OP-ED: WA cancer centre a lifesaver

Mar 28, 2022 | Federal News

When you are joyful, when you say yes to life and project positivity all around you, you become a sun in the centre of every constellation and people just want to be near you.” Those were the words that commenced the obituary I gave on behalf of my family at my little sister’s funeral in 2015. Like so many West Australians before her, Joey’s courageous and inspirational battle with a very rare form of cancer — alveolar soft part sarcoma — had ended. At 4.20am on 20 November 2015, Joanna Christina Cash, aged 33, grew her angel wings.

Cancer care in WA is excellent. It can, however, be fragmented and disconnected. I know this firsthand as my little sister’s journey often involved going to Britain and being part of clinical trials there because her cancer was rare and there were no treatment options here. As many know, you will try anything to beat this disease, but no one wants to be away from their family when they are fighting cancer. Given the size of our State, the treatment for cancer is often the worst part about the disease and families know all too well how hard it can be to organise, pay for and manage cancer treatment. We have an opportunity to radically change the cancer journey for people living with cancer now and in the future.

 Minister Ben Morton, the member for Tangney, myself and the WA Federal Liberal team have fought hard for the establishment of the WA Comprehensive Cancer Centre proposed by the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research. Other States in Australia have their own large comprehensive cancer centres, for example the Peter McCallum Cancer Centre in Victoria and the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in NSW. We will now have our own WA Comprehensive Cancer Centre.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Federal Government funding of $375 million to establish the WA Comprehensive Cancer Centre. With this investment the Morrison Government is providing the opportunity for improved chances of survival as well as better quality of life for cancer patients in WA. The Comprehensive Cancer Centre will ensure that the cancer journey for each person is significantly enhanced by providing comprehensive services all within the one facility setting a new benchmark for cancer treatment in WA. This means patients and their families, already facing a very difficult and stressful time, won’t need to travel to various locations for consultations, investigations and treatments. It will be a transformative opportunity for cancer patients in WA, bringing together world-class multidisciplinary cancer care, innovative research and clinical trials in one purpose-built facility at the Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre Campus. The centre will deliver a patient-focused service that will help minimise the stress which comes with disjointed services at a difficult time.

Most importantly, it will lead to better outcomes with improved survival and quality of life while providing access to the newest drugs and treatments. The centre will be one that treats all cancers and has its own set of operating theatres, intensive care unit, plus world-leading research and clinical trial capability. Importantly, it will deliver a world-leading comprehensive cancer service integrated with research, clinical trials and education. Integrated cancer centres are recognised as providing the best possible outcomes for patients living with cancer as well as meaningful advances in research and education.

The WA Comprehensive Cancer Centre will also deliver:

  • a multidisciplinary team for every patient, underpinning a personalised cancer journey for each patient and their family, thereby improving the health outcomes for Western Australians  
  • increased access to clinical trials of first-in-human cancer treatments; and
  •  infrastructure and expertise to manage the more complex and challenging cancers.

From the moment the dedicated team at the Harry Perkins Institute took me through their proposal for this centre I knew that it was something we desperately needed in WA. I’m proud to have been able to play a part, along with my colleagues, in gaining this funding. So many families are touched by cancer, just like mine has been. While life without my little sister Joey will never be the same, I truly hope that the establishment of the WA Comprehensive Cancer Centre will transform the way those with cancer in WA and their families fight this disease.


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