New funding to build capacity for cancer care and research across Monash Partners

The Monash Partners Comprehensive Cancer Consortium (MPCCC), will advance collaborative programs outlined in its 2017 – 2021 strategic plan thanks to new funding provided by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

The funding was confirmed in mid-April and will include $219,000 to pilot a shared care model for cancer-related depression. Aimed at building the capacity of the psych-oncology workforce to better service the needs of patients across Monash Partners health services, this pilot program will train and mentor community based psychologists to treat cancer related depression and will establish a patient referral pathway from the acute hospital setting to community based services, so that cancer patients can access these services close to where they live.

“Clinical depression is the most prevalent psychological condition affecting cancer patients, but many patients do not receive treatment for their depression, due to a chronic shortfall in the hospital based psycho-oncology workforce” said Prof David Kissane, project lead and Head of the Department of Psychiatry at Monash University, Monash Health and Cabrini.

Clinical depression is the most prevalent psychological condition affecting cancer patients.

“Community based psychologists aligned with general practices need training to confidently counsel cancer patients who become depressed, creating a collaborative care model between psychologist, GP and hospital staff. This is a fantastic opportunity to improve supportive care services for patients utilising best-practice integrated models of care. If the model proves effective, we can use it to help cancer patients suffering with anxiety and adjustment disorders as well,” said Prof Kissane.

In addition to funding for MPCCC’s shared care pilot project, DHHS will allocate $500,000 to the MCCC Coordination Unit for governance, planning, program implementation and funding and communications activities.

“We have worked closely with the DHHS, Monash Partners and the heads of oncology and research, to figure out where our collective activity is best focussed to have the biggest impact for patients” said Prof Gail Risbridger, MCCC Research Director. “This funding will get us started, but there is still a long road ahead of us”, she said.

A further proposal to establish a Precision Oncology program across Monash Partners is also being considered for funding. This would involve forming a multidisciplinary Precision Oncology Tumour Board to guide the selection and sequencing of therapies in patients whose cancer is resistant to standard treatments.

“There is such great potential here”, said Prof Eva Segelov, Professor of Oncology at Monash Health and Monash University and Acting Clinical Director of the Southern Melbourne Integrated Cancer Service, “It’s just a matter of getting the resources to make it happen”.

L-R: Prof Mark Shackleton, Prof Gail Risbridger, Ms Sue Williams, Prof Eva Segelov, Prof Jeremy Millar.

Improving cancer care through better linkage and sharing of patients’ clinical data remains an important focus of the MPCCC, with a number of tumour stream based clinical quality registries currently collecting clinical data through the Monash Department of Epidemiology. Plans for a pilot program for collecting real-time Patient Reported Outcomes are also well-developed.

“The DHHS felt these proposals fell within the remit of the Victorian Agency for Health Information (VAHI) which is working on the development of a Victorian Clinical Outcome Registry Strategy, but we are hopeful of working with VAHI to consider a State-wide approach to these important activities”, said Cancer and Blood Disease Theme representative, Prof John Zalcberg.

For more information about MPCCC and its collaborative programs visit: www.monashpartnersccc.org  or contact info@monashpartnersccc.org