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Creating a Comprehensive Cancer Centre for WA

The news confirming the WA Comprehensive Cancer Centre will receive federal funding was celebrated by the team working on this project, led by Professor Peter Leedman AO, Director of the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research. Moira Clay Consulting has been involved with this project for some time, and as it continues to gain traction, we sat down with Professor Leedman to reflect on the journey so far and find out what it takes to lay the foundations for a new hospital.

In his vision for a Comprehensive Cancer Centre that provides holistic care for the people of Western Australia, Professor Leedman has been unwavering; this steadfast commitment guiding his decisions and approach since 2014. He took on the Perkins Directorship in 2014 and immediately began building the cancer discovery program in the Institute. A few years earlier in 2010, Professor Leedman commenced as Founding Chair of Linear Clinical Research (Linear), a role he held until 2022, when he transitioned to a Director. Linear has been a very successful “start-up” growing in size to employ more than 250 people and doing large numbers of early phase cancer clinical trials testing many world-first drugs, here in Perth. The growth of Perkin’s cancer discovery science married with the growth of Linear were critical building blocks in the development of Leedman’s vision for a WA Comprehensive Cancer Centre. With his strong background in cancer discovery research, together with his observations as Chair of Linear, and as a clinician with 25 years of clinical experience, Peter visited cancer centres on the east coast of Australia, in Israel and in the USA to get an understanding of how things might be done differently in WA.

His vision is to build for WA a person-centred holistic quaternary referral cancer hospital where high quality research (discovery, translational, clinical, public health, community) underpins the delivery of highest-quality evidence-based cutting edge clinical care. “The Centre will enable large multi-disciplinary teams to provide care to their patients, with a focus on research and clinical trials. Along with person-centred care, the point of difference for this Centre is its singularity of focus; everything and everyone will be aligned around cancer and provide the best possible experience and outcomes for Western Australians,” says Professor Leedman of the Centre. In WA, it is predicted that by 75 years of age, one in three males and one in four females will have cancer and in 2025 more than 17,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer and more than 5,500 will lose their lives to cancer. “The clinical care available in WA is of high quality, but existing hospitals are not single-discipline entities. Further, patients and their families complain that their cancer journey is very fragmented, which is amplified for those in rural and remote areas. Providing a purpose-driven, engaging environment for the increasing number of Western Australians facing a cancer diagnosis, or caring for a loved one on the cancer journey, has grown significantly in importance for me and the team,” he added.

Over the last few years, with the success of Linear and growth of Perkins, the opportunity to be part of a national CCC network, and the support of both the community and clinicians, the vision has become sharper and the concept of the Comprehensive Cancer Centre for WA has been born. Along the way, his research interests have enabled partnering with the Minderoo Foundation ‘Eliminate Cancer’ project and sought out people who could help him with this large-scale venture, including Moira Clay from Moira Clay Consulting. By 2019 work was underway in earnest, leading to a successful funding request to the Federal Government in 2022.

There is a lot of work ahead of the team, and 2023 will be occupied with the development of a detailed Business Case for the Comprehensive Cancer Centre. Achieving success with the Comprehensive Cancer Centre project will be determined by a number of factors: an unwavering vision that Leedman created some years prior, an engaged Board and Chair, critical partnerships, such as the WA Department of Health, involvement of the right people and the determination to get this done for WA. This project will be led by the Perkins Institute and the Centre aims to be the first hospital run by a research institute in Australia. As Director of the Perkins, an experienced clinician and researcher, plus with the unique experience of overseeing major infrastructure projects, including the building of Linear Clinical Research and the Perkins itself, Professor Leedman is uniquely placed to lead this project. “This Centre will be built on the foundation of a strong research culture in everything we do. This one-stop-shop for cancer treatment in WA, which has the patient as the central focus, will be transformational for patients, carers, clinicians and researchers,” asserts Professor Leedman.

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