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07 Oct 2019
10-October 2019

Executive Director's Message October 2019

  • Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre
Telling it like it is

We have been thrilled with the positive and productive feedback from last month’s Research Conference. Many have commented on how privileged they felt to witness the warm contribution from Olivia Newton-John in conversations during the morning plenary with me and during dinner with Professor Jonathan Cebon.

The inclusion of cancer ‘thriver’ stories throughout the two days really stood out for me. Despite years in the field, I am still bowled over by the honest, sometimes heart-rending and occasionally humorous insights generously shared by those with an experience of cancer. They are important stories and many of you positively endorsed this integral aspect of the conference.

Conveners Prof John Mariadason, Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute and A/Prof Kate Burbury, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and The Royal Melbourne Hospital are to be congratulated on the diversity of the program, as are all speakers and panel members for their excellent and varied presentations.  It was gratifying to welcome John Brumby to dinner and to have the opportunity to recognise his important contribution to the realisation of the VCCC alliance.

During the great debate A/Prof Kate Drummond from The Royal Melbourne Hospital described the VCCC as the ‘orchestrated collision of great minds’, and there were certainly moments when the Sofitel felt like the the ideal place on the planet from which to activate Doug Hanahan’s Battlespace Plan. Kudos to Doug and Kate Burbury who the morning after the conference shared a fascinating discussion on the ABC Radio National Life Matters program

We aimed to convene a creative, thought provoking event, bringing together many and varied threads of cutting-edge cancer research to unite a diverse audience. We hope we achieved this so thank you to our supporters and everyone who came along and participated.

Annual Report 2018-2019

In September we published the VCCC Annual Report and the year’s focus has been bringing to life to the many and varied programs outlined in our Strategic Research Plan. The report details progress and successes to-date, including:

  • Early outcomes from the VCCC Teletrial Program has delivered access to a clinical trial for over 35 patients in regional and rural locations, enabling these patients to access clinical trial therapies closer to home.

  • Innovative cancer registry trials are up and running, providing a cost-effective way to pursue clinical questions while maintaining trial rigour.

  • The future of cancer teaching and learning is assured with the creation of the Master of Cancer Sciences program, developed by a constantly growing network of 150 experts and educators actively engaged in the study design and delivery.

  • The VCCC’s development of the Nurse-led Research Hub has raised the visibility and appreciation of the value of nurse-led research and is accelerating the development of a nursing research culture.

  • The Centre for Cancer Immunotherapy was launched at the VCCC building, headed by Professor Joe Trapani as director bringing together researchers from six different institutions working together in one space for the first time. 
  • Activation of the VCCC’s flagship collaborative initiative the Research & Education Lead (R&E Lead) program resulted in the identification and prioritisation of key initiatives this year and to support their efforts, this busy and influential group gained access to learning in some non-traditional areas for medical leaders such as financial management. 
  • The VCCC’s Precision Oncology Program is creating a system to enable genomic testing to be integrated into standard clinical cancer care. In May this year the first eligible patients with advanced cancer were enrolled through the new system for genomic testing at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
  • A collaboration with BioGrid and the University of Melbourne is on the cusp of delivering game-changing, accessible data including primay care clinical data linked to hospital records. A new VCCC Cancer Health Data Hub will enable researchers to mine cancer ‘big data’ for insight into the care patients recive from GPs before and after cancer treatment and uncover factors that affect patient outcomes.

In a further exciting development in this area, I am delighted to welcome Professor Wendy Chapman; who has moved from the US to be Associate Dean for Digital Health and Informatics, directing a new Centre for Clinical and Public Health Informatics at the University of Melbourne.

External review this month

We are looking forward to showcasing the VCCC’s collective progress later this month as we welcome an external review panel appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to determine VCCC’s value and impact as we prepare for the next four-year strategic plan.

On the topic of planning, during October the DHHS is conducting a series of consultations to help inform the development of the Victorian Cancer Plan 2020-2024. I urge you to lend your voice to the conversation at one of the city or regional workshops or online through the Engage Victoria platform. 


Professor Grant McArthur
Executive Director