As a celebration of #GynaecologicalCancerAwarenessMonth and ANZGOG’s 20th year anniversary, we asked one of ANZGOG’s Co-Founders Professor Danny Rischin to reflect on his initial hopes and dreams for the group, and how ANZGOG’s trial portfolio has changed over the years…
As a founding member, what were your initial hopes and dreams for ANZGOG?
To establish a vibrant multidisciplinary clinical trials group that would improve access for women in Australia and New Zealand to cutting edge clinical trials that, in time, would define new standards of care and improve outcomes for women with gynaecological cancer. There was a clear understanding that collaboration with other members of the Gynecological Cancer InterGroup (GCIG) was essential and that it was not possible to conduct phase III trials in Australia and New Zealand alone, at least not in a timely fashion. At Michael Friedlander’s instigation, Michael Quinn and I started attending with him the GCIG meetings. In reality, we were pretending that we had a formal ANZ group, taking it in turns to pay the annual dues to GCIG. We worked hard to establish ANZGOG, and we were very pleased when we could finally advise GCIG about the formation of ANZGOG. One of the major goals was to provide opportunities to ANZ investigators to develop new concepts, and where appropriate take them to GCIG.
Reflecting as the Inaugural Chair of the Research Advisory Committee (RAC), how has ANZGOG’s trial portfolio changed over the years?
The RAC has evolved from predominantly participating in GCIG trials to having an increasing number of ANZGOG-initiated projects, with several based on basic research conducted in Australia.
How do you think ANZGOG is perceived on the world stage of gynaecological cancer research, and how has it grown over the 20 years – particularly on reflection of your involvement as the Chair of the RAC?
ANZGOG has grown from a fledgling organisation to a well-respected trials group with a strong trial portfolio and recognised gynaecological cancer research expertise. In the early days, much of the work was done by a limited number of people, but now there is broader involvement with many younger investigators interested in conducting gynaecological cancer trials and being involved in ANZGOG.
“We worked hard to establish ANZGOG, and we were very pleased when we could finally advise GCIG about the formation of ANZGOG.”
What is your best piece of advice to the younger gynaecological cancer researchers in Australia?
If one has a passion for conducting clinical trials, one needs to be persistent and resilient. Clinical trials can be hard work with many potential obstacles, albeit very rewarding. Most successful clinical trialists have projects that did not pan out, so it is important not to be discouraged if one of your first trials falters for whatever reason. Also, a good mentor with clinical trial expertise can be invaluable.
What clinical trial do you remember the most or what is your most memorable research milestone achieved whilst you were involved with ANZGOG?
An important achievement during my time as Chair of RAC was helping to facilitate ANZGOG’s leadership on multicentre GCIG trials. One trial that comes to mind is OUTBACK, led by Professor Linda Mileshkin. We managed to get GCIG approval for this to be an ANZGOG-led trial, and for the first time, the GOG (now NRG) joined a cervix cancer trial that they were not leading.
ANZGOG would like to thank Prof Danny Rischin for his hard work and dedication to both ANZGOG and gynaecological cancer research over the past 20 years and beyond.
Professor Danny Rischin is the Director of Medical Oncology at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and previously also had an appointment as a consultant medical oncologist at the Mercy Hospital for Women. He holds an academic appointment as Professorial Fellow, Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology, University of Melbourne and is a NHMRC Leadership Fellow. He has been an Associate Editor of the Journal of Clinical Oncology since 2011.
Professor Rischin graduated from Monash University and completed his internal medicine and medical oncology training in Melbourne and Toronto. He was Chair of the ANZGOG Research Advisory Committee from 2002 till 2011 and was an executive/board member of ANZGOG from its inception until 2017. He received an ANZGOG Award for Outstanding Contribution in 2012.
Since our beginning in 2000, ANZGOG has conducted 37 clinical trial studies, with close to 4000 patients participating in these trials. ANZGOG currently has 13 open trials. To find out more, please visit our trials page.