"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.
After 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
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.