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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

‘Cancer knows no politics’, says CEO of Ovarian Cancer Australia

Health Industry Hub | February 8, 2024 |

Pharma News: In marking Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Meghan Speers, ovarian cancer survivor and Chair of Ovarian Cancer Australia, spearheaded a female panel of speakers at the 2024 Teal Ribbon Parliamentary Breakfast held yesterday. The gathering aimed to shed light on the disparities within the healthcare system and advocate for much-needed change.

Ms Speers underscored the progress in ovarian cancer treatment, emphasising the significance of the latest inclusion in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). As of January 1, 2024, eligible Australian women with newly diagnosed advanced ovarian cancer now have access to AstraZeneca’s Lynparza (olaparib), a PARP-inhibitor. This represents a vital treatment option for approximately 25% of patients diagnosed with advanced epithelial ovarian cancer, specifically those who are HRD positive and do not carry a BRCA mutation, determined through genetic testing.

Speaking on the urgency of the cause, A/Prof Anna Boltong, CEO of Ovarian Cancer Australia, stated, “In 2024, we’re actively building our strategic plan and vision around the Australian cancer plan and the women’s health strategy. Ovarian cancer is a silent killer, and the statistics are grim. The uphill battle begins before the cancer is even diagnosed, leading to late diagnosis and advanced disease, resulting too often in poor outcomes. People live with the fear of the cancer coming back every day.”

A/Prof Boltong emphasised the need for ongoing support, particularly continued funding for specialist telehealth support programs.

Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Ged Kearney MP, echoed the sentiment, saying, “We need to support women at every single stage of their journey. The Teal support program is something very dear to my heart, especially as a nurse myself. It reaches women with the highest needs across the country.

“The healthcare system can be difficult to navigate for cancer patients, and Labor acknowledges this. We’re now working to implement a nursing and navigation program for every patient, regardless of cancer type. This is truly a game-changer.”

Shadow Minister for Health and Aged Care, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston, stressed “Cancer doesn’t discriminate between where you live. It certainly doesn’t discriminate in which political party you happen to be a member of. For that reason, I absolutely commit to bipartisan support.

“Like many Australians, I’ve been touched by ovarian cancer. A dear friend of mine succumbed to ovarian cancer the day before she turned 50, and it was then that I realised the insidious nature of this disease.”

Senator Ruston shared her personal journey, highlighting the importance of early screening and testing. She pledged to stand beside the government in supporting Ovarian Cancer Australia and all women in Australia facing this diagnosis, ensuring their journeys are as positive as possible.

“When I first became the Shadow Minister for Health, I remember Richard Vines from Rare Cancers in Australia saying to me, ‘If you get cancer, you need to get the right one’. I thought, what a weird thing to say. But it wasn’t until I became more aware of the difference in terms of the diagnosis and the prognosis of different cancers that I realised never a truer word has been spoken.”

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