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Cancers with low survival rates should be prioritised, Senate committee finds

1 Dec 2017 at 12:00 AM

"I just don't want another child to be given the death sentence that is brain cancer," says a mother who has already lost too much, welcoming a cross-party call for more research into cancers with low rates of survival.

Tom Gray's parents made sure his final weeks were happy ones before he died in 2016After a series of emotional public hearings in four states and 12 months of work, a cross-party Senate committee handed down its final report on Tuesday afternoon and is calling on the Federal Government to make research into low-survival cancers a national health priority.

The inquiry found not enough funding was made available for people diagnosed with illnesses such as brain cancer, pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and ovarian cancer.

Carly and Simon Gray from Melbourne were motivated to send a submission to the committee because their eight-year-old son Tom and Carly's mother Jenny both died from brain cancer.

"I'm glad to hear [low survival cancers] will become a national priority — I think it's really important to help raise awareness," Ms Gray said.

Each year more than 1,600 Australians will be diagnosed with brain cancer; about 1,200 will die from it, and it will kill more Australian children than any other disease, the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation said.

Only one in 10 people survive more than five years, whereas breast cancer's five-year survival rate is 90 per cent and prostate cancer's is 95 per cent.

'I'm on top of the world'

Tasmanian senator Catryna Bilyk, who chaired the committee, had two benign brain tumours almost 10 years ago.

"When low survival rate cancers are elevated to that priority status, they'll get looked at more often by more people — so they would get more awareness and more interest so we can make inroads into research," she said.

"I'm really proud to have brought down this report because I think it's going to make a significant difference to people with low survival rate cancers — this afternoon I'm on top of the world."

The committee received 326 submissions from charities, researchers, doctors, families who have lost loved ones, and survivors.

The report contained 25 unanimous recommendations, including that "the CEO of the National Health and Medical Research Council considers identifying low survival rate cancers as a National Health Priority Area".

Some of the other recommendations include more funding for, and better access to, clinical trials, repurposing common cancer drugs for rare cancers, setting up a national biobank that includes tumour samples, and access to off-label drugs for low survival rate cancer patients without further treatment options on compassionate grounds.

There are also calls for a comprehensive Australia-wide strategy to increase five-year survival rates for low survival rate cancers to above 50 per cent by 2027.

Richard Vines from Rare Cancers Australia said a stand-out feature of the report was the recommendation to repurpose common cancer drugs for low-survival cancers.

"There are two drugs that are being used in melanoma for example and they have a range of other indications for which they could be used but it's such a torturous process to get those through," he said.

"We need funding for clinical trials to build the evidence and get those drugs registered for other things.


This article was originally published on ABC News. You can read the original article here.

Category: Rare Cancers in the News
Tags: Australia, brain cancer, cancer, clinical trials, Cure Brain Cancer Foundation, funding, Government, low-survival cancers, melanoma, PBAC, PBS, rare cancer, Richard Vines, select committee, Senate, survival rates, TGA,
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