Cancer Council NSW and UNSW partner to establish Australian-first research centre for cancer survivors

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The Australian Research Centre for Cancer Survivorship will co-design, evaluate and implement evidence-based interventions to improve the quality of life for people who have survived cancer.

A new research centre focused on improving the care and wellbeing of cancer survivors will be established as part of a new 10-year partnership between UNSW Sydney and Cancer Council NSW (CCNSW).

The Australian Research Centre for Cancer Survivorship will inform practice, services and policy in the survivorship space across NSW and will act as a model for other Australian states and territories as well as internationally.

Created through a joint investment of $40 million from UNSW and CCNSW, the centre will leverage the existing expertise of two leading institutions – Cancer Council NSW, Australia’s largest cancer charity and UNSW, as well as building new capacity to drive research, education and advocacy in cancer survivorship.

Critically, the centre will partner with consumers and industry to develop, test, implement and evaluate ambitious solutions which address critical issues for cancer survivors. A major focus of the work will be breaking down barriers to access in regional and rural settings and greater engagement with primary care.

UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Attila Brungs said the new centre will further advance the University’s vision to improve access to world-class healthcare for all Australians.

“UNSW has a strong track record of innovative cancer survivorship initiatives in paediatric and adult cancers. This partnership with Cancer Council NSW is very exciting, particularly as this is the first of its type focused entirely on transforming the lives of cancer survivors,” he said.

“I welcome the Australian Research Centre for Cancer Survivorship to its home at UNSW. Through this partnership we will revolutionise the way health care is delivered for cancer survivors nationally.”

Cancer Council NSW CEO Professor Sarah Hosking said the announcement of the new centre is a pivotal moment in the organisations’ work to tackle cancer, supporting its’ strategic goal of improving the lives of cancer survivors.

Thanks to advances in cancer research, prevention, early detection and treatment more people than ever are surviving cancer, with 71% of people diagnosed with cancer in NSW surviving for five years or more. This means there are more cancer survivors – that’s more people living with and beyond cancer in our community who need ongoing support.

“At Cancer Council NSW we are committed to tackling cancer, by changing its path and making sure no one walks alone. The launch of the Australian Research Centre for Cancer Survivorship is a vital step as we work to ensure better support, better care and ultimately a better quality of life for cancer survivors, through an evidence-based approach and world-class researchers. We are delighted to partner with UNSW for the next 10 years to drive life-changing research outcomes and inform the best possible solutions for those living beyond a cancer diagnosis.”

It’s estimated there are currently over one million people living with and beyond cancer in Australia. Many survivors have long-term health needs stemming from their treatment, including physical and psychosocial illnesses.

Carolyn Heise, non-executive Director at Cancer Council NSW will reach five years cancer-free in June, after receiving a stage four terminal cancer diagnosis. Carolyn said:

“Cancer survivorship can mean many different things. There are more and more people, like me, who are living beyond a cancer diagnosis, or who are living with cancer that is a chronic condition, but not life ending. We need to explore this and better support the needs of these people, their remaining traumas or the physical ailments they are left with post-treatment.

“I have cared for hundreds of cancer patients throughout my time as an oncology nurse, however I didn’t truly understand what it means to go through cancer until I experienced it myself. With more people than ever surviving cancer, we have an opportunity to learn from them as we embark on this partnership with UNSW. I’m looking forward to seeing the outcomes, which I know will change lives for the better.”

The impact of issues relating to cancer survivorship is growing in complexity and scale. In many cancers, rates of diagnosis are increasing. Survival rates in many cancers are improving, often dramatically.

Professor Elgene Lim, Cancer theme lead at UNSW Medicine & Health, said, “While there is increasing recognition that the needs of cancer survivors are complex, robust evidence with which to support best practice is relatively lacking. There is a critical need for research.”

“Improving survivorship-care has the potential to greatly improve prevention of secondary cancers and early intervention strategies for numerous side-effects of treatment. We also have the chance to significantly improve psychosocial well-being and give survivors and their families the support they across their lives.”

UNSW Medicine & Health is a world leading faculty, with multidisciplinary cancer research a major focus. Underpinning the partnership are UNSW’s strengths in clinical sciences, implementation science, analysis and linkage of big health data, and the University’s network of Local Health Districts and Primary Health Care providers.

“UNSW’s network provides a unique test bed to co-design, evaluate and implement interventions and programs of multidisciplinary care,” Prof. Lim said.