Neglected Cancers Getting the Attention they Deserve

In recognising Neglected Cancers Awareness Week, on Friday 21 June, 40 of Australia’s leading researchers, medical professionals and consumer representatives will be gathering in Sydney for the inaugural GI Cancer Clinical Trials Idea Generation Workshop – being run as a joint initiative of the GI Cancer Institute and NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre (CTC).

More on Neglected Cancers

Each year over 28,900 Australians are diagnosed with a digestive cancer – the most common and also some of the most deadly cancers, which affect the gastro-intestinal tract. The initiative forms part of the GI Cancer Institute’s continued focus on accelerating progress to improve outcomes for people with a gastro-intestinal (GI) cancer.

In order to achieve this nine research priorities have been identified, which not only seek to foster innovation and develop new approaches for treatment but have a particular emphasis on appropriate approaches for rare and low survival cancers – for which digestive cancers are disproportionately represented.

Three of the eight cancers with the highest mortality rates (>70%) are cancers of the GI tract:

  • pancreas
  • liver
  • oesophagus

Six of the twelve cancers with the lowest five year survival rates (<30%) are also GI cancers:

  • Pancreas
  • Liver
  • Oesophagus
  • Stomach
  • Gallbladder & bile ducts
  • Other digestive organs

For those 6 rare and neglected digestive cancers five year survival is still below 30% – and for pancreatic cancer only 1 of every 9 diagnosed will survive. New ideas are therefore a critical first step toward improving outcomes for the thousands of Australians diagnosed every year,” says Professor Tim Price, Chair of the GI Cancer Institute.

This event provides a unique opportunity for some of Australia’s brightest minds to explore areas of unmet need in gastro-intestinal clinical trials in Australia and globally and develop ideas for future clinical trials in GI cancer.

Unfortunately GI cancers do not receive the community support or research funding compared to other cancers, and particularly when compared to the numbers of deaths they cause – with over 14,800 expected in 2019.

The NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre and the GI Cancer Institute, play an important role not only in funding and delivering clinical trials but also in facilitating engagement and building collaboration to help people find the right partners for new research.

Associate Professor Mustafa Khasraw, joint convenor of the meeting says, “Ultimately, we have to foster collaboration in order to generate good clinical research. If Investigators need a statistician, or if they need a lab scientist, or they need a clinician with particular expertise, we can also bring them together and if there is an area that we can’t help with we can find expertise wherever it exists, to help bring good ideas to life.”

For GI cancers symptoms often don’t present until the cancer has often spread. As such new treatments are critical and clinical trials run here in Australia enable progress and provide an opportunity for hope – giving access to new treatments 3-5 years earlier than if this research was conducted overseas.

“New ideas are the only way we are going to see change to quality of life and also to the survival rate for all GI cancer patients. To receive 23 new ideas for consideration and to have time to discuss and develop ten of them further is a unique opportunity which we hope to replicate again on an annual basis going forward. Our commitment to identifying gaps in current research knowledge and to drive the pace of change will continue”, says Professor Tim Price. “It will be exciting to see these ideas be developed and brought to life – ultimately to the benefit of so many Australians affected every year.”

Our Research Priorities