During the last twenty years Australia has seen the introduction of screening programs for common cancers (breast, prostate and bowel), awareness programs (lung cancer and melanoma) and significant monies allocated to both research through National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and treatment through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). The impact of these programs and funding has been significant for common cancers, but in contrast RLC cancers have not been given attention and resources and there has been little or no improvement.
Unsurprisingly, the survival rates for many RLC cancers are very low when compared with rates for the more common cancers indicating at least in part, that we are much better at diagnosing and treating common cancers. Without concerted action in research, diagnostics and treatment, we cannot hope to have an impact on mortality or improve patient outcomes in the coming years.
Rare Cancers Australia aims to raise money to fund this essential research. We partner with many of the most respected clinical researchers in the field to initiate and fund projects. To achieve our aims we need support from across the community. Successful outcomes offer the opportunity to leverage existing treatments to bring time and hope to patients of tomorrow.
Current Research Program
Over the past two decades, the world has seen considerable improvement in the number and quality of medicines available for cancer treatment. The vast majority of these medicines however, have been for a relatively small number of common cancer types, for example, breast cancer, bowel cancer and melanoma. Very few treatments have been developed for rare cancers in that time and this has undoubtedly contributed to the problem that whilst survival rates have significantly improved for common cancers, there has been very little, if any, improvement in the outcomes for Australians with rare cancers.
There are many reasons for this neglect of rare cancers, including the difficulty of conducting research with very small patient groups, the reluctance of the pharmaceutical industry to invest in small markets and the difficulty in generating sufficient data to gain PBS re-imbursement for medicines solely focused on small rare patient groups. The result is limited treatment availability and comparatively low survival for Australians with rare cancers.
During the past 10 years there has been significant technological development that has greatly increased our understanding of cancer. Historically, we viewed cancer based on the location of the body part (breast, lung, bowel, etc.) and on the cell type involved. This proved a useful but ultimately inadequate model and we are now able to view cancer at a molecular or gene level and in doing so, understand the molecular “wiring” of each type of cancer
These developments represent great opportunities in cancer research but importantly they represent an opportunity for us to see similarities or “groupings” of disparate cancers, based on gene wiring patterns that we were previously blind to. Such insight opens the possibility of using existing treatments that were developed and tested for a common cancer, to be used in the treatment of a rare cancer that has matching molecular or “wiring” characteristics.
Rare Cancers Australia aims to raise money to fund this essential research. We partner with many of the most respected clinical researchers in the field to initiate and fund projects. To achieve our aims we need support from across the community. Successful outcomes offer the opportunity to leverage existing treatments to bring time and hope to patients with rare or less common cancers.