Search Website
COGNO: Message from the Chair

Dear Colleagues

Whilst the COGNO Chair message is usually communicated as part of our newsletter, in these extraordinary and challenging times I felt it was also appropriate to email this message to you directly, and sooner rather than later.

We are in a very different world to that we were thriving in just a few short months ago. For now, Australia seems to be ‘flattening the curve’ of COVID-19 with aggressive social distancing measures, but those measures are changing the way we live, work, research, and care for our patients. I sincerely hope none of you have been personally affected by COVID-19 illness and loss, but it is possible that will come to some of us. Most COGNO members are in healthcare or medical research, so we are fortunate to have jobs that are still needed during COVID-19. However, life as we knew it has changed – at least for the moment.

Many of us will be changing how we care for our patients, losing the face to face interactions that engender trust in people with life threatening illnesses. Some of us may be redeployed to assist in medical care outside our area of expertise. Some will be worried about bringing illness home from work. Some will be struggling with new funding timelines, a lab shutdown, the worries of our graduate students, and with keeping research staff employed. Others will be worried about elderly parents, an immunocompromised partner, an unwell child, or a close friend who is struggling. Our own mental health may suffer as our social and work networks close down, or as we adjust to changes in how we and our families live and work. Even working from home, which at first seems like a luxury, can be difficult, unproductive, uncomfortable, and lonely.

While we move through this worrying time, it is more important than ever that COGNO does not lose its focus on improving outcomes for people with brain cancer. We still have clinical trials open, and importantly, we still have patients who are looking for the opportunity that clinical trial participation provides. We may have to do things a little differently, and fortunately we are guided by the teams at the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre as well as national and international bodies as we find ways to continue recruitment and participation in clinical research.

This will end, and when it does, we need to position COGNO activities and COGNO trials to hit the ground running. We need to do this for our patients and their families. While there is much we cannot do at the moment – I for one am ‘trapped’ in Western Australia with our borders closed – there is still much we can do. We can continue to develop ideas, propose trials, seek funding, operationalise studies, and progress ethics review. Let’s continue the incredible momentum we have gained from the Australian  Brain Cancer Mission. We can still meet through Zoom and MSTeams, we can still phone and email, we can still think and write. We can do all these things from wherever we are.

In the words of Charles Darwin: It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change. Stay safe, be kind to yourselves and others, and be comforted in the knowledge that this will pass.

Professor Anna Nowak MBBS FRACP PhD