Improving clinical practice and patient outcomes through knowledge exchange

The Li Ka Shing Clinical Knowledge Exchange program is a partnership between the University of Melbourne Centre for Cancer Research and Shantou University Medical College Affiliated Cancer Hospital.

The program enables the transfer of clinical skills and expertise between Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) partners and the hospital in China. It aims to enhance knowledge on treatment of a diverse cancer population, and provides an opportunity to participate in the VCCC’s cancer educational program covering a wide-range of topics including the clinical and basic science aspects of cancer care.

Dr Anna Zhu outside the Women's Hospital

Dr Anna Zhu is an attending doctor in the Department of gynecological oncology at Shantou University Medical College Affiliated Cancer Hospital, specialising in cervical, endometrial and ovarian cancer. Dr Zhu took part in the program to gather information about Australian systems and translate that into efforts to improve women’s survival and quality of life in China.

Dr Zhu said that many aspects of gynaecological cancer are uncertain, such as cause, pathogenesis and treatment, which is concerning as this type of cancer is becoming a more common cause of death in China.

“As an honorary fellow, I followed the gynaecological oncology team in the Royal Women’s Hospital for three-months, and also visited the radiotherapy team of gynecologic oncology in Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. We worked with both inpatients and outpatients, and I also attended surgery and multidisciplinary meetings.

“I was impressed by the advanced molecular targeted therapeutic medications used and the low cost for patients. The Medicare system in Australia makes it possible for everyone to access and receive the necessary treatment.

“This program will benefit my work in improving communication and care with my patients. I was impressed by the humanised communication skills utilised between doctors and patients, and the depth of health education provided to patients.

“Whist we have efficient processes making the time from diagnosis to treatment quite fast, in China the doctors don’t have enough time to explain the disease and treatment in detail to the patient.

“I was also impressed by the multidisciplinary meeting or team pattern in Australia, making treatments better for patients with cancer. These are now going to be utilised in the hospitals of Guangdong province for gynecological oncology, with our hospital taking part, so this experience has encouraged me to become an active part of the program.”

Dr De Zeng at a seminar at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Dr De Zeng is a physician at the Shantou University Medical College, who also undertakes medical teaching, research and participates in clinical trials. Dr Zeng’s focus is on breast cancer, discovering new therapeutic targets.

With over 10 years’ experience in the clinic, Dr Zeng took part in the program to build on his professional viewpoints and bring new ideas to the hospital, as well as explore opportunities for collaborations in Australia.

“This is quite a remarkable program. My six-month placement in Australia was focused on medical oncology in breast cancer, lung cancer and lymphoma at both the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Royal Melbourne Hospital. Much of my time was spent in the clinic, but I also took part in multidisciplinary meetings, conferences and events.

“I found quite a difference between clinical practice in Melbourne and Shantou. It is impressive that every treatment in Australia is so advanced, that everyone can fall into step when a new guideline is released, and to see the importance placed on clinical trials.

“The atmosphere in Australia is different. Strong relationships exist between doctors, scientists in the lab, clinical trial managers with a very good clinical data system pulling it all together. In China the lab is quite separate from physicians, so it’s hard to undertake translational research and translate to clinical applications.

“Doctors also focus on the whole wellbeing of the patient rather than just their treatment. Patients have a positive attitude towards processes and remain physically active during treatment. In China patients don’t want to take part in activities, and you can see a contrast in psychological differences that change the outcomes for patients.

“The relationship developed between doctors and patients is very good. Patients like to engage in the process of treatment, and understand the provided by clinical trials. In China, patients do not like to take part in clinical trials, they think it is a risky experiment. In Melbourne I saw that patients themselves were asking about which clinical trials they were suitable for.

“In Australia I saw that volunteers play an important part in understanding the views of patients, in advocating for them and helping to coordinate processes. They play an important part in the patient treatment journey. I will be taking this recommendation to Shantou, to develop a volunteer system so that people outside of the hospital can contribute to the care of patients.

“Australia is a happy land. The people are very nice and respectful of different viewpoints, and I really enjoyed the open-minded atmosphere.”

The University of Melbourne Centre for Cancer Research will be again welcoming clinicians from Shantou in 2019. We would like to thank the Li Ka Shing Foundation for their generous donation of $3.75 million that has made the Clinical Knowledge Exchange program possible.