CANCER patients who could benefit from clinical trials are missing out. The patient participation target of the previous Labor state government was 15 per cent by 2020. In 1990, just 6 per cent of newly diagnosed cancer patients entered a trial; by 2012, it was only at 7.8 per cent.
Medical experts say trials are vital to develop drugs and give patients access to cutting-edge, often costly, treatments.
The Cancer Council Victoria is calling for a new federal body to manage clinical trials and for funding to be fenced off to give clinical staff time to work on trials.
The council’s CEO, Todd Harper, said it also wanted better planning and investment to overcome barriers to recruiting patients to trials.
These include the difficulty in starting a trial, gaining ethics approvals, recruiting patients, and ensuring clinicians had time to run trials and treat patients.
The chairman of the council’s clinical network, Associate Professor Jeremy Millar, said unless there was a miracle, targets would not be met.
Prof Millar said trials helped to improve clinical standards, research and education, and it was mainly because of them that cancer survival rates were improving.
“Doing the clinical trials not only advances treatments, but it also stops us from spending money on things that don’t work,” Prof Millar said.
Royal Melbourne Hospital’s head of oncology, Dr Mark Rosenthal, said clinical trials could give patients access to drugs that may not yet have been approved for use in Australia or were too costly.
Dr Millar said there was also evidence that patients on trials had better outcomes.
Mr Harper said the proportion of patients taking part in clinical trials had flatlined.
“That’s partly a lack of understanding among patients and the broader community, and partly a lack of resources and support for clinicians and hospitals,” he said.
Ashley Gardiner, speaking for Health Minister David Davis, said the Government had set aside $14.9 million a year for trials and had streamlined ethics approval. He said it was also developing a plan focusing on patient participation.
Source: Herald Sun