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Digital health tech brings cancer clinical trials closer to rural Victorians

The Teletrial model with digital technology will enable more people with cancer, from rural and regional Victoria, to access clinical trials closer to home.

According to a recent press release, the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre’s (VCCC) Teletrials Program in Bendigo and Albury Wodonga was made possible thanks to the A$ 1.5 million Andrews Labor Government funding boost.

Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos announced the launch of the program, which will also extend to other parts of regional Victoria.

Clinical trials are the gateway to accessing cutting-edge cancer therapies.

But, fewer than 5% of Victorians outside Melbourne participate in them because of the need for travel and time away from home.

Cancer patients living in regional and rural Victoria experience several disadvantages including lower survival rates in some parts of the state.

Reasons may include socioeconomic issues and access to treatment.

Advantages of Teletrials

The VCCC Teletrials Program has built partnerships between metropolitan and regional centres to help more Victorians access the trials run by leading cancer hospitals.

In addition, the program will work with regional and metro cancer clinical trials staff to establish a clear framework for conducting a teletrial in a regional setting.

Teletrials can offer rural and regional cancer patients access to metropolitan clinical trials without the need to take extra time off work, travel long distances and pay for accommodation.

Teletrials are part of the Victorian Government’s A$ 20 million funding boost to increase the number of cancer trials being run in the state.

The program provides cancer patients in rural and regional Victoria better access to clinical trials with the use of digital health technology.

This is about making sure all Victorians can access clinical trials, no matter where they live.

Increasing access to cancer clinical trials for regional Victorians is a strategic priority for the VCCC and its members.

Teletrials provide an opportunity to overcome disparities. Patients can avoid the need to travel, enabling access to new treatments and improving patient outcomes.

The Teletrials program will also address barriers to support mechanisms for regional oncologists, enabling networking and improving capability.

Other Projects

On top of the Teletrials Program, A$ 3.7 million has been granted for four new projects to help more than 6,000 patients in accessing world-leading trials through the VCCC Investigator-Initiated Trial Capacity Building Program.

The four projects focus on improving radiotherapy before surgery, pain management, combining treatments to enhance success of blood stem cell transplantation and better anaesthetics during surgery.

Recent data have shown that in 2017, 34,557 Victorians were diagnosed with cancer and 10,955 died from the disease. Moreover, there are 95 new diagnoses each day.

Victoria has some of the best cancer survival rates in the world, which is a testament to the state’s proud track record of investing in world-class cancer prevention, treatment and research.

The five-year survival rate for Victorians diagnosed with cancer has increased from 46% in 1982 to 68% in 2016.

OpenGov Asia earlier reported on the first digital specialist degree to tackle cancer in Victoria.

The Master of Cancer Sciences will be delivered through an online suite of graduate programs in cancer research, education and care.

It is Australia’s first cancer-specific, multidisciplinary, flexible wholly online Master’s program for health professionals who care for cancer patients, and just one of two such online programs in the world.

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