Thousands of Australian patients battling rare and aggressive cancers are to receive world-leading experimental treatment closer to home.
A Sydney-based trial, which advocates say is grounded in “common sense”, will expand to every state and territory as it tries to understand the genomes of patients with rare cancers and give them existing medicines.
Canberra mother-of-one Sarah McGoram is among the 5000 people to be involved in the program which will help the 52,000 Australians diagnosed each year with a rare cancer.
Ms McGoram, who has fought gastrointestinal stromal tumours since 1996, was among 1000 people who had no opton but to travel from outside NSW to Sydney’s Garvan Institute to participate in the original, smaller trial after she exhausted all other treatment options.
“As a rare cancer patient, I have often felt isolated with limited options,” she said on Wednesday.
“I’m incredibly grateful to be part of this program and to have so many people who care about my disease.”
Rare Cancers Australia chief executive Richard Vines said while half of all Australian cancer deaths were from rare or less common cancers there was little commercial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to fund trials and new medicines.
Rare or less common cancers encompass those with fewer than 3000 diagnoses a year such as pancreatic, thyroid cancer and sarcomas.
Part of the Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Program will examine the genetic driver of a patient’s rare cancer to see if it could be stopped with existing treatments for common cancers such as those of the breast or lung cancer.
“We don’t have to go and invent new stuff, we just have to use want we’ve got smarter and better,” Mr Vines told AAP on Wednesday.
“It has that ring of common sense about it.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt says the federal government will pour $50 million into the trial which will operate in each state and territory capital city’s major cancer treatment centre.
The new funding is on top of the $750 million already committed for the Australian Genomics Health Futures Mission and the Rare Cancers Rare Diseases research program.