Welcoming Associate Professor Jayesh Desai as the Incoming Chairperson of the Cancer Trials Australia Board of Directors

As his six-year tenure draws to a conclusion, outgoing Cancer Trials Australia (CTA) Chairperson, Professor Andrew Scott, reflects on the evolution of what has become “the premium network in Australia supporting trials for both industry-sponsored and investigator-initiated cancer research”.

Professor Scott was one of CTA’s founding board members when the organisation was created in 1993. He was pivotal in  helping “shift the focus from a competitive to a collaborative approach for academic researchers”, yielding systemic evolution for Australian cancer research.

Reflecting on his time at CTA, Professor Scott points to the growing strength of the organisation over the past two decades where, “additional clinical and research organisations have joined CTA, leading to the creation of a truly national network, that importantly includes a large number of regional members.”

Some of the outcomes he is most proud of are CTA’s peer-to-peer learning focus and advocacy for its members, the ability to fast-track patient access to new therapies and technologies and how CTA helps facilitate oncology practitioners having access to a wider oncology community.

For the future, Professor Scott hopes that CTA continues to be an attractive option for both industry and academics across the oncology community; that CTA keeps building on its reputation for the highest standards of research at commercial speeds,  contributes to a cost-effective Australian clinical trial sector compared to Europe and the USA, and keeps advocating for new trials for its members, all of which  translate into high standards of research conducted on Australian soil.

A major driver of CTA’s success is its investment in cultivating a deep pool of extraordinary investigators to usher in the next phase of cancer research in Australia. “I’m very satisfied and happy to leave CTA in the capable hands of Dr Kurt Lackovic, the committed Board and the new Chairperson Associate Professor Jayesh Desai.”

Accepting the position of Chairperson of CTA’s Board of Directors in August 2021, Associate Professor Jayesh Desai currently heads the Phase 1/Early Drug Development program at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (PeterMac), is Deputy-Director of the Parkville Cancer Clinical Trials Unit, leads PMCC’s formal engagements with Industry Alliances and Partnerships, and was recently appointed as the Associate Director, Clinical Research at PeterMac.

Jayesh joined CTA fifteen years ago, as an Associate Director, a role created to support and directly mentor younger investigators; and has experienced the benefits of a nourishing culture of mentoring and career development at CTA since then.

In a word, Desai describes CTA as “impactful”. Impactful on its members, investigators, translational medicine, trials and outcomes for Australian cancer research.

When asked how he envisions CTA’s future, he says, “This will be a continuation of what has been an evolutionary process. Most of what we [CTA] do, we do really well, and the aim is to continue in that vein. But there are a few key areas where we could potentially do even more. One is around the networks, mentorship and the support structures we have put in place. Another is continuing to work well with our sites in both cancer trials and non-cancer trials to get maximum value through that engagement. We also see an even greater need to advocate on behalf of the cancer clinical trial sector and other stakeholders.”

“I’m a strong supporter for making sure our members get even more benefit out of their involvement with CTA. It’s not only about the continued innovation in driving really strong and efficient business processes —that is a given— but also supporting investigators with mentorship and development. I want to ensure that the emphasis on that is even further enhanced in my role as Chairperson.”

A/Prof Desai has a close working relationship with the management of CTA and is thankful for how CTA has impacted his career. “One of the many benefits of being part of CTA, from my first involvement as a young investigator, was not just seeing how the organisation functions in supporting trials, but also the direct support one gets from being connected to other colleagues, and being mentored through the CTA network.”

“The other aspect of CTA that is uniquely valuable for clinicians, is obtaining insight into how the business side of this sector functions, which is difficult to understand when working in isolation and without a collaborative structure around you. And that is what the CTA network brings to the table.”

With a new generation of Board Members taking on leadership roles, coupled with the experience and knowledge of existing Board Members, CTA’s future remains bright.