Our Clinical Network members who volunteer their valuable time and expertise, are vital to how we affect change. They support our work through contributions to submissions, advisory groups, research projects, event planning and presentations. Our members also provide expert advice to the Cancer Council by reviewing our cancer resources and through media commentary. We have summarised the highlights of Clinical Network activity for 2016 below.
It's our 40th anniversary!
This year the Clinical Network celebrated 40 years of connecting Victorian cancer clinicians. We reflected on our significant history while marking the celebration with an event at The European, 161 Spring St, Melbourne. The event was attended by many new and longstanding Clinical Network members and included presentations by;
- Todd Harper - Chief Executive Officer, Cancer Council Victoria
- A/Prof Jeremy Millar - Chair of the Clinical Network
- A/Prof Raymond Snyder - recently retired Director of Medical Oncology, St Vincent's Hospital, and an inaugural Clinical Network member
Since its formation in 1976, the Clinical Network has utilised an influential and diverse body of clinical experts who inform Cancer Council policies and programs and employ a range of cooperative measures to optimise cancer care and patient outcomes for all Victorians.
Victoria's next Cancer Plan was released
The State Government Victorian Cancer Plan was launched by the Health Minister Jill Hennessy on Friday 22 July at the Western Hospital. The Clinical Network made a submission to the Health Minister outlining our priorities for the Victorian cancer plan. The Health Minster was also sent a report outlining priorities of Victorians with a lived experience of cancer, ascertained through a consultation process undertaken by the Clinical Network last year in collaboration with Cancer Action Victoria.
The priorities outlined in the Victorian Cancer Plan and in the Clinical Network submission are aligned, in particular, taking a patient centred, long term approach; an emphasis on research and clinical trials; supportive care and addressing equity of access and a reduction of health inequalities.
You can download the Victorian Cancer Plan from www.health.vic.gov.au/cancer
Policy and advocacy work
Access to Medicinal Cannabis Act 2016 - Key information for cancer clinicians
The Access to Medicinal Cannabis Act 2016 (the Act) establishes a system for the regulation, manufacture, supply, prescription and administration of medicinal cannabis in Victoria. The Clinical Network worked with the McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer to develop a fact sheet for health professionals which summarises the Act. The Victorian Government is taking a phased approach to implementation of the medicinal cannabis scheme.
Genomic Health for Victoria
In October the Clinical Network and McCabe Centre for Cancer wrote a submission to the call for responses to the 'Genomic Health Care for Victoria - A Discussion Paper', released by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The discussion paper is part of the process for developing a new Victorian genetic and genomic services strategy. The proposed strategy aims to provide a framework for guiding the appropriate service and infrastructure planning of public genetic and genomic healthcare in Victoria. The framework was released in late December and a consultation is now open.
High Mortality Cancers Alliance
Cancer Council Victoria coordinated the establishment of the Victorian High Mortality Cancers Alliance - a group of 11 organisations that are advocating to the Victorian Government to increase research funding for cancers with a five year mortality rate of less than 30%. For some, it’s as low as 7 per cent¹.
The Alliance formed this year and have written to the Victorian Health Minister, engaged clinicians and researchers working in this space and plan to launch next year. We share the common goal of striving for improvements for cancers with low survival rates. Cancer Council Victoria is the coordinating organisation for the Alliance.
¹ Source: Victorian Cancer Registry – Cancer in Victoria, Statistics and Trends 2014.
Advocating against the closure of lymphodaemia clinics
Working in partnership with the Australasian Lymphology Association, Lymphoedema Association of Victoria and Breast Cancer Network Australia, Cancer Council Victoria wrote to the Minister for Health regarding the change to Lymphoedema services in Victoria in October. Lymphoedema services at Mercy Health and Eastern Health recently stopped taking new referrals. As a result, these organisations received complaints from clinicians and patients about the impact of these closures and the accessibility of lymphoedema services around the state.
We are advocating for Victorian health services to ensure patients experiencing symptoms either have access to outpatient lymphoedema services as part of their service delivery or refer patients to a service that has an acceptable waiting time and will not involve an out of pocket cost for the patient.
Law and Cancer Events
Clinical Network in partnership with the McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer ran two events during Law Week in May.
