Feb 4, 2019

What inspires Vanessa Loh to work in cancer research?

For World Cancer Day, we spoke to Cancer Clinical Trials Centre study coordinator Vanessa Loh, to find out what motivates her and her team to work toward an end to cancer.

"This is how we learn and how we move things forward. It's a wonderful thing to be part of for the future. It's something that touches a lot of lives, and it's good to see how much time is invested into researching something that will bring future benefit," Vanessa says.

World Cancer Day 2019, which is on February 4, is the first of three to use the theme #IAmAndIWill; ‘you have the power to reduce the impact of cancer for yourself, the people you love and for the world.'

"That's a great theme! That's what we're all working towards in the Cancer Clinical Trials Centre. We have five different teams working in different specialties and areas of cancer, but we're all working towards the same goals, hoping to make a difference and change others' lives," says Vanessa.

"Where we were even 10 years' ago was so different to today, and a lot of that change has come about because of clinical trials. I'm expecting some really exciting things to happen in my lifetime," she says.

"Some of the results we've seen in trials to some of the new immunotherapies is very exciting. One of the trials that I coordinate is for a cancer called glioblastoma, which is a kind of brain tumour that currently has a very low survival rate. If we could find a treatment for that, it would be fantastic."

Vanessa only recently moved to her role as a clinical trial coordinator after several years of ward nursing. She says that a large part of the role involves monitoring the trial to make sure that the ethics and safety requirements are being met, but that the most satisfying part of the role is acting as the main point of contact for patients.

"One of the reasons that I was interested in working as a study coordinator is that you still work closely with patients. We go to all our patients' appointments to monitor the trial, and then feed the data back," says Vanessa.

"We develop a very special relationship with them. They come to rely on us and use us as a contact point for everything. People put so much trust in us, to keep them safe and to keep them as healthy as we can. It's humbling that people put their faith in us," she says.

"Our patients are making a difference, even more than we are. They provide us with the opportunity to move forward. They're so so important to us."

At any one time, Austin Health's Cancer Clinical Trials Centre at the ONJ Centre has about 250 trials underway, including approximately 100 that are open for recruitment. Every week, the team updates the list of cancer clinical trials that are recruiting participants on the Cancer Council Victoria's Victorian Cancer Trials Link website.