Australia’s data infrastructure has developed enormously over recent decades. From Western Australia’s visionary research and development in data linkage, our investment in longitudinal community-based samples and, more recently, commencement of population-wide studies based around the diagnosis or treatment of specific diseases including cancer. In the context of the COVID-19 policy, research and data response, this presentation will draw out the potential lessons for cancer care. We examine the major obstacles in improving our capacity to deliver timely and policy relevant research to (i) improve health and economic outcomes for patients and their families; and (ii) measure health system performance including its responsiveness, efficiency and equity. One of the few silver linings of the COVID-19 crisis is the demonstrated importance of data and research capacity to develop an evidence-based policy response.