Drug Development Conference 2017: Collaboration is key to faster delivery of new cancer treatments

Worlds collide in the landmark Drug Development Conference 2017 which brings together diverse parties that share one aim: to accelerate the delivery of new cancer drugs to patients.

The Kinghorn Cancer Centre

24 March 2017

Clinicians, pharmaceutical companies, medical researchers and government agencies have answered the call to pool their wisdom in order to deliver cutting-edge cancer medications to patients as quickly as possible.

The Drug Development Conference 2017 was held yesterday at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, organised by The Kinghorn Cancer Centre, a joint facility of Garvan and St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney. The meeting explored ways to accelerate patient access to the latest cancer therapies, such as immunotherapies and targeted drugs, through early phase clinical trials.

Keynote speakers at the conference included Dr Lillian Siu (Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto), Dr Geoffrey Shapiro (Director, Early Drug Development Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston), Dr Mark Polizzotto (The Kirby Institute, Sydney), Dr Charlotte Lemech (Scientia Clinical Research, Sydney) and Professor Lisa Horvath (Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, Sydney).

Biomedical discovery is currently outpacing the capacity to implement findings from research in the clinic – in other words, promising potential anti-cancer therapies are identified years before they become available to patients.

Conference convenor, Dr Anthony Joshua (Director of Oncology, The Kinghorn Cancer Centre) said that there was an urgent need to streamline the process of making new treatments accessible to patients.

“We want to give individuals with cancer in New South Wales, and indeed Australia, access to cutting-edge cancer medications through their involvement in early phase clinical trials – that is, trials in which we are still learning about the dose and side-effects of the medications.

“These newer medications are often very precise in attacking the cancer, either directly or indirectly through the immune system – and we see a significant opportunity to save and improve the lives of patients through faster access to these therapies,” said Dr Joshua.

Dr Joshua emphasised that collaboration is essential in order to improve patients’ access to these new medications, both within New South Wales and nationally.

“Working together to learn from each other, and to understand the challenges at the government, pharmaceutical and local hospital level ultimately improves patient care by increasing the pace at which we can get these drugs into the clinic for patients.

“We need robust safeguards to ensure that the patients are cared for, that there is equitable access to the drugs and that the drugs are safe – and the best way to do that is to work together,” said Dr Joshua.

Garvan’s Executive Director, Professor John Mattick, said the conference highlighted the role of the St Vincent’s Hospital precinct in making personalised cancer care a reality, as exemplified by pioneering trials such as the Molecular Screening and Therapeutics (MoST) trial, led by Professor David Thomas (Head, The Kinghorn Cancer Centre; Head of Cancer Division, Garvan).

“I congratulate Anthony, David and teams for taking St Vincent’s Hospital and The Kinghorn Cancer Centre to the forefront of cancer diagnosis, innovative research and research-informed treatment,” said Professor Mattick.