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Clinical trials receive $1.5 million boost for Victorians affected by cancer

Monday, 22 November 2021

Access to Victorian cancer clinical trials will be improved thanks to $1.5 million in grants awarded by Cancer Council Victoria today, including a project to establish the first regional allied health cancer clinical trials unit at Barwon Health.

Together with the Victorian Government, through the Victorian Cancer Agency, Cancer Council Victoria will fund three projects over three years to help build capacity in the clinical trials sector and support more people affected by cancer to participate in clinical trials.

The grants announced today will support initiatives that address an unmet need and build capacity for clinical trials in cancer survivorship and supportive care.

This three-year project will bring together consumers and leaders from Barwon Health’s Allied Health, Cancer Services and Clinical Trials teams, to design and develop a unique Allied Health Clinical Trials Unit based at the Adrian Costa Clinical Trials Centre. Victorians in regional and rural communities will, for the first time, be able to access innovative, allied health-led trials locally instead of travelling to Melbourne.

Catherine Williams, senior physiotherapist at Barwon Health, who is leading the project, said it would build the capacity of allied health professionals to develop, conduct and engage in clinical trials in cancer survivorship and supportive care that aim to improve people’s cancer experience and outcomes. 

“Allied health professionals provide vital clinical care, and through the relationships they form with people diagnosed with cancer they are well-placed to identify and investigate possible areas for improvement I am enthusiastic to see an environment where allied health interventions can be examined and recognised on equal footing with medical and pharmaceutical interventions.

“This funding will give us the opportunity to  not only support change in survival statistics, but also to empower people with cancer to seek out the best quality of life possible, wherever they are in their cancer experience.” 

Danielle Spence, Head of Strategy and Support at Cancer Council Victoria, said the organisation was committed to improving access to clinical trials, and wanted to address a gap in funding.

“Research into supportive and survivorship care is greatly needed to find new ways to improve the quality of life for patients and survivors and help to better understand which interventions should be incorporated into standard practice so all people can benefit from them,” she said.

The second project, led by the University of Melbourne, will help the community palliative care sector to undertake clinical trials and use telehealth to support people with cancer in the community to participate.

The third project, led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, will develop a smartphone app to engage children and adolescents who have been treated for childhood cancer and their families as they recover from treatment and to facilitate equitable access to supportive care and survivorship clinical trials. 

Danielle Spence said the Cancer Trials Management Scheme grants were made possible thanks to generous donations to Cancer Council Victoria and thanked the Victorian Government for their ongoing support.

“This is the second time Cancer Council Victoria has partnered with the Victorian Government to award grant funding through the Cancer Trials Management Scheme,” Danielle said.

“By investing in clinical trials, Cancer Council Victoria and the Victorian Government are fostering innovation in cancer to save lives.” 

In addition to funding research, Cancer Council Victoria also manages the Victorian Cancer Trials Link website, allowing patients to search for clinical trials and facilitating access to trials for cancer patients and clinicians in Victoria.