Big pharma urged to help patients with advanced cancer
A leading cancer researcher is urging the federal government to attract pharmaceutical giants to the country with public private partnerships to provide lifesaving genetic tests and new treatments.
Professor David Thomas, head of cancer research at the Garvan Institute, said Australia's management of the COVID pandemic had cemented its position as ideal for medical research.
"We think that we can save lives or we can increase people's life span from months to years and help with their quality of life," Professor Thomas said yesterday.
He said the reason cancer sufferers were not routinely given genomic tests was both because of the initial cost - at an average of around $2500 - and then the often-prohibitive ongoing bills to provide treatment which could be tailored for the patient as a result of the test.
Genomic tests can also monitor the cancer through genetic mutations but many suitable drugs are not yet approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
The Garvan Institute was approached last year by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt to develop the idea of public private partnerships to reduce the cost and revolutionise testing and treatments.
Its submission was made in January.
Professor Thomas said he was passionate about genetic testing of cancer patients but there would be a heavy cost to the taxpayer, with around 35,000 Australians a year diagnosed with advanced cancer. By proactively attracting the big pharmaceutical companies to conduct their research here, it would dramatically cut costs.
At the forefront of cancer patients who could benefit are women with advanced, late-stage breast cancers.
"It's a win," Professor Thomas, who is also CEO of the Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Centre, said.
"We have asked the federal government to take part in public private partnerships where the government provides genetic testing for all Australians with advanced cancer and if, in return, there is a guaranteed commitment from the world's major pharmaceutical companies to make Australia their main destination for the conduct of clinical trials then we do not only test patients we can offer treatments.
"But we are taking a long view of this.
"It just requires us to rethink the relationship between the public sector and industry."
It comes as more than 25,000 people have signed a petition calling on the government to make genome testing more affordable for those with an advanced or rare cancer as The Daily Telegraph backs the campaign by mother-of-two Alison Day who has triple negative breast cancer.
Originally published as Big pharma urged to help patients with advanced cancer