Clinical trials funding will help prevent youth cancer deaths

October 11, 2017

The funding for clinical trials announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today will help save lives by giving more young cancer patients access to cutting-edge treatment, according to CanTeen CEO Peter Orchard.

The organisation has received $5 million to support clinical trials in cancer types with the highest death rates for adolescents and young adults, which include brain, bone and blood cancers.

“Taking part in an early phase clinical trial is the fastest way to access cutting-edge cancer treatment, but young Australian cancer patients have been missing out on this opportunity,” said CanTeen CEO Peter Orchard.

“Their poor access to clinical trials is partly due to age restrictions – young people get caught between being too old for paediatric trials, but still too young for adult trials.

“In addition, the most deadly cancers affecting this age group are less common, which means there is less investment in research.

“The funding announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today will bring the latest medical innovations within reach of young people with cancer who might have previously been forced to travel overseas at huge cost to get a place on a clinical trial.

“This is truly fantastic news for young Australian cancer patients and I’d like to acknowledge and thank the Prime Minister and Minister for Health for supporting this potentially life-saving initiative,” Mr Orchard said.

Every year, around 1,100 young people aged 15-25 are diagnosed with cancer and about 150 will die from the disease.

Brain cancer, sarcomas (bone and soft tissue cancers) and blood cancer (leukaemia) account for more than 60% of all cancer deaths among young Australians.

“Brain, bone and blood cancers are the most deadly cancers affecting young Australians, but we haven’t seen significant improvements in survival rates for more than four decades,” said Professor David Thomas, Head of the Cancer Division of the Garvan Institute in NSW and Chair of CanTeen’s Clinical Trials Expert Advisory Group.

“As a result of this funding, CanTeen and the Expert Advisory Group are now reviewing expressions of interest from researchers who are seeking funding for projects that will improve outcomes for young cancer patients.

“Finding new approaches to cancer treatment will not only improve survival rates, but can also reduce short and long term side effects, which is especially important for young people,” Prof Thomas said.

Recruitment for these clinical trials will be assisted by the hospital-based Youth Cancer Services (YCS), which provide specialist treatment and support for young cancer patients aged 15-25. Around 70% of newly diagnosed young people are now being supported by the YCS, which receive federal funding through CanTeen as well as state and territory government funding.

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