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Research begins to uncover new treatments for cancers with low survival

Friday 22 February, 2019

A ground-breaking study in oesophageal cancer patients trialling new blood tests (liquid biopsies) to identify the extent of disease and how likely a patient is to respond to treatment is one of three new research projects into low survival cancers announced today thanks to funding from the Victorian Government.

The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre study led by Dr Nicholas Clemons could have an important impact for patients with oesophageal cancer - which currently has a 5-year survival rate of just 24% - and help guide treatment decision making.

The Victorian Government committed the funding to Cancer Council Victoria’s Grants-in-Aid program to research projects on low survival cancers to generate much-needed breakthroughs in cancers in which less than 50% of patients survive at least five years past diagnosis.

The other low survival research projects announced today are:

  • A study into whether the impact of living with lung cancer can be minimised with exercise. It will test the effect of a home-based exercise program, compared to usual care, on patient outcomes including physical function and quality of life.
  • A study that aims to develop a new targeted treatment for gastric cancers using antibody therapies. Gastric cancer is the third common cause of cancer-related death worldwide.

Victorian Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos said that while we’ve made great strides in detection and treatment, more needs to be done to improve patient survival rates in some cancers.

“These low-survival cancers make up nearly 20 per cent of all cancer diagnoses – yet they represent more than 40 per cent of cancer deaths each year. For many people with low-survival cancers there are very few or no treatment options available.

“The research projects we have announced today, and our continued investment into low survival cancer research, will provide hope to patients and their families that new treatments are being explored with the potential to improve outcomes for those diagnosed now and in the future.”

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said funding research into low survival cancers is a priority for the organisation, with Cancer Council partnering with Government and philanthropists to increase investment.

“The lack of research investment over many years directly relates to the lack of improvements in survival outcomes for patients affected by these cancers,” Mr Harper said.

“We know that to improve survival for low survival cancers comprehensive research investment is required. We have seen some great success with cancers that have received significant and consistent funding so we know this model works. For example, breast cancer has seen improved 5-year survival from 70% in 1981 to now over 90% in 2016.”

The research projects are part of Cancer Council Victoria’s Grants-in-Aid program that funds high-quality research projects into the treatment, causes, detection and prevention of all cancers, including further projects into low-survival cancers.