The Melbourne Genomics Cancer Statewide project is testing different ways of providing world-class genomic care in regional and metropolitan hospitals.

It ultimately means that more Victorians can access precision treatment for cancer, closer to home.

This project is led by the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

Genomics and cancer care

Genomics can inform the diagnosis and treatment of some types of cancer.

Complex genomic profiling is a test that searches for hundreds of variants within a cancer at the same time. This can help identify complex cancers and determine the right kind of treatment.

The test can be performed on a sample of DNA from the cancer through a biopsy, or by analysing small particles of cancer DNA present in a patient’s blood.

See how a genomic test changed Michael’s cancer diagnosis and treatment.

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What we’ve done

The Melbourne Genomics Advanced Solid Cancers Clinical Project (2016-2020) demonstrated how genomic sequencing could inform the diagnosis and treatment of patients with advanced solid cancers.

In the study, 58% of cancer patients who had a genomic test got an informative result, which would not have been detected through usual care.

Of those patients, 42% had a change in care because of their genomic result.

Genomics is a complex field and still new to many oncologists.

The next step is to determine the most appropriate ways for oncologists to access genomic expertise when their patients need it.

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What we’re doing now

The Cancer Statewide project road-tests three different models of care in rural and metropolitan hospitals. This will enable hospitals to choose a model that’s right for them, and increase the use of genomics in cancer treatment across Victoria.

  • Independent model: Genomic testing is offered and organised by on-site oncologists. This means that regional patients may need to travel to larger hospitals to undergo genomic testing.
  • Centralised model with telehealth: Patients are referred from their local hospital to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, but will not have to travel. Telehealth is used to discuss genomic testing and the results of the test.
  • Local superuser model: Oncologists at each site are supported by a local genomic expert, who has access to ongoing genomics education and expertise via the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

Each model is being trialled at a metropolitan and regional hospital. Six hospitals are involved: Ballarat Cancer Centre, Monash Health, Cabrini Hospital, Latrobe Regional Hospital, The Northern Hospital and Goulburn Valley Health.

What we learn can help other Victorian hospitals to choose the model of genomic care that’s right for them. This will help make genomic testing more widely available in oncology.

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Meet the team

Project leads: The Cancer Statewide project is led by Dr Kortnye Smith and A/Prof Jayesh Desai of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. The project team includes Dr Laura Forrest, Prof Stephen Fox, Dr Lavinia Tan of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Dr Natalie Taylor of the University of NSW and Michelle Tew of the University of Melbourne.

Consumer panel: Three consumer representatives are informing the patient-facing aspects of this project. Bonney Corbin is an urban and regional planner who has had various cancer-related surgeries due to genetic variants. Jo Cockwill is Deputy Chair of the VCCC Alliance Cancer Consumer Advisory Committee, and has lived experience both as a carer and patient. Victoria Sharp is a consumer representative with Peter Mac and VCCC Alliance, and has collaborated with the cancer community on several research projects.

The Cancer Statewide project is funded by the Victorian Government and the members of the Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance.

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Melbourne Genomics acknowledges the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, on whose lands we work, and all First Nations peoples across Victoria. We pay respect to Elders past and present. We also acknowledge the First Nations health professionals, researchers and leaders who are shaping the future of genomic medicine.

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