The future of cancer treatment lies in genetics rather than traditional approaches such as chemotherapy that act like a “sledgehammer” and also damage many healthy cells, according to a leading American researcher speaking at an Australian first youth cancer conference today.
CanTeen, which is hosting the International Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Congress, says Federal Government research funding is desperately needed to ensure that young Australians can benefit from the opportunities offered by medical innovation.
Professor Leonard Sender, from the University of California, is presenting his work on individually tailored genetic treatments and working with CanTeen to recruit 200 – 300 young cancer patients to take part in an international clinical trial.
“Using genetics allows us to treat cancer in a much more sophisticated and targeted way,” Professor Sender said.
“Traditional approaches like chemotherapy can be a bit like cracking a nut with a sledgehammer – you damage a lot of healthy cells as well as the cancer cells.
“Precision medicine involves looking at the genetic make-up of an individual’s tumour and then designing a treatment plan to specifically target that cancer.
“Through our research, we’ve shown that this approach can be financially viable not only in the US but Australia as well and so I’m excited to be working with CanTeen to hopefully get young Australian cancer patients involved in what could be a landmark international clinical trial,” Professor Sender said.
In Australia, around 1,000 young people aged 15-25 are diagnosed with cancer each year and about 150 will die from the disease.
“Taking part in a clinical trial is the fastest way to access cutting-edge cancer treatment, but only 11% of young Australians currently have access to these trials compared to almost a third of young patients in the UK,” said CanTeen CEO Peter Orchard.
“The exciting developments in cancer treatment taking place in the US and Europe through experts like Professor Sender are therefore out of reach to most young Australians unless they can travel overseas at huge personal cost.
“That’s why we’re calling on the Federal Government to commit $4 million a year to a dedicated youth cancer research fund that will enable more young Australians to take part in clinical trials.
“We want to see young Australian cancer patients benefit from the medical innovations that researchers like Dr Sender are working on,” Mr Orchard said.
More than 200 health professionals from around the world have gathered in Sydney for the inaugural International Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Congress, which is hosted by CanTeen.
In Australia, specialist, age-appropriate medical treatment and psychological support is available to young cancer patients through the Youth Cancer Services, which are funded by CanTeen as well as Federal, State and Territory health departments.
Around 70% of newly diagnosed young cancer patients are now being treated through the Youth Cancer Services.
[hr] Source: Canteen