Australian first program supports Victorian cancer patients’ access to precision medicine

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The program has already made a difference for patient Catherine Crowl (not pictured), from regional Victoria, who is now on a clinical trial for her rare and difficult cancer. [Source: Shutterstock]

Access to cutting edge personalised cancer treatments and the sharing of genetic testing information to further improve treatments are among the aims of a new Monash Partners Comprehensive Cancer Consortium (MPCCC)-led program.

In a stride towards equitable and advanced cancer care, The MPCCC, which is an alliance partnering eight of Victoria’s largest hospitals with Monash University, has launched an Australian first Fellows Program to address inequitable access to molecular testing in Victoria.

The program has already made a difference for patient Catherine Crowl, from regional Victoria, who is now on a clinical trial for her rare and difficult cancer.

Ms Crowl, from Foster in South Gippsland, which is 2.5 hours from a major city, demonstrates the program’s impact. Diagnosed with a challenging-to-treat bile duct cancer, Catherine’s journey took a positive turn after her primary treating team had exhausted conventional treatments.

The MPCCC facilitated molecular testing, which detected an ERBB2 mutation. Her case was discussed at an MPCCC molecular tumour board meeting with Fellows and other cancer experts from across Australia, resulting in her participation in a clinical trial.

Of people living with cancer, one in five have a type affected by unique genetic mutations, which can significantly impact treatment approaches.

Unfortunately, many patients and doctors are unaware of how to access the molecular testing required to identify these mutations, leading to some patients missing out on the opportunity to receive effective therapies or to participate in clinical trials.

To address this critical gap, The MPCCC has strategically placed eight highly skilled and dedicated clinical oncology and pathology fellows across five leading cancer hospitals – The Alfred, Monash Health, Cabrini Health, Eastern Health and Peninsula Health.

MPCCC co-director and Director of Oncology at The Alfred, Professor Mark Shackleton, said that lack of awareness about and access to molecular testing was a big issue for those who didn’t live close to a big city hospital.

“It has typically been very hard for such remotely located patients to get access to such expertise, which is now provided by our fellows. The MPCCC’s new fellows program really solves this problem,” he said.

“The MPCCC fellows placed in each hospital are aiming to increase access to genomic testing and connect patients with cutting-edge clinical trials based on molecular results.”

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