November 18, 2022

Targeting Cancer: Are We Winning?

Dr Drew Moghanaki and Dr Melissa James, our panellists for the 2022 FRO Faculty Forum

The recent RANZCR ASM 2022 provided us with a pertinent opportunity to do a health check for the Targeting Cancer campaign, a highly acclaimed college campaign that aims to increase awareness of radiation therapy as an effective, safe and sophisticated treatment for cancer.

  • Whether the core objectives of the Targeting Cancer campaign are being met?
  • Is access to radiation therapy really improving?
  • Are health professionals and the wider public aware of the benefits of radiation therapy?

At the radiation oncology faculty forum on 29 October, the Targeting Cancer Management Committee Co-Chair Dr Lucinda Morris led a panel discussion to look for answers to these questions and explore solutions with the following leaders in radiation oncology from home and abroad:

Dr Tuan Ha, Radiation Oncologist, RANZCR Faculty of Radiation Oncology Council Member and Co-Chair of the RANZCR Targeting Cancer Management Committee,

Dr Melissa James, Radiation Oncologist, RANZCR Faculty of Radiation Oncology New Zealand Executive Committee Member, Radiation Oncology Research Committee Member, RANZCR Post Fellowship Education Committee Member, and

Dr Drew Moghanaki, Chief of Thoracic Oncology, Professor, Stanley Iezman and Nancy Stark Endowed Chair in Thoracic Radiation Oncology Research, UCLA Department of Radiation Oncology.

Radiation oncology is desperately under-utilised and under-valued and lacks the profile of other cancer treatments. This is due to widespread lack of understanding of radiation therapy. There are many myths and misconceptions that radiation therapy is a dangerous and difficult treatment. Many referral pathways to radiations oncologists are broken and there is a lack of funding for resources, workforce and research into the radiation oncology sector.

The Targeting Cancer campaign aims to raise awareness of radiation therapy in the community, including patients and their carers and health professionals, especially GPs and medical students. For the past few years, we have achieved a lot. However, COVID hit the campaign hard, and many domains of campaign work became stagnant. As Dr Lucinda Morris pointed out: “Targeting Cancer Campaign: Are we winning? The answer is no. We’re struggling.”

What are the key challenges observed by radiation oncologists working on the ground from Australia, New Zealand and around the world?

Dr Tuan Ha provided his perspective as a Rockhampton-based radiation oncologist and stressed that the Indigenous population faced more barriers in accessing radiation therapy despite the fact that more and more cancer centres opened up across Australia. Watch Tuan’s video about closing the care gap.

Dr Melissa James talked in-depth about the severe radiation oncology workforce shortage issue in New Zealand. That has direct impact on the health of New Zealanders because within 8-10 years we may no longer have radiation oncologists in New Zealand and patients with cancer won’t be able to get radiation therapy when they need it. Watch Melissa’s video.

Dr Drew Moghanaki shared his stories and views as an international guest. He commented that the Targeting Cancer Campaign had good global reach and relevance within the radiation oncology community, but he’s uncertain about its reach in the general public. He highlighted surprisingly low awareness of radiation therapy among patients and even among medical and health care professionals and he suggested that radiation oncologists should proactively reach out to the leadership team within the hospital and colleagues from other hospital departments to engage them about radiation therapy.

Convening the Faculty Forum we had Dr Lucinda Morris, Radiation Oncologist, Faculty of Radiation Oncology Council Member and Co-Chair of the Targeting Cancer Management Committee.
Dr Tuan Ha, one of our panellists and Co-Chair of the Targeting Cancer Management Committee.
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