Law and cancer: how the law impacts on cancer and the responsibilities of cancer clinicians - for clinicians, health professionals and the legal sector. A lively multi-disciplinary medical and legal panel discussed the complexities related to the legal frameworks impacting on cancer care.
Discussing death and dying: advance care planning - this event provided a welcoming space in which cancer patients, their carers and health professionals could gain a better understanding of how advance care planning can support better decision-making at the end of life.
Brain Cancer Action Week Forum
Presented on Friday 6 May 2016 at Cancer Council Victoria, the Brain Cancer Action Week forum provided brain tumour patients and carers a chance to meet others in a similar situation and hear about developments in treatment. Topics discussed included:
- Developments in personalised brain cancer treatment
- Personal stories from patients and carers
- Practical challenges: fatigue, rehab, returning to work
- The latest in paediatric brain cancers and late effects.
- Psychological challenges: the caring role, living with uncertainty
The sessions were open to patients, carers or anyone interested in learning about brain cancer.
Clinical trial projects and research work
Clinical Trials Management Scheme (CTMS) Review
Through the Clinical Trials Management Scheme (CTMS), the Clinical Network has been providing funding to clinical trial sites across Victoria since 1988 to help support on-site data management. Part of this program involves collecting recruitment data, monitoring trials activity and promoting clinical trials through our online resources - the Victorian Cancer Trials Link (VCTL) which currently receives between 1000 and 1500 visits a month and now the VCTL App. An evolving trials landscape, no increase in funding available and the findings of the Additional Funding Intervention Trial, resulted in a review of the CTMS program in 2015.
The recommendations made by the review committee were recently endorsed by the Cancer Council Victoria Board resulting in changes to the funding program.
The recommendations made by the review committee were approved by the Board of Cancer Council Victoria, resulting in changes to the funding programs. The new scheme aims to increase patient access to clinical trials through two funding components:
- Continued support to sites, by providing some reimbursement for data provision (annual recruitment data collection and monthly trial updates) and maintaining and updating the online resources for trial promotion.
- The introduction of a competitive grants scheme aimed to fund fewer sites, a more meaningful financial contribution. The competitive component of the scheme will provide funding over a three year period to implement strategies designed to meet the schemes aim.
Participating sites have been notified of the revised CTMS. An interim Governance Committee has been convened to develop the details and there is a FAQ’s document available.
The annual recruitment data commenced in April and payments will be made to sites mid-year.
The strategic changes made to the scheme will ensure the program remains viable and sustainable in an ever-evolving trials landscape.
Promotion and Awareness of Cancer Clinical Trials (PACCT)
Earlier this year, Clinical Network was successful in obtaining a grant from the Ian Potter Foundation to promote and increase awareness of cancer clinical trials in Victoria.
With this funding, the Promotion and Awareness of Cancer Clinical Trials (PACCT) project was established, and seeks to improve the lay accessibility of the Victorian Cancer Trials Link (VCTL) website. Developed in 2009, the VCTL website is a searchable portal, which aims to provide consumers with quick and easy access to relevant clinical trials.
To inform improvements to this website, a series of interviews are being held with people affected by cancer, to gather their impressions about the current design and usability of the VCTL website. The outcomes produced from these interviews will have many positive implications for clinicians, consumers and their families searching for cancer clinical trials in Victoria and will ensure the VCTL website adequately supports the people who use it.
Other equally important components of the PACCT project include the pilot of a peer support program for people considering cancer clinical trials, the development of a webinar with expert speakers and patient experiences about cancer clinical trials, and the promotion of cancer clinical trials more broadly.
Cancer Care Coordinators Mapping project
The role of cancer care coordinators can vary enormously. The Clinical Network has been working with Deakin University on a project aiming to identify the geographic location and scope of practice of cancer care coordinators in Victoria.
An online survey was disseminated in July through 15 peak organisations for oncology health professionals to individuals whose work involved coordinating the care of cancer patients in Victoria. Data is being analysed from 91 respondents working in care coordination. The preliminary survey results suggest that the cancer care coordinator workforce in Victoria is diverse and there is considerable demand for the service. The write up of the project will occur in early January.
Thank you for your ongoing support this year. We look forward to working with you in 2017.