By Linda Music
As we close our doors today, it is timely to look back at what CONCERT has achieved since it was established on 1st July, 2014 as part of Cancer Institute of NSW initiative for Translational Cancer Research Centres.
From the outset, our key priorities included connecting our cancer community, building a superior high performance workforce, planning for the future and investing in cancer research excellence and innovation.
We recognised that by investing in emerging strategies we could lead high impact research in identified practice gaps both nationally and internationally.
We’re proud to say we delivered.
Our membership has grown over the years to 370 members and despite that we are closing our doors, we are excited by the many lasting friendships and research relationships that have been formed as a result of our organisation.
While we could go on for pages about our incredible achievements, we’ve highlighted just some below.
Researching global chemotherapy demand
The Collaboration for Cancer Outcomes Research and Evaluation (CCORE), led by Scientia Professor Michael Barton OAM, conducted an international study that predicted the number of patients requiring chemotherapy will rise each year from 9.8 million to 15 million globally between 2018-2040. The research, published in the Lancet Oncology https://doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(19)30163-9 was the first study to estimate the scale of chemotherapy provision needed at national, regional, and global scales. The study demonstrated that 100,000 cancer physicians will be required to provide chemotherapy by 2040, compared to 65,000 in 2018.
Dr Ben Smith and the Psycho-oncology research group undertook a comprehensive research program addressing fear of cancer recurrence (FCR). This produced a FCR research agenda, systematic review of FCR interventions, and iConquerFear, a digital health adaptation of an effective face-to-face therapist-delivered intervention to increase access to FCR treatment. The research, published in September 2019 https://doi.org/10.1002/pon.5218 demonstrated that the platform has potential to address the unmet supportive care needs of cancer survivors.
Repurposing chemotherapy drugs for cancer treatment
CONCERT members within the Illawarra region assembled a team of experts from medicinal chemistry, cancer biology, clinical trials, drug regulation and commercialisation to reformulate two cornerstone drugs (5-Fluorouracil and Leucovorin) used to treat many types of solid cancers.
Providing high quality education for our members
CONCERT developed and implemented an Educational Strategy which saw the development of a number of educational initiatives including the CONCERT T1/T2 Workshops which focused on the future of genomic medicine and CONCERT Roundtables.
Even when COVID hit in 2020, we were successfully able to pivot to online presentations which saw an increase in participants from across Sydney who may not have previously been able to attend the original face-to-face format due to its location in SW Sydney.
Reducing inequity of care for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) populations
Research by the Psycho-Oncology Research Group identified that non-English speaking CALD patients were half as likely to participate in research as CALD and non-CALD patients who spoke English. The results of this research enabled the collaboration between Psycho-Oncology, Clinical Trials Unit and CONCERT Biobank to create simplified and translated multimedia for recruiting CALD patients to research.
Empowering patients: PROMPT-Care
Led by Professor Afaf Girgis, the Patient Reported Outcome Measures for Personalised Treatment and Care (PROMPT-Care)was created to capture a patient’s symptoms, distress and unmet needs, in order to inform and provide self-management tools and resources. PROMPT-Care received the 2018 Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS) Quality Improvement Award for Healthcare Measurement.
Since commencing operations in 2012 the CONCERT Biobank has provided samples to researchers investigating the genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors linked to cancer. We have collected over 35,000 samples for over 40 research projects providing researchers with the help to investigate solutions into complex problems
Grants, grants and more grants
Over our years of operation, we have provided 18 grants for early/mid career researchers, infrastructure and bridging support grants. These grants have provided researchers with the vital funds to continue their research efforts.
World Cancer Day
We have been actively involved in World Cancer Day events, our most famous being in 2019. On that day, in February 2019, we demonstrated the excellent collaboration across the CONCERT/TCRN/SPHERE networks culminating in events such as the Sydney Harbour bridge climb by cancer survivors and a research in partnership event at the Sydney Opera House.
While CONCERT as a translational research centre will no longer exist effective 1 July 2021, our cancer researchers will continue working tirelessly in their respective specialties.
The CONCERT Council is grateful to have been a part of their research journey.
CONCERT Council: Minoti Apte, Michael Barton (retired), Therese Becker, Les Bokey, Lorraine Chantrill, Wei Chua, Geoff Delaney, Afaf Girgis, Lois Holloway, Soon Lee, Marie Ranson, Tara Roberts, Ben Smith, Kevin Spring, Desmond Yip