Oncologist Dr. Belinda Yeoh and a patient

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$1 million towards cancer research

Tuesday 18 September 2018

Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, announced a $1 million funding boost this weekend to extend a rare cancer research trial based at Austin Health, to be conducted by the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI), a collaborative partner of Austin Health's Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre.

The funding was announced the day before walkers and runners hit the track at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness Walk and Research Run at La Trobe University on September 16.

The immune-stimulating treatment which is being trailed for the first time with rare cancer patients, will be available to an additional 60 patients living in regional and rural areas thanks to the funding.

The highly effective cancer immunotherapy treatment will treat a combination of rare gastrointestinal, neuroendocrine and gynecological cancers.

Specialist clinicians at Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI) are leading the project. ONJCRI Medical Director, Professor Jonathan Cebon, says the funding will benefit patients that can't receive effective drugs.

"Australians with rare cancers have limited access to effective treatments due to the lack of understanding of how their cancers will respond to treatment and they are often excluded from large clinical trials."

Working in partnership with Rare Cancers Australia and BMS Ltd, clinicians have already treated 50 patients at three metropolitan centres.

Professor Cebon says that early responses have been promising, however not every patient benefits from the treatment.

"Laboratory tests are under development which will help guide clinicians to identify those who are most likely to respond to treatment, and more importantly, those who will not. This means valuable time will not be lost for patients by pursuing ineffective treatments."