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36 years of VCOG activites

Wednesday 1 August, 2012

VCOG has been in operation since 1976.

The role and objectives of VCOG have changed significantly since then. We felt it timely to take a look back and reflect on what we've achieved since 1976.

In 1975 the Medical & Scientific Committee of the then Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria believed there was a problem with the management of solid tumours requiring chemotherapy in Victoria, as well as the lack of postgraduate and undergraduate training in that area. It seemed important also to ensure that the use of highly toxic, expensive drugs developed along rational lines. The Medical & Scientific Committee appointed a representative Steering Committee to "explore all aspects of the development of chemotherapy", which met in March 1976. This led to the formal establishment in 1976 of the Victorian Cooperative Chemotherapy Group (VCCG).

In 1976 the Victorian Chemotherapy Cooperative Group (VCCG) formed. The group met formally in June and November 1976, under the chairmanship of Dr Doug B Pearce, Chairman of the Anti-Cancer Council's Medical & Scientific Committee. The VCCG was formed as a sub-committee of the Medical & Scientific Committee. In this way the Anti-Cancer Council took legal responsibility for the activity of the Group, employed staff, and provided continuity to the project. Representatives were nominated by all major metropolitan teaching hospitals.

The original emphasis of the VCCG was on cooperation and coordination of the development of chemotherapy – at the time a fairly new method of treatment for cancer in Victoria.

The VCCG provided grants to general hospitals toward improving and increasing their facilities for cancer chemotherapy. The grants were made over three years, and provided assistance towards employment of medical oncologists, social workers, and nurses. Hospitals included Alfred Hospital, Austin Hospital, Prince Henry's Hospital, Queen Victoria Hospital, Royal Melbourne Hospital, St Vincent's Hospital and Geelong Hospital. A total of $200,010 was provided between 1977 and 1980.

1980 the Executive Committee of VCCG formed and in 1981 VCCG changed their name to Victorian Cooperative Oncology Group (VCOG) – reflecting the change in activities of the group.

The aims and objectives at the time were:

  1. To advise the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria through the Medical and Scientific Committee on clinical aspects of cancer and in particular prevention, diagnosis, treatment and professional education.
  2. To promote, facilitate and coordinate cooperative studies on all aspects of cancer.
  3. To encourage and facilitate the recording of information on patients with cancer in a standard way.
  4. To consider all applications for help relating to trials

In 1983 VCOG conducted a workshop with the view that much might be gained if the various units in Victoria that were concerned with handling cancer cases recorded their data in a standard way. The recommendations of the workshop included the use of common terms in the recording of data on cancer patients, which were implemented with the assistance of the Victorian Cancer Registry.

In 1984 A committee was established to review cancer services in Victoria – Chaired by Professor Emeritus RRH Lovell, and coordinated through the offices of VCOG. VCOG made a submission on the multi-disciplinary approach to the management of cancer, as well as providing the Review Committee with the reports on rationalisation.

1987 saw changes in clinical trials and data management. A VCOG working party provided evidence that the major difficulty with participation in clinical trials was the lack of on-site facilities in hospitals for data collection and handling. It proposed that a system of hospital-based data managers be funded according to needs within each institution, and that the visiting data handling service provided by the Trials Secretariat be phased out.

In 1988 the Cancer Trials (Hospital-based) Data Management Scheme was established. The objective of the scheme was to increase the participation of clinicians in clinical trials concerned with the management of cancer. Grants were provided to 8 hospitals for the appointment of 4 full-time and 4part-time data handlers for clinical trials. The budget was $200,000. The Scheme would be reviewed annually.

1997 The VCOG Committee supported the proposal to establish VCOG as part of a unit of the Anti-Cancer Council, changing its status from a sub-committee of the Medical & Scientific Committee. In June 1997, the Anti-Cancer Council's Executive Committee approved the establishment of the Centre for Clinical Research in Cancer, incorporating the Victorian Cooperative Oncology Group (VCOG). The Centre for Clinical Research in Cancer (CCRC) became a centre ‘without walls', and built on the achievements of VCOG, providing a coordinated and effective increased resource for clinical research in Victoria.

The CCRC established a secretariat, which provided management and administrative support for the VCOG and its sub-committees. The daily functions of the Centre were the responsibility of the Executive Officer, in consultation with the VCOG Chair and the CCRC Executive Committee.

2005 Cancer Services Framework for Victoria – VCOG made a joint submission with Cancer Council Victoria to the Department of Health stating support for the review and development of a cancer services framework for Victoria. The submission highlighted that cancer management was in a constant state of development, and it was important that the framework developed be flexible and not exceed 5 years. The submission also highlighted workforce issues, particularly in palliative care and medical oncology; increases in and distribution of clinical services; support for multi-disciplinary care; collection and processing of standard clinical data; increased support for clinical trials.

In the last few years...

In 2009 funding was obtained through a Victorian Cancer Agency grant to establish the Victorian Cancer Trials Link (VCTL). This is an online database of cancer clinical trials being conducted in Victoria.

2011 saw the VCOG Survey: Optimising Cancer Care in Victoria: A Survey of Cancer Clinicians completed. Over 190 Victorian clinicians working in oncology participated in a survey to ascertain the strategies clinicians believed were important in optimising cancer care in Victoria. The results have been collated by our Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer and are soon to be released. These results will inform VCOG's advocacy initiatives and how we provide ongoing support to VCOG members.

In 2012 we will be focusing on the Agenda for Cancer Control: This will become VCOG's overarching advocacy tool. This piece of work will highlight priorities for VCOG members for improving cancer care in Victoria.