18 December 2017

Research deal offers hope of personalised therapies for ACT's rare cancer sufferers

| Ian Bushnell
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Head of the Cancer Division at the Garvan Institute, Professor David Thomas. Photo: Supplied.

A new partnership will give hope to ACT sufferers of rare and incurable cancers, with the possibility of innovative and targeted therapies being made available.

ACT Health’s Canberra Region Cancer Centre will team up with world-class research institute the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney so ACT patients can participate in clinical trials of cutting-edge personalised treatments.

The Molecular Screening and Therapeutics (MoST) clinical trials match novel therapies to rare and less common cancer patients with ‘incurable’ tumours based on their individual molecular and genetic makeup.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Meegan Fitzharris said the ACT Government would contribute $436,000 over three years to the trial.

“About 30 per cent of cancers diagnosed are rare and less common cancers, and many are currently incurable which means they result in 50 per cent of all cancer deaths,” Ms Fitzharris said.

“Under the trial, eligible patients being treated at the Canberra Regional Cancer Centre will be able to have samples and information submitted to the Garvan Institute for analysis and have potential therapies identified.”

Any person with advanced cancer for whom there is no standard treatment remaining will be eligible for the trial but they must also be well enough to be treated with an experimental agent safely.

Ms Fitzharris said the ACT medical community would also benefit from collaborating with a world-class institution in improving patient health outcomes and in attracting high-quality clinicians to the ACT.

The research would initially be conducted by medical staff already based in Canberra, but having cutting edge ongoing medical research based in the ACT helped to attract new researchers to the Territory.

The MoST project uses molecular and genetic analysis of tumours to identify optimal therapeutic targets for patients without treatment options.

New drugs are becoming available which are specific to these therapeutic targets. This leads to higher response rates, fewer side effects and better outcomes than traditional methods.

Close to 100 patients are expected to be recruited for the trials, which will commence early in 2018.

Head of the Cancer Division at the Garvan Institute, Professor David Thomas said the Genomic Cancer Medicine Program provided access to precision medicine for patients with incurable cancers, and particularly for those many Australians affected by rare and less common cancers.

“Over the past 12 months, more than 60 patients have come from outside NSW to take part in the program. We are really delighted to be able to work with the ACT Government to bring this program to help patients closer to home,” he said.

The MoST Trial was officially launched by the Garvan Institute and NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre in Sydney in August and is available for patients nationally.

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