A/Prof Rosemary Harrup
Chair, Medical Oncology Group of Australia
The first quarter of 2016 has been a busy period for the Medical Oncology Group of Australia. A new group of trainees has commenced speciality training in medical oncology and those trainees who recently completed their training, have been awarded fellowships and are moving ahead with their career plans.
MOGA membership continues to grow and currently there are 172 trainees and 450 consultant members. Dr Zarnie Lwin, Deputy Chair and I have been progressing the new Workforce Study, having completed a pilot project in late 2015. An extensive online survey will be distributed to all MOGA members in the coming months to gather important new data on our workforce to assist with long term services, facilities and workforce planning.
The Oncology Drugs Group, Chaired by Dr Deme Karikios, continues to make good progress in advocating for access to oncology drugs, recording a number of notable achievements. Late in 2015, in response to advice from MOGA breast cancer experts, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) amended the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule listing of medicines for HER2 positive metastatic breast cancer and recommended a change to the listing of lapatinib for HER2 positive metastatic breast cancer. The restriction for trastuzumab emtansine will be amended to allow patients to access following treatment with lapatinib. PBAC also recommended that the restriction wording for nab paclitaxel be updated to be consistent with the restriction for trastuzumab.
The group has also made submissions for priority approvals for a number of oncology drugs considered at the PBAC March meeting, including: nivolumab in non-small cell lung cancer; bevacizumab in cervical cancer; lenvatinib in thyroid cancer; olaparib in ovarian cancer; and tamoxifen in breast cancer prevention. At the same time, the group indicated support for submissions on: cetuximab in metastatic head and neck cancer; nintedanib in non-small cell lung cancer; and vismodegib in basal cell carcinoma. These listings will address important areas of unmet need for cancer patients, those at increased risk of cancer, and their clinicians. The listings are supported by strong randomised clinical trial data and are in keeping with international clinical best practice.
A successful submission supporting the change to the listing for tamoxifen for the primary prevention of breast cancer in patients with moderate or high risk has resulted from a unique collaboration. In 2011, MOGA tabled a position paper prepared by leading Australian breast cancer specialist, Prof Kelly-Anne Phillips – ‘The use of tamoxifen for the prevention of breast cancer: implications of recent research’. This paper presented strong research data supporting approval and listing of tamoxifen through the Therapeutics Goods Administration and the PBAC and its placement on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for reduction in the risk of invasive breast cancer in women at moderate or high risk. Since then, Prof Phillips and Prof Fran Boyle, Chair, MOGA Breast Cancer Group and ANZ Breast Cancer Trials Group, have worked with MOGA, the TGA, PBAC, Department of Health and Ageing and AstraZeneca, to enact this change.
Plans are well advanced for the 2016 Australia and Asia Pacific Clinical Oncology Research Development Workshop (ACORD): 11-17 September. Applications have been reviewed and participants offered places on this career enhancing program (acord.org.au).
Communication Skills for Early Career Oncologists, a new program developed by the Young Oncologist Group of Australia (YOGA) was held in April. This program included a series of workplace related role plays with trained actors and related plenary sessions on burnout, mindfulness and other communications’ challenges, that could assist medical oncologists in day-to-day clinical practice. Dr George Au-Yeung, YOGA President, reports: “Good communication is core to our profession as medical oncologists. This innovative educational initiative provided young oncologists with a challenging and valuable learning opportunity that helped build their professional communications skills.”
The MOGA Annual Scientific Meeting – Implementation + Innovation in Immunotherapy – will be held on the Gold Coast (3-5 August). Immunotherapy has become an increasingly important therapeutic strategy for cancer patients and medical oncologists, with clinical trials demonstrating significant clinical advantages in an array of cancer streams. Convenor, Prof Ken O’ Byrne, is planning a scientific program that will focus on innovative approaches to implementing immunotherapy in practice, including a major immuno-oncology forum convened by Prof Grant MacArthur and Dr Alexander Menzies. Prof Justin Stebbing, from the Imperial College in London, will present the keynote address at the meeting to share his insights on the future of medical oncology.