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Kathryn Powley
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A new collaborative Centre for Cancer Immunotherapy will mean more Victorian cancer patients will be able to take part in potentially life-saving immunotherapy-based clinical trials and treatments.

The new centre is a joint initiative of Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, the University of Melbourne and the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre alliance and will capitalise on Victoria’s established reputation as a leader in the area of cancer immunotherapy.

Professor Joe Trapani will lead the new Centre for Cancer Immunotherapy, which is scheduled to open later this year.

Professor Trapani has led the Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Program at Peter Mac for more than 18 years and was appointed to his new role following an extensive local and international search.

Victorian Minister for Health, The Hon Jill Hennessy MP, congratulated Professor Trapani on his appointment and said: “Harnessing the body’s own immune system is the next frontier in cancer therapy. The Centre for Cancer Immunotherapy will provide crucial patient access to clinical trials in this rapidly evolving area of research.”

The new centre will bring together Peter Mac’s experience and expertise in immunotherapy research and clinical translation with the leading academic and research immunology programs of the University of Melbourne and the Doherty Institute.

It will also connect with immunotherapy-related research and clinical trials being undertaken in other VCCC partner organisations to leverage the critical mass of expertise and patient numbers provided by this powerful alliance.

The vision for the new centre is that within five years, Victorian patients with all types of advanced cancer will have access to a clinical trial with an appropriate immune-based cancer therapy.

“This is an incredibly exciting time in cancer research,” said Professor Trapani. “The outlook for cancer patients is improving dramatically, and this is partly due to a whole new approach to treating cancer, which stimulates a cancer patient’s own immune system to rid them of their cancer.

“As inaugural director of this new centre I am very much looking forward to setting up an intensely collaborative research effort that will involve all 10 partners in the VCCC alliance, with particular input and support from the University of Melbourne and Peter Mac. Together we have an opportunity to significantly improve outcomes for cancer patients in Victoria and beyond.”

The centrepiece of the Centre for Cancer Immunotherapy will be a new laboratory space for up to 100 cancer researchers. The lab was recently completed on Level 13 of the VCCC building, within the Ian Potter Centre for New Cancer Treatments. The centre will be shared by cancer immunology researchers and clinicians from across the partners of the VCCC alliance, who will work together to discover and improve immunotherapy treatments and speed up their translation into clinical care for patients.

The centre will act as a catalyst for boosting immunotherapy-based programs across the state including expansion of clinical trials and education for cancer clinicians and researchers.

VCCC Executive Director Professor Grant McArthur, said: “Immune-based therapies are revolutionising cancer outcomes, even in very advanced cases of diseases such as melanoma, lung cancer and childhood leukaemia. We currently have more than 50 active cancer clinical trials offering immunotherapy among the VCCC alliance partners alone.”

“Through this fantastic, ground-breaking initiative, our partners will work together to greatly increase the number of patients benefiting from immunotherapy, improving their cancer treatment and saving many lives in the process.”

The Centre for Cancer Immunotherapy is a major feature of the Ian Potter Centre for New Cancer Treatments on level 13 of the VCCC building in Melbourne. This initiative has been supported by the Victorian State Government.