By Linda Music
Twenty years ago, Professor Michael Barton left his role as staff specialist at Westmead Hospital to head up a newly formed group: Collaboration for Cancer Outcomes Research and Evaluation (CCORE).
Since then, the team (which consists of 10 permanent members and approximately five PhD students) have worked tirelessly to improve cancer outcomes, not only for people in South West Sydney, but the world. Indeed, their 2005 research into the optimal utilisation of radiotherapy (which was revised in 2014) led to the development of radiotherapy guidelines which are currently being used and acknowledged worldwide.
Recent research by the group, published in the May 2019 issue of Lancet Oncology, examined how the growing incidence of cancer worldwide will affect global chemotherapy demands, particularly the demand for cancer physicians. Their research showed that while 65,000 cancer physicians were required to deliver optimal chemotherapy in 2018, this figure is estimated to increase to 100,000 by 2040.
“This research is important as it allows us to plan for the number of physicians we need globally to ensure cancer patients are treated according to best-practice evidence-based guidelines,” explains Professor Barton.
CCORE works closely with the Cancer Therapy Centre at Liverpool Hospital in Sydney’s South West and this collaborative relationship has played a critical role in the group’s success.
“Our success is due to the fact that we work closely with clinicians to improve cancer outcomes. This collaborative approach drives our research into the most effective ways of implementing best practice measures into routine clinical practice,” Professor Barton explains.
The group is currently working on a range of different research projects which aim to further improve cancer outcomes. One of these is looking at surgical utilisation for cancer, with a particular focus on the proportion of cancer cases needing surgery and how large the growth in demand for cancer surgery will be. They are particularly interested in the impact on Low and Middle Income Countries. Results should be published later this year.
CCORE is also currently conducting a study into cancer treatment in older people.
“Most cancer trials exclude people over 65. But in today’s society we see people in their 70s and 80s who are fit enough to participate. So, we’re investigating how to include these people,” explains Professor Barton.
Including these people in clinical trials is particularly important due to the higher prevalence of cancer in this age group and to counter the prejudice that older people will not benefit from cancer treatment.
Despite its relatively young age, CCORE has managed to make a huge impact on cancer policy and practice across the state, the country and globally. CCORE’s ongoing commitment ensures that patients will continue to benefit from the team’s research, ultimately producing improved cancer outcomes.