCCTU) Manager and program champion, Marian Lieschke comments, “Education and training that delivers recognised best practice and fills unmet needs is key to achieving the clinical trials workforce trajectory.”

The VCCC Development of Clinical Trials Workforce Capacity and Capability Program in partnership with the PCCTU has established two internship entry-levels to provide both theoretical and hands-on learning for clinical trials assistants and study coordinators. Both positions have high demand for qualified candidates. The internships have attracted scientific students into the clinical trial workforce; increasing their employability within the sector and providing opportunities to learn on-the-job.

Broadening and diversifying clinical trial groups

Oncological disciplines not often associated with clinical trials, such as radiotherapy, palliative care, surgery and anesthesiology are advancing with support from the VCCC Investigator-Initiated Trial Capacity Building Program. The breadth and depth of these investigator-initiated clinical trials will improve treatment standards and increase our knowledge for better patient care.

Of significance is palliative care, where trials will provide evidence-based outcomes to improve quality-of-life. Through the VCCC Building Trial Group Capability Program, the palliative care group has capitalised on Victoria’s expertise in the field, providing clinical trials to patients who have not previously benefited from this type of research.

Program champion, VCCC Chair of Palliative Care at the University of Melbourne and St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, Professor Jennifer Philip says, “Clinical trials in palliative care have shown us that palliative care itself improves people’s outcomes - they feel better, have a better quality of life and live longer.

Where to from here?

The VCCC’s goal is to increase Victoria’s current cancer clinical trial participation rate. This can be achieved through new approaches, methods, people and disciplines.

Blue sky thinking is required to develop a strategic approach that capitalises on our collective successes and provides direction for next generation cancer clinical trials.

The VCCC is currently progressing strategic research planning, contact us via email vccc-alliance@unimelb.edu.au to contribute.