One year on: The Kinghorn Cancer Centre

Opened on 28 August, 2012 by then Prime Minister Julia Gillard, The Kinghorn Cancer Centre (TKCC) is a joint venture between St Vincent’s Hospital and the Garvan Institute, bringing together scientific and medical expertise to deliver a personalised approach to the treatment and care of our cancer patients.

Unique, both in its physical presence and its approach to treating cancer and the people it affects, the achievements of TKCC since it opened its doors one year ago give us all reason to be proud.

From a research perspective, TKCC is putting in place the essentials for making a significant impact on our local and the international community, attracting the necessary funding that enables both researchers and clinicians to deliver the best possible care for our patients and concurrently, to make the research breakthroughs that enable them to do so.

TKCC’s Centre for Clinical Genomics will allow clinicians to sequence genomes on-site for diagnostic and therapeutic development, a practise that may soon become routine in cancer research. As a result, TKCC is setting the standards in clinical care and providing a platform for the development of genomic medicine for years to come. Australia Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) have provided funding to the value of $750,000, enabling the Centre to attract Australia’s leading research teams to facilitate the development of personalised medicine.

Then, in May 2013 the federal government awarded $5.5 million over the next four years to fund the 3rd National Prostate Cancer Research Centre, based in TKCC.

“This injection of funds is tremendous news for men affected by, and at risk of, prostate cancer, which is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in Australia and which takes the lives of over 3,000 men every year”, said Professor Allan Spigelman, Acting Director of TKCC.

Having developed the largest tissue-bank and database in the southern hemisphere under the leadership of Conjoint Professor Philip Stricker, TKCC Prostate Cancer Research Centre will continue to aid all researchers, as well as foster existing strong collaborations, both nationally and internationally.

On the clinical side, those staff and services chosen to move from St Vincent’s Hospital to TKCC in Phase 1, such as chemotherapy and outpatient facilities, medical, nursing, allied health and clinical trial and cancer registry staff, were settled in by April 2013. TKCC patients and staff have been thrilled with the transformation of working conditions in the ultra modern purpose built building, not just benefiting from the beautifully serene surroundings, filtered natural light and space and unique settings such as the reflection garden, but also the opportunity to work with Garvan researchers. TKCC’s operational plan ensures that researchers have the ability to regularly meet with clinicians and present their work while clinicians have the same opportunity to inform researchers about current clinical challenges.

The first year has seen TKCC treat some 15,000 patients, many of whom have provided their feedback via a formal survey processes, the results of which have been highly positive in all facets. The quality of the environment and the care provided have all been highly rated by patients, which will be of no surprise to anyone who has entered the building. Simplifying the complexity of planning that has gone into building a treatment and research centre that has been described by World Health Design Magazine as “an expression of wellness”, the physical structure and design of the building itself gives our patients something to focus on, other than their illness.

In a letter to Professor Spigelman one patient wrote-
“I really wanted to congratulate you on one of the finest architectural medical facilities. After my appointment I spent at least twenty minutes yesterday marveling at the structure and design of the Institute. What a credit this building is to you, your Architectural team and advisors. The use of all natural materials, the exposed beams, the timber bridge and the spiraling staircase, which from the underside is like a concertina, a wave like beauty. The use of light both natural and otherwise is very clever and again contributes to a very calming feeling. Indeed the minimalist feel of the building with that extraordinary hand painted fresco transcending down all floors of the entire structure exudes a feeling of great tranquility and peace. Congratulation on an amazing achievement for practical use but yet a building of true ascetic beauty and design”.

Testament to that, TKCC received the John Verge Award for Interior Architecture at the NSW Architectural Awards in June 2013. The judges commented that “This is a work of remarkable control; its simplicity belies the technical challenges it resolved. Working with stringent clinical conditions, it manages to bring warmth and strict environmental control into balance. Through the careful crafting of materials and spatial relationships, it manages to create an exciting yet humane environment and a suite of interiors of outstanding quality.”

Going forward patients will also have access to additional allied health services such as nutritional experts, massage therapists and acupuncture, with the future opening of the Wellness Centre.