According to a report released by the Cancer Council of Australia on World Cancer Day (4 February), for the first time the number of Australians living with cancer or having survived a diagnosis has passed the one million mark. It has prompted a rethink not only around how we prevent, but also how we treat cancer. One of the key players in this space is the Icon Group, with new CEO Mark Middleton taking an holistic approach to the business.

Originally, the company was split into four distinct businesses: Icon Cancer Care, Australia’s largest private provider of medical oncology via a network of day hospitals; ROC, which provides radiation oncology services in New South Wales and Queensland; Epic, a pharmaceutical supply and management business; and Slade Health, which has five licensed manufacturing facilities that provide public and private hospitals nationally with sterile, compounded chemotherapy, analgesics, and other products. Mark saw value in combining the offerings of these branches. “I became CEO of the Icon Group in November 2015,” he says, “but prior to that I had been the CEO of ROC, the Radiation Oncology Division for almost eight years.

“Our vision for the Icon Group was to be an integrated cancer-care provider. That means we wanted to be a truly vertically integrated player where we compound the cancer drugs, deliver them to patients that are undergoing chemotherapy, provide patients with comprehensive pharmacy support, and also deliver their radiation therapy. We really wanted to be an organisation that people could look to for total cancer care. That’s the vision and that’s why we brought the four divisions together. It’s actually a pretty simple premise: we put end-to-end everything a patient would require for world-class cancer care.”

A part of this vision, and something that Mark is very excited about, is his model for a completely integrated cancer-care clinic—the first of which opened this year in North Lakes, Brisbane. “Some of the foundation businesses were radiation oncology centres, some were medical oncology centres,” says Mark. “North Lakes is our first integrated cancer centre under the Icon Group banner, where, effectively, we have everything available in the one place. It was a great moment and a great reflection of what we have been working towards—to bring all of our services under one roof. And this is just the first of many. Our next integrated centres have been announced at The Valley Private Hospital in Melbourne and on the University of Canberra campus, both of which open next year.

“We have an ageing population, and unfortunately cancer incidence is also increasing—those two things go hand in hand. What we are trying to do at Icon Group is make cancer care more accessible for everyone, including people in regional areas. We already have centres in Cairns, Toowoomba, Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Townsville, and Gosford, and before Icon Group was in those areas, people had to travel to larger metropolitan cities for their cancer care. We are trying to change that as we want to make cancer care more equitable.”