The Senate Select Committee investigating cancers with low survival rates has tabled its report in Parliament today, calling for more government action to improve the outcomes of patients with low survival rate cancers.
Importantly, the report was tabled with the unanimous support of Labor, Liberal, One Nation and Nick Xenophon Team senators.
Committee Chair Senator Catryna Bilyk said the Committee’s recommendations were based on the evidence received through seven public hearings, 117 witnesses, and over 300 written submissions.
“Not only did we hear from researchers, medical experts and policy makers, we also heard the personal stories from cancer survivors, and from the families and carers of patients who, tragically, had died from their cancers,” Senator Bilyk said.
“These families are desperate for answers as to why, despite the improvement in cancer survival generally, the survival rates of some cancers had barely moved in decades.
“They want cancer patients to have hope for the future—they want action.”
The Committee found that an inadequate amount of funding has been allocated to research into low survival rate cancers.
“We therefore recommended that the National Health and Medical Research Council consider identifying low survival rate cancers as a National Health Priority in its next corporate plan,” Senator Bilyk said.
“The Committee also recommended the implementation of an Australia-wide strategy to increase the five-year survival rates of low survival rate cancers to more than 50 percent by 2027.”
Senator Bilyk praised some of the innovative approaches being undertaken into cancer research, such as the Garvan Institute of Medical Research’s work on targeting cancer treatments based on genetic markers, and the GBM AGILE trial, which uses multifactor analysis to test and evaluate the results of several glioblastoma treatments simultaneously.
“The Committee has recommended ongoing funding for genomic research into low survival rate cancers,” Senator Bilyk said.
“We also recommended facilitating innovative and flexible approaches to the design of clinical trials.”
Senator Bilyk said that evidence received by the Committee outlined a number of barriers to cancer patients accessing clinical trials.
“These included delays in ethics and governance approvals, the lack of information about trials, ineligibility against trial criteria, and the difficulty of travel for regional and remote Australians participating in trials,” Senator Bilyk said.
“A number of recommendations were made to improve access to clinical trials including streamlining of approval processes and making information about clinical trials more user-friendly.”
Among the other recommendations of the Committee were:
● a public awareness campaign and professional development for doctors to improve the detection and diagnosis of low survival rate cancers;
● the possibility of expanding the Australian Cancer Database and establishing a national biobank so that medical researchers have access to the data and tissue they need;
● changes to TGA, MSAC and PBAC processes to improve patient access to diagnostic tests and both new and re-purposed medicines;
● improved access to specialist cancer care co-ordinators or nurses for low survival rate cancer patients in every state and territory;
● simplification and streamlining of the application process for low survival rate cancer patients and their carers trying to access the DSP or carer payments; and
● that the Australian Government leads a process through COAG to improve the transition from paediatric to adult oncology.