Oncology plays an extremely important role in our health system because of the heavy burden cancer places on society and the impact it has on families and loved ones.
A medical oncologist is a specialist physician that is trained in the medical aspects of cancer including diagnosis, planning and administering chemotherapy. Oncologists are experts in medications like chemotherapy, targeted therapies and immunotherapies to treat cancer.
Southern Medical Day Care Centre (SMDCC) is a private day-only hospital in Wollongong that has been offering treatments in oncology and day-only infusions over the last 20 years.
Professor Philip Clingan is the clinical director of SMDCC; he along with other leading Wollongong oncologists guide the clinical team at Southern Medical Day Care to excellence in cancer services.
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“Oncologists have been trained over a long period of time to be able to understand the biology and physiology of cancer and the effectiveness of chemotherapy on various cancer types,” Professor Clingan said. “It is a very complex specialty with over 300 different protocols being used to treat cancer and it is important that the treating doctor understands the intricacies of these protocols.”
Research is an incredibly important part of the advancement of cancer treatment with clinical trial research falling into three categories.
Phase I clinical trials are trials that test the effect of new drugs on humans to determine the optimum dosage. Phase II clinical trials look at the effectiveness of drugs on various cancer types, and Phase III studies are designed to improve the outcome over standard treatment.
All phases of clinical research are vitally important, and it is only through testing existing treatments on a scientific basis with previous treatments that they can prove there has been advances in therapy.
SMDCC has been involved in pioneering treatments in oncology for the past 20 years participating in over 120 clinical trials with both global and local pharmaceutical companies. Some of the groundbreaking findings have changed the way patients are treated in areas such as breast, colorectal, lung and upper gastrointestinal cancer.
“There has been a huge number of advances in therapy over the last 20 years, particularly with the development of supportive treatment for chemotherapy, the advances in new drugs, such as Herceptin for breast cancer, and immunotherapy which has resulted in a cure in patients with melanoma and, most recently, in patients with lung cancer,” Professor Clingan said.
“It is imperative that we always continue to strive to improve the patients’ outcome and the only way we can do this is through clinical trials.”
With this kind of research the relative survival rate of people with cancer five years after diagnosis has improved from 49 per cent in 1985–1989 to 69 per cent in 2010–2014 according to the AIHW 2018 Health Report. (Relative survival measures the average survival experience of people with cancer compared with people of the same age and sex in the general population).
“In oncology there are three main treatments; surgery, radiation and systemic treatment (chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted treatment). Surgery is used when the tumour is localised while radiation is often given in sites where it is not possible to remove the tumour,” Professor Clingan said.
“The aim of the modern treatment of cancer is to regard cancer as a chronic disease, which may not be cured at the first instance, but the aim will be to help control the disease and provide the patients with a better quality and a greater length of life.”
SMDCC is certified with Quality Assurance Services (QAS) using National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards (NQHS). The centre combines the latest treatments with compassionate care.
Go to smdccnsw.com.au