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18 Jul 2018

Bringing genomic cancer medicine home

Major funding boost means rare cancer patients can access precision medicine trials in their home state

Garvan is delighted to announce that the Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Program, an innovative clinical trial for people with rare and uncommon cancers, will receive $50 million in Australian Government funding over five years to expand nationally.

The Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Program has today received Australian Government funding to roll out across the country. An innovative clinical trial developed at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, the program matches therapies to individuals with rare and uncommon cancers on the basis of their unique genetic information.

Announced today by Federal Minister for Health, The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, the Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Program will receive $50 million in Australian Government funding over five years, the largest ever genomics grant in Australia. The funding will enable individuals based outside of New South Wales to access the potentially lifesaving clinical trial in their home state.

“This funding is a game changer for precision cancer medicine in Australia. The expansion of this program enables rare cancer patients to access this critical trial closer to home, giving hope to these individuals who have exhausted all other options. Further, their participation will see a radical shift in our understanding of rare and uncommon cancers to help the patients of tomorrow”, said Professor David Thomas, head of the Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Program, Director of The Kinghorn Cancer Centre and Cancer Division Head at the Garvan Institute.

“Rare and uncommon cancers account for over 50% of cancer deaths every year, and there is high demand for the Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Program in the community. This funding will enable us to provide better access to this transformative trial, not just in Sydney but across Australia.”

In Australia, more than 52,000 people are diagnosed each year with a rare or less common cancer. Of these, 25,000 will die as there are few treatment options available for these cancers.

The original Genomic Cancer Medicine Program was made possible by an investment of $7 million over four years by the NSW Government. Since October 2016, over 1,000 Australians with early onset, rare and less common cancers have travelled from all over Australia to The Kinghorn Cancer Centre in Darlinghurst, Sydney to participate in these Garvan led research studies and clinical trials. This Federal funding will enable critical access for people with early onset, advanced rare or less common cancers to genomic cancer medicine clinical trials, through a network of eight leading cancer centres in every state and territory throughout Australia, led by the Garvan Institute.

The Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Program provides a novel approach to treating patients with rare and uncommon cancers who have exhausted all other treatment options. Through its Molecular Screening and Therapeutics (MoST) clinical trials, the Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Program compares the genome of each patient – their entire DNA – with the genome of the patient’s tumour to discern the underlying cause of their cancer and target treatment accordingly. Individuals without a targetable driver of their cancer are offered the latest in cutting-edge immunotherapies which are showing remarkable responses in some patients. In addition, the program’s RisC trial develops surveillance protocols for individuals at genetically high risk of cancer.

Centred at the Garvan Institute, and with the support of the NHMRC-Clinical Trial Centre, this partnership will bring together clinicians, researchers, government, industry and patients. The Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Program will be made available at:

  • The Kinghorn Cancer Centre, NSW
  • Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Vic
  • Canberra Hospital, ACT
  • Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA
  • Princess Alexandra Hospital, Qld
  • Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA
  • Royal Hobart Hospital, Tas

The Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Program (AGCMP) will:

  • increase access to repurposed and new drugs and immunotherapies
  • centralise care to enable research into both biology and treatment
  • build capacity nationwide in molecular pathology and precision medicine
  • empower Australian clinical trials innovation and capacity-building
  • drive pharmaceutical and biotechnology engagement
  • provide government with evidence on which to base decisions about the role of precision medicine in healthcare
  • grow the national health economy

The AGCMP is supported by Rare Cancers Australia, CanTeen, Cancer Voices, Brain Tumour Alliance Australia, Pancare Foundation, #PurpleOurWorld, Ovarian Cancer Australia, CanToo and the Unicorn Foundation.

Philanthropic partners include Paul and Wendy Jeans, The NELUNE Foundation, AccorHotels, Paspaley and the Vodafone Foundation.

The AGCMP has built funded collaborations with the pharmaceutical, biotech and imaging industries, including Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Eisai, LOXO, Roche, Siemens and Illumina, along with local businesses Linear and GenesisCare.

The AGCMP collaborates with the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia, Genomics England, the US National Institutes of Health and the International Rare Diseases Research Consortium.

The ability to expand this program nationwide and improve critical access to rare and uncommon cancer patients around the country would not have been possible without the vital contributions of the AGCMP patients, whose participation has laid the foundation for the expansion of this innovative clinical trial.

The Kinghorn Cancer Centre is a joint facility of St Vincent’s Hospital and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.