News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Stakeholders respond to Australia’s first national cancer plan unveiled at COSA

Health Industry Hub | November 3, 2023 |

Pharma News: In a historic move, the Australian Government has unveiled the Australia’s first national cancer plan, a comprehensive strategy aimed at revolutionising the prevention, screening, treatment, and management of all cancers across the nation, irrespective of their background or geographical location.

The announcement was made by Professor Dorothy Keefe, CEO of Cancer Australia, during the 50th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA) in Melbourne. The Australian Cancer Plan is a collaborative effort, developed in consultation with various stakeholders, including states and territories, First Nations communities, clinicians, researchers, individuals impacted by cancer, and support organisations.

The Plan’s ambit extends across all cancer types, encompassing the entire spectrum of the cancer journey, from early prevention and detection to treatment, recovery, and end-of-life care. Of paramount importance in this endeavour is addressing disparities in cancer experiences, with a specific focus on improving the outcomes for First Nations people. Alarming statistics reveal that First Nations individuals are 14% more likely to be diagnosed with cancer and 45% more likely to succumb to this devastating disease than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

Federal Minister of Health, Mark Butler MP, highlighted the urgency of the Australian Cancer Plan, stating, “The burden of cancer is increasing, with more than 164,000 Australians estimated to be diagnosed this year. While cancer outcomes in this country are generally among the best in the world, that’s not true for some people, simply because of who they are or where they live. Our Australian Cancer Plan responds to patients’ concerns that the health system is hard to navigate and will ensure no one falls through the gaps.”

The plan includes a pivotal partnership with two prominent organisations to meet the 2 and 5-year goals. Working alongside Movember, the government will incorporate patient-reported experiences and outcomes into service performance monitoring. Additionally, Cancer Council Australia will collaborate to establish a national cancer data framework aimed at enhancing the accessibility, consistency, and comprehensiveness of cancer data.

Professor Dorothy Keefe, CEO of Cancer Australia, emphasised the comprehensive nature of the Australian Cancer Plan, stating, “It is our aim that the Australian Cancer Plan resonates with every person affected by cancer and everyone engaged in the cancer sector in Australia. Achieving equity in cancer outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is the most significant ambition for the future of cancer care. This intention is at the heart of the Australian Cancer Plan.”

Heather Cahill, Oncology Business Unit Director at AstraZeneca, praised the plan’s vision for universal access to treatment and care, regardless of one’s background or location. She also stressed the importance of continued collaboration in advancing cancer research and treatments.

“AstraZeneca will continue to collaborate with the cancer community on lung cancer screening and genomics, which are key pillars of this plan, to ensure more Australians are diagnosed and treated earlier, which may save lives. We are working with the Government and cancer community to drive much needed improvements in the PBS to accelerate access to cancer medicines, as reimbursement of cancer treatments on the PBS is critical to improving equity and outcomes for all cancer patients.”

Bill Petch, Co-Chair of All.Can Australia and Chief Executive Officer of Crohn’s Colitis Cure, said the launch of the Plan signifies the opportunity to integrate work being undertaken by different parties in the cancer space to further transform cancer care.  

“All.Can Australia views the Plan as an opportunity to drive better connectivity and equitable access in the cancer space. Now that a long-term plan is in place, we can work together to implement and make change. It is only through a united approach that the Plan can be brought to life and make best use of existing resources to address a critical unmet need. This has been at the heart of All.Can Australia’s approach to any work we do in cancer space,” said Mr Petch. 

Leukaemia Foundation CEO, Chris Tanti, said “Our goal through the development of the Optimal Care Pathways is to see that all Australians living with blood cancer have access to the best possible care, treatment, and support services. With the addition of the Australian Cancer Plan, we believe that there is now a clearer roadmap to achieve this goal and we remain committed to working with the government to ensure the implementation of the Plan meets the needs of blood cancer patients.”

Professor Ricky Johnstone, Peter Mac’s Executive Director of Cancer Research, applauded the release of the plan.

“It’s fantastic to see an emphasis being placed on the establishment of an Australian Comprehensive Cancer Network to link cancer care in both major cities and in regional and rural areas around the country. As outlined in the Plan, a network of Comprehensive Cancer Centres will help to increase connectivity and the sharing of technology development, data and expertise as well as improving access to cancer services for patients. This concept strongly aligns with our vision to continuously improve research-driven cancer care for all people affected by cancer,” he said.

Medicines Australia CEO Liz de Somer said the six strategic objectives in the Plan reflect the priorities called for by stakeholders including industry.

“Over the last 40 years, the pharmaceutical industry has invested significantly in the research and development of innovative new vaccines, diagnostics and therapies. This perseverance has led to a new era where genomic testing and personalised medicine are now available and improving the prognosis and quality of life of many patients.

“The Plan recognises this but it also recognises that access to early diagnostic technology and treatment options through the PBS remains the biggest hurdle for too many Australians. This must be addressed through HTA reforms if Australia is to have a world class health system,” Ms de Somer expressed.

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