Victorian cancer patients urged to ask about clinical trials

Sunday 20 May, 2018

Participation in cancer clinical trials has remained stagnant over the past three decades Cancer Council Victoria has revealed today, urging patients to ask their treating team whether they could benefit from a clinical trial.

Today, International Clinical Trials Day, Cancer Council has highlighted that in recent years recruitment has remained static – between 5 and 6% - despite an increasing availability of trials.

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said there are world-class clinical trials being conducted here in Victoria, yet many patients are unaware they can take part in a clinical trial, or are confused about what it involves or how it works.

“This year Cancer Council marks 30 years of funding clinical trials in Victoria, over which time we’ve provided about $20 million in funding,” Mr Harper said.

“Many people with cancer are now living longer with a better quality of life due to clinical trials.  That’s why we want to make sure all Victorian cancer patients are well informed on clinical trials so they are afforded the same opportunity to take part.”

Mr Harper said that engaging regional and rural patients in clinical trials is a priority for the organisation to ensure they have the same opportunities as their metropolitan counterparts.

“On average, rural patients make up a third of all patients recruited into cancer clinical trials, slightly more than the distribution of people living in rural and regional parts of Victoria (25%). However, nearly 85% of all rural and regional patients recruited into cancer clinical trials have to travel to a metropolitan cancer centre to receive treatment.”

Mr Harper said that the necessity to travel is a major barrier to rural and regional participation in clinical trials.

“While some participants receive compensation for travel if their trial is sponsored by a pharmaceutical company, others will receive nothing, as the Victorian Patient Assisted Transport Scheme currently excludes transport for clinical trials.”

Associate Professor Andrew Wei, Chair of Cancer Council Victoria’s Clinical Network, said a concerted effort is required to raise awareness of clinical trials amongst health professionals and patients.

“Clinical trials are an essential step in translating cancer research findings into improved treatments for patients. Clinical trials also provide patients with access to drugs that aren’t yet available to them in Australia, or which are too costly,” A/Prof Wei said.

Since being diagnosed with melanoma Greg Lawson took part in a clinical trial to help treat his cancer.

“It opened my eyes up to what trials could offer patients outside of the regular treatments that were available mainstream, as well as to provide something back to research. I jumped at the chance,” Mr Lawson said.

“My thoughts when I’m getting my treatment through the trial are that it’s helping me, and it’s helping a lot of people.

“The chance of getting a better quality of life, the opportunity of extending your time here with family and friends – I think a lot of people would take that chance.”

To search for a trial, visit trials.cancervic.org.au For more information call Cancer Council’s information and support line 13 11 20 or talk to your treating team.