Senate report a boost for research into low survival cancers in Australia

Garvan welcomes the Senate Select Committee report into Funding for Research into Cancers with Low Survival Rates, tabled this week in Parliament.

John Mattick and Andrew Giles with the Senate Select Committee at Garvan

29 November 2017

The Garvan Institute of Medical Research welcomes the report from the Senate Select Committee investigating cancers with low survival rates. The report, tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, 28 November, calls for more government action to improve outcomes for those with low survival rate cancers.

In particular, the report calls for:

  • a public awareness campaign and professional development for doctors to improve the detection and diagnosis of low survival rate cancers;
  • the possibility of expanding the Australian Cancer Database and establishing a national biobank so that medical researchers have access to the data and tissue they need;
  • changes to TGA, MSAC and PBAC processes to improve patient access to diagnostic tests and both new and re-purposed medicines;
  • improved access to specialist cancer care co-ordinators or nurses for low survival rate cancer patients in every state and territory;
  • simplification and streamlining of the application process for low survival rate cancer patients and their carers trying to access the DSP or carer payments; and
  • the Australian Government to lead a process through COAG to improve the transition from paediatric to adult oncology.

In her address to the Senate on Tuesday, Senator Catryna Bilyk (Subcommittee Chair, and herself a brain cancer survivor) said, “The Committee has recommended ongoing funding for genomic research into low survival rate cancers. We also recommended facilitating innovative and flexible approaches to the design of clinical trials.”

Professor David Thomas, Director of The Kinghorn Cancer Centre and Head of Garvan’s Cancer Division, today welcomed the report and its outcomes.

Professor Thomas said, “I’ve dedicated my life to using the power of medical research to change the lives of more than 20,000 Australians who will die each year from rare or less common cancers.“

“Rare and low-survival cancers have traditionally struggled to attract adequate research funding – which impacts directly on access to new therapies, support for affected families, and ultimately survival.

“For all these reasons, I’m really delighted to see the issues around these neglected cancers being discussed in depth at the national level, and to hear of the positive outcomes from this week’s report.”

The report makes particular mention of Garvan’s Genomic Cancer Medicine Program as a program that brings together researchers and clinicians to translate research findings into the clinic. The program utilises the sequencing capacity of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research to identify more effective treatments for cancer patients, as well as to understand and exploit heritable cancer risk.

Professor Thomas says, “The demand for our Molecular Screening and Therapeutics trial has been understandably overwhelming, already we have hundreds of patients enrolled in the study. We’re committed to making our Program as accessible as possible right across Australia. So it’s very encouraging to see the government taking such positive steps in supporting this vital area of research.”  

In the course of the Committee’s enquiry, Senators on the Select Committee took part in hearings in six locations across Australia, including at Garvan, received 326 submissions and heard from 117 witnesses. Submissions to the Select Committee and transcripts from the hearings are available here.

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