THE number and type of clinical trials available to Western Health’s oncology patients is on the rise thanks to a prestigious Cancer Council Victoria grant.
Currently only 3.8 per cent of Western Health’s cancer patients are admitted into a clinical trial – well below the universal benchmark of 10 per cent. A lack of health funding generally across Melbourne’s western suburbs, as well as the language barriers inherent in a very multicultural community, are among the many reasons why the admission rates to clinical cancer trials are low.
However an enterprising team from Western Health is working hard to change that, having successfully bid for a highly competitive $632,000 grant from Cancer Council Victoria and the Victorian Cancer Agency.
The team – comprising Prof Michael Green, Prof Jon Emery, A/Prof Peter Gibbs, Dr Sumitra Ananda, Dr Dishan Herath, Heike Raunow, Dr William Renwick, Dr Duncan Carradice, Meron Pitcher, Dr Phillip Tran and A/Prof Lara Lipton – is now working on maximising the number and types of trials available to Western Health patients. The three-year project will have a particular focus on patients from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Prof Green, Western Health’s Director of Cancer Services, said the funding would provide more equitable access to clinical trials for Western Health patients with cancer, as well as increasing the overall numbers of patients on clinical trials.
“It’s important to appreciate that clinical trials drive quality in patient care because they set the standards for future treatments,” said Prof Green, pictured with Ms Raunow, left, and Dr Ananda, right.
Ms Raunow, Western Health’s Manager of Cancer Research, said more than 200 Western Health oncology patients currently participate in a clinical trial every year.
She said the research team would be taking a multi-pronged approach to increasing these rates. Strategies will include identifying potential research collaborators from other institutes, as well assessing how IT systems could be better used to identify trial candidates from patient records.
Cancer Council Victoria chief executive Todd Harper said it was important for as many cancer patients as possible to have access to a clinical trial.
“Trials are a valid treatment option and are a component of a gold standard health care system,” he said. “In fact, standard treatments that extend and improve the lives of countless patients today are the result of clinical trials of the past.”
Western Health is one of the biggest providers of cancer services in Victoria. The western suburbs have the highest rate of cancer incidence of any area in metropolitan Melbourne.