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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Urgent political action a must in breast cancer: Key stakeholders unite at Parliament House

Health Industry Hub | March 22, 2023 |

Pharma News: Cancer is responsible for Australia’s largest disease burden, with breast cancer the second most commonly diagnosed cancer nationwide.

Pink Hope together with impassioned hereditary breast cancer patient survivors, leading breast cancer experts and Gilead Sciences will today host its inaugural policy and disease awareness panel event at Australian Parliament House with the nation’s parliamentary decision makers.

The case for urgent policy intervention to improve outcomes in breast cancer follows the closure of the Australian Cancer Plan public consultation, ahead of the revised version planned for delivery to the Minister for Health and Aged Care in April 2023.

Pink Hope CEO, Sarah Powell, is keen to emphasise that contrary to popular opinion breast cancer is a compilation of lesser-known subtypes and genetic mutations which can strongly influence prognosis, survival, and treatment type.

“Pink Hope supports families who are living with, or at risk of, hereditary cancer. For these people, their cancer, caused by a genetic mutation which has been passed on to them by a parent, is often more aggressive, occurs earlier in life and is more likely to come back,” said Ms Powell.

“We educate high-risk women to make informed decisions about managing their cancer risk but we need a healthcare system with the capacity to support them. Furthermore, there remains a significant need to draw the community and decision-makers to focus on metastatic breast cancer, which has a five-year survival rate of just 30%. Carriers of the BRCA gene mutation are more likely to develop metastatic breast cancer. We must combat the general misperception that breast cancer is the survivable type of cancer,” said Ms Powell.

Lisa Perry, Senior Director, Haematology, Oncology & Emerging Viruses Business Unit at Gilead Sciences told Health Industry Hub “We are proud to support Pink Hope’s Breast Cancer Panel event. Despite the positive progress on breast cancer in recent years, there are still too many women facing the prognosis of metastatic or hereditary linked breast cancer. By understanding the patient perspective and those that advocate on their behalf, we can learn about individual care needs, current gaps in the system and we how can play a role in supporting patients.”

Central to Pink Hope’s Canberra policy panel event is drawing attention to three significant policies in need for Federal intervention right now to lessen the impact of heredity breast cancer. Pink Hope will make the case for the establishment of a national genetic testing registry, reduction in wait times of elective surgery, and workforce succession planning to combat impending retirements and increase in demand for clinical geneticists.

Nicolette Neofitou is one of the 1,500 Australians diagnosed with a hereditary breast cancer in the past twelve months. As a carrier of the BRCA1 gene mutation, Nicolette knew she had up to a 72% chance of developing breast cancer so made the informed decision to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy to reduce her risk. Devastatingly, a 10-month delay to Nicolette’s elective surgery meant she had developed triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) in the time she was waiting.

“I knew I was a carrier of the BRCA1 gene mutation, and knew I had a high risk of breast cancer, but I never thought I would be someone who has cancer. The delay in surgery meant to I had to face a future of chemotherapy and treatment. My cancer journey started when I thought it was meant to end,” claimed Ms Neofitou.

Gilead’s Trodelvy (sacituzumab govitecan) was listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) in March 2022. The announcement was included as part of the 2022-23 Federal Budget for adults with inoperable locally advanced or metastatic TNBC who received two or more prior therapies.

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