VCCC Data Connect Project now driving 23 new cancer studies

Dr Alex Lee and Dr Meena Rafiq are two of the many researchers now using Data Connect’s linked-data to power their cancer research. Dr Lee is examining cancer risk in patients with unexplained weight loss while Dr Rafiq is exploring the potential to detect cancer earlier during a ‘diagnostic window’.

Data Connect is a major collaboration between the VCCC Alliance, The University of Melbourne, hospitals and BioGrid Australia, that has enabled the linking of general practice and hospital data for the first time in Australia for cancer research.

Professor Grant McArthur said data available for research extended from pre-to-post-diagnosis and beyond. “What excites me is the whole of system data that is in place, all the way from pre diagnosis in general practice in the community, through to health service and end of life care,” he said.

We can always get better with early diagnosis, pick up warning signs, and that’s a real focus of the research that’s coming out of Data Connect.

“I’m amazed that there are now 23 projects underway. It’s not a matter of flicking a switch and everything happens. It really took time to build this fantastic resource and data linkage capabilities, and now it’s really poised to deliver data and information,” he said.

According to Prof McArthur, Data Connect also complements the objectives of the Australian Cancer Plan. “There is significant focus in the Australia Cancer Plan on optimal care pathways to drive better outcomes for patients with cancer. Without data, that aspiration will never be achieved. So, it’s fantastic that the Data Connect program can really add a lot to that endeavour to improve patient outcomes.”

Researchers Dr Alex Lee and Dr Meena Rafiq showcased their individual research projects using the linked data. Dr Lee’s research is examining cancer risk in patients with unexplained weight loss, while Dr Rafiq’s is exploring the potential to detect cancer earlier by identifying a ‘diagnostic window’ – when patients present to general practice with symptoms months before diagnosis. Dr Rafiq looked at data from patients presenting to their doctor who went on to develop colorectal or lung cancer.

Prof Jon Emery, Herman Chair of Primary Care Cancer Research has been a key driver of Data Connect and outlined the next phase of the project that involves linking primary care data to state-wide hospital datasets within the Centre for Victorian Data Linkage.

For more information about Data Connect visit: Data Connect | Research and Translation | VCCC Alliance