Labor commits to 'early access' trials

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The Leukaemia Foundation has welcomed Labor's $20 million commitment to accelerate access to medicines and therapies through clinical trials for patients with blood cancer.

Leader Bill Shorten and shadow health minister Catherine King announced the 'Right to Trial'program for blood cancer, along with the creation of a ministerial advisory group, at Perth's St John of God Hospital. They were joined by Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch.

Blood cancers are the second most frequently diagnosed cancers in Australia and the second biggest cause of cancer death.

According to Mr Shorten, "Part of the problem is that while game-changing treatments are being developed, they are often too slow to get to patients when they need it most.

"We know that the fastest way to get access to the latest drugs and treatments available in the world is through clinical trials. This is also the only way to develop the evidence needed to list treatments on the PBS and MBS – providing access for all."

Labor said its commitment will give around 1,800 blood cancer patients access to new and emerging treatments specific to the genetic markers for their disease – potentially five to 10 years before they would be available under traditional clinical trial schemes in Australia.

The $20 million builds on the $1.8 million already committed by the Leukaemia Foundation and Tour de Cure to work with the Garvan Institute in Sydney, SA Genomics in Adelaide and QIMR in Brisbane, to establish a pilot for blood cancers.

"Labor’s commitment will dramatically expand this pilot and establish the Right to Trial program, working in partnership with our world-leading blood cancer experts, patient organisations like the Leukaemia Foundation and pharmaceutical industry partners," said Mr Shorten.

"Labor’s additional investment and commitment to establish the Right to Trial program would dramatically expand the initial project and provide access to approximately 1800 blood cancer patients, ensuring they can access the treatments they need.” said Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch.

“Research by the Leukaemia Foundation found that one in five Australian blood cancer patients try to access a clinical trial, but there either aren't any trials currently available, or they weren't eligible,” said Mr Petch.

"For some people with blood cancer, this lack of access can be a death sentence,” he said.

The Right to Trial model differs from traditional clinical trials under which a set number of patients are recruited to participate.

“This is about finding the right treatment, for the right patient at the right time,” said Mr Petch.

He said the approach could establish a method for capturing data to generate the real-world evidence required by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC).

“We stand ready to work in partnership with Government to ensure that Australians of all ages diagnosed with a blood cancer have access to the innovative treatments and services they need,” said Mr Petch.