Cancer patients will benefit from additional government funding of trials into rare diseases including cancers such as acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in infants, advocacy groups say.
The projects are being funded under Medical Research Future Fund’s Rare Cancers, Rare Diseases and Unmet Needs Clinical Trials Program, according to federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.
The projects to be funded include:
- A Phase I study of triple therapy with ibrutinib, rituximab and EBV-specific T-cells in patients with EBV-positive primary or secondary CNS lymphoma (University of Queensland).
- A feasibility study of the addition of blinatumomab to the Interfant-06 backbone in infants with MLL-rearranged Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (Monash University).
- Trial of a test a CMV antigen vaccine for glioblastoma (University of NSW).
- Multicentre trial evaluating FET-PET in high grade glioma ( LaTrobe University, Victoria)
- A national clinical trial program aimed at improving outcomes for patients with AML through introduction of precision-based diagnosis, treatment and monitoring. (Monash University, Melbourne)
The funding has been welcomed by advocacy group Rare Cancers Australia, which says that until now rare and less common cancers have received only 12% of the cancer research dollar, despite accounting for over 50% of cancer deaths.
“The additional research funding …will go a long way to achieving greater access to treatment and ultimately improve the outcomes for patients,” said Rare Cancers Australia chief executive Richard Vines.
Mr Vines said there were over 52,000 diagnoses of rare and less common cancers annually, and 25,000 deaths in Australia.
“The average survival rate for those living with rare cancers remains extremely low compared to the average survival rates for Australians with more common cancers, but this is progress and we are thrilled,” said Mr Vines.
Meanwhile, the minister has also announced the establishment of the Australian Brain Cancer Mission Strategic Advisory Group .
Chaired by Professor Adele Green, head of the Cancer and Population Studies Group at QIMR Berghofer in Queensland, the advisory group will to help steer the Australian Brain Cancer Mission, towards its aim of doubling survival rates and improving the quality of life of patients with brain cancer over the next 10 years.
The Australian Brain Cancer Mission is a partnership of government, philanthropists, researchers and clinicians, patients and their families .
Clinicians appointed to the advisory group include Dr Chris Fraser, a paediatric oncologist at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Brisbane and Professor Mark Rosenthal, a medical oncologist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne.
The Australian Brain Cancer Mission Strategic Advisory Group will also provide advice on emerging issues nationally and internationally to inform the work of the Mission and guide its investment of $100 million in funds.