Precision medicine strategically matches the ‘right patient’ to the ‘right clinical trial’ and ‘right treatment’. However, despite the potential of this type of research to inform critical treatment decisions, patients typically have limited access to these approaches.

A team of internationally recognised Australian experts will combine precision medicine, implementation science, clinical informatics, cancer genetics, oncology, consumer experience and patient-reported outcomes to lead this innovative transformational research program to support the rapid adoption of precision medicine research into routine care across multiple health services in Australia.

Scientia Associate Professor Natalie Taylor from UNSW Sydney’s School of Population Health who will lead the project, P-OMICs-flow: Integrating precision oncology into clinical programs across Australia, has been awarded a $5.9 million Medical Research Future Fund Rapid Applied Research Translation grant to conduct the research.

The potential of precision medicine to save lives from cancer is not being realised, with the health system and the clinical workforce struggling to meet the evolving needs of patients amidst rapid scientific advances, says A/Prof. Taylor.

“Our research will allow cancer patients with complex cancer related problems often with no standard treatment options to best engage in the most relevant research, and advance knowledge about cancer therapies in the long run,” said lead research fellow Dr Frank Lin.

“The benefits extend well beyond therapeutics into complex familial inheritance and the ability to reduce cancer incidence,” said Professor Kathy Tucker, lead cancer genetics researcher.

“Scientific advances continue to revolutionise our understanding of cancer biology however, many innovations become stuck after initial clinical trial phases and are not translated into practice, generating masses of research waste and missed opportunities for patients, particularly those with hard-to-treat cancers,” A/Prof. Taylor said. “Our research addresses this bottleneck, offering huge benefits for patients and the health system.”

A novel precision medicine oncology clinic combining both prevention for high risk inherited cancer families and treatment for advanced cancers, P-OMICs-flow, will be established. The researchers will leverage off three key Australian medical oncology and cancer genetics precision medicine projects, to drive evidence-based implementation of the P-OMICs-flow model of care at Prince of Wales Hospital, compare outcomes with other hospital settings, and co-design and pilot test a scale-up model to enable local and national roll outs.

“Outcomes from our research have potential to represent a paradigm shift in how we translate genomics-informed treatment and prevention strategies into clinical care, while reducing the implementation burden on physicians, patients, researchers, and other stakeholders,” said A/Prof. Taylor.

The research was motivated by the need to make cancer treatment, care, and information more easily accessible to patients so they are empowered to be part of the decision-making process from the start of treatment and can focus on getting well instead of chasing information, says A/Prof. Taylor.

“The problem of fragmented care is at all levels of the health system, from regulatory approvals for diagnostics and therapeutics, to barriers for research in clinical care, and workforce capacity,” she said. “We want to help by developing a scalable research-led clinical model of care that can ensure the benefits of precision medicine are realised for all patients.”

From the patient’s perspective, this new model of care, where the patient is able to access all the necessary information, treatment and care in the one place, will be a huge improvement on the current experience of the patient having to navigate their own way through multiple clinics and specialists, often leaving the patient confused and tired at a very vulnerable time of their life, says Kathryn Leaney, the consumer partner who holds a chief investigator role on this project.

There are multiple large scale national precision oncology clinical research programs such as in Japan and South Korea, but none that have transitioned into the health system itself. This research program will advance the science of health system implementation nationally and internationally by illustrating how a research-led model of care can be established to accelerate patient benefits, using a scalable care pathway that has been co-designed with patients and healthcare professionals, says Professor David Thomas, CEO of Omico, a non-profit national precision oncology platform which is supporting the program.

Led by A/Prof. Taylor, the project will be conducted as a partnership between UNSW School of Population Health, Omico, the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and Prince of Wales Hospital.