Hospital–university partnership increases access to rare cancer care

Friday, 27 October, 2023

Hospital–university partnership increases access to rare cancer care

One in five people living with cancer have a type affected by unique genetic mutations, which can significantly impact treatment approaches.

Unfortunately, many patients and doctors are unaware of how to access the molecular testing required to identify these rare mutations, leading to some patients missing out on the opportunity to receive effective therapies or to participate in clinical trials. This has been a particularly large issue for those who don’t live close to a large urban hospital.

Now, a new Monash Partners Comprehensive Cancer Consortium (MPCCC)-led program aims to address this critical gap by increasing access to molecular testing in Victoria. The MPCCC, which is an alliance partnering eight of Victoria’s largest hospitals with Monash University, will place eight highly skilled and dedicated clinical oncology and pathology fellows across five leading cancer hospitals — The Alfred, Monash Health, Cabrini Health, Eastern Health and Peninsula Health.

MPCCC Co-Director and Director of Oncology at The Alfred Professor Mark Shackleton said the program signified a major stride forward in the field of precision medicine throughout Victoria.

“The MPCCC fellows placed in each hospital are aiming to increase access to genomic testing and connect patients with cutting-edge clinical trials based on molecular results,” Shackleton said.

“Through its dedicated Fellows and multifaceted approach, the program will help many patients receive better cancer care.”

Alfred Cancer patient Catherine Crowl. Image courtesy of Monash University.

One such patient is Alfred Cancer patient Catherine Crowl, from Foster in South Gippsland, which is 2.5 hours from a major city. Diagnosed with a challenging-to-treat bile duct cancer, Catherine’s journey took a positive turn after her primary treating team had exhausted conventional treatments.

The MPCCC facilitated molecular testing, which detected an ERBB2 mutation. Her case was discussed at an MPCCC molecular tumour board meeting with Fellows and other cancer experts from across Australia, resulting in her participation in a clinical trial.

“The clinical trial has had a fantastic effect; I am only alive today because of this. I’m feeling great and have the MPCCC to thank,” Catherine said.

“It has typically been very hard for such remotely located patients to get access to such expertise, which is now provided by our fellows. The MPCCC’s new fellows program really solves this problem,” Shackleton added.

More information is available at or by emailing

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