Western Alliance supports Barwon Health researchers to build Allied Health Cancer Care Clinical Trial Unit

A team of Barwon Health clinician researchers has been awarded over $500,000 from Cancer Council Victoria, The Victorian Cancer Agency and Western Alliance to build the first regional Allied Health Clinical Trials Unit specialising in Cancer Supportive Care and Survivorship.

This project was supported by Western Alliance through our external funding support program, which is pitched at assisting research teams applying for major external research grants. To find out more or complete an EOI for this program, please click here.

This three-year project will bring together cancer care consumers and leaders from three of Barwon Health’s most highly regarded clinical and research areas; Allied Health, Cancer Services and Clinical Trials, to design and develop a unique Allied Health Clinical Trials Unit based at the Adrian Costa Clinical Trials Centre.

Catherine Williams, Chief Investigator of the project, is a physiotherapist and Barwon Health’s Oncology Rehabilitation Care Coordinator. Catherine recognised that as allied health professionals are important providers of clinical care to people diagnosed with cancer, they are well-placed to identify and investigate potential areas for improvement.

The project team will work with local partnering organisations such as Western Alliance Academic Health Science Centre, Deakin University and Barwon South West Regional Integrated Cancer Service, as well as connecting with the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre Alliance and the Victorian Clinical Trials Education Centre.  Milestones will include the design of a customised clinical trials education and training package for the allied health cancer workforce, and identification of the best strategies for delivery of interventions using virtual care tools and teletrials, to support relationships between metro, regional and rural cancer care providers.

Once allied health clinical trial activity starts , the Allied Health Clinical Trials Unit will support and conduct trials that are initiated by allied health clinician researchers within Barwon Health and across the region, and will build partnerships with other providers of cancer supportive care and survivorship throughout Australia and internationally.

Catherine said, clinical trials had typically been associated with new medications and medical interventions.

“We’re excited to bring the rigour and support of a Clinical Trials Unit to examine interventions delivered by allied health professionals,” she said.

“Our field works closely with people diagnosed with cancer, especially in the areas of supportive care and survivorship, which address the physical, functional, practical, psychological, emotional and spiritual needs of people across all phases of their cancer experience.

“Consumers will be able to access clinical trials in areas such as exercise and cancer, prehabilitation, psycho-oncology, fear of cancer recurrence, chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, malnutrition and sarcopenia and many more, independent of where they live or where they access their cancer care.

“The project will also support a cultural shift, where skilled allied health professionals such as physiotherapists, exercise physiologists, psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, dieticians and social workers can see themselves as part of the clinical trials workforce.”