The world's best cancer researchers converged on Peter Mac and the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre this week for the Inaugural Research Conference, thanks to an idea conceived three years ago by Executive Director of Cancer Research Prof Joe Trapani and Associate Director of Laboratory Research Prof Ricky Johnstone.
Five VCCC alliance sites played host to more than 75 distinguished local and international speakers, including Nobel Laureate and Salk Institute’s UK President Prof. Liz Blackburn; President of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre USA, Prof Craig Thompson; Chief Executive of The Royal Marsden Hospital; National Cancer Director for NHS England Ms Cally Palmer; and clinical geneticist and non-Executive Director of NHS England Prof. Sir John Burn.
Prof Ricky Johnston saidthe concept was simple. “It was to bring together the top cancer researchers in the world and have a conversation about the best way to drive cancer research from the laboratory to the clinic," he said.
With strong support from Peter Mac's Chief Executive Dale Fisher, and vital input from conference organising committee including prominent Peter Mac clinician-scientist Prof Mark Dawson; the conference moved from concept to reality.
"Peter Mac is an important alliance member of the VCCC," said Prof Johnstone. "We thought, what if we held a conference to coincide with the completion of the VCCC building, and provide an opportunity to highlight to research activities of all ten alliance organisations."
Over two days a local and international panel of experts presented their research and insights into how best to conduct translational cancer research, covering a broad range of research areas including laboratory, clinical, nursing, psycho-oncology, palliative care and allied health.
International invited guests were greatly impressed with the calibre of research being conducted within Peter Mac and more broadly across the VCCC. This was recognised by both the Federal Minister for Health, the Honourable Greg Hunt; and the Victorian Parliamentary Secretary for Medical Research, Frank McGuire, at the conference opening.
Prof Grant McArthur said: "This ambitious conference demonstrated the enormous potential of the VCCC alliance, and showcased a new dynamic in Australian cancer research borne of a spirit of collaboration and shared goals".
"I thank Ricky and the Peter Mac team for their outstanding contribution, plus our other partners, speakers, supporters, consumer representatives and sponsors for making this inaugural conference a success, and look forward to building on these strong foundations."
Consumers were a major focus for the conference with community representatives in attendance on each of the days.
Continuing the commitment to community engagement, a free public forum was also part of the conference program. Hosted by Dr Sally Cockburn from 3AW's Talking Health program, leading cancer experts connected with members of the public to discuss how we can come together as a community to overcome cancer.
Ricky Johnstone said it was "so important that we improve the way researchers and doctors communicate with the community. Cancer will affect nearly every person in some way. We can all play a part in shaping how we move forward in our efforts to combat cancer."