Centre Alliance secures funding for genomic cancer treatment in South Australia

18 July 2018

South Australians with rare and difficult cancers will be able to access personalised cancer therapy on home soil as a result of strong advocacy by Centre Alliance Senator Stirling Griff for a national rollout of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research’s cutting-edge Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Program (AGCMP).

Health Minister Greg Hunt has today (18 July) announced the Government would provide $50 million to help Garvan and its collaborators partner with cancer centres and hospitals in each state and territory to replicate its successful clinical trial and treatment program.

Garvan’s precision cancer medicine program has so far enrolled more than 1000 patients nationally over 18 months, and the expansion of the AGCMP to SA will allow over 400 more South Australians with rare and less common cancers to access the promising clinical trials in Adelaide rather than having to travel to Sydney.

Senator Griff’s ongoing advocacy for the program’s expansion follows the $68 million in federal funding that Centre Alliance (as the former Nick Xenophon Team) was instrumental in negotiating last year, to ensure that Adelaide becomes home to the Southern Hemisphere’s first proton therapy cancer treatment centre.

“Australians with rare and life-threatening cancers already have a lot on their shoulders dealing with their prognosis and trying to maintain some level of normalcy while undergoing treatment. They will soon be able to access ground breaking genomic therapy in their own state, rather than having to travel to Sydney to access what could very well be life-saving, or life-extending therapy,” Senator Griff said.

 “I know from participating in last year’s Senate inquiry on funding for low-survival cancers that there is a distressing unmet need for effective treatment, and that traditional treatment isn’t always up to the job. That’s where genomic cancer therapies and immunotherapies that tap into a patient’s own genetic or immune response can be the key – and this is why this personalised cancer medicine program is so exciting.”

Through its Molecular Screening and Therapeutics (MoST) clinical trials, the AGCMP looks at the genome of a cancer patient - their entire DNA - to understand the genetic cause of a cancer and then target the treatment accordingly, rather than treating it based on its type or location (for instance, breast, brain, skin). Every suitable participant is treated with targeted drugs; there are no placebos or control groups in these trials. Because of high unmet need and poor prognosis with traditional treatment, the program focuses on less common and high-mortality cancers, such as ovarian cancer, brain cancer, pancreatic cancer and sarcomas.

There are 180 rare and less common cancers and while they account for one-third of all cancers, they cause half of all cancer deaths in Australia.

“The program has been willing to help those who have nowhere left to turn –and every Australian diagnosed with a difficult cancer deserves a shot at the best treatment option that can help them, irrespective of where they live,” Senator Griff said.

“I am grateful the Government has recognised the importance of this program and the lives it can potentially save with this investment.”

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