Greg Hunt

Federal Member for Flinders | Minister for Health

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Transcript - $200 million boost for medical research in Australia

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

SUBJECTS: Health and medical research. 



I’m here with Greg Hunt, surrounded by so much medical talent, we’re going to hear from in a moment. But I just want to say how inspired we’ve been by the courage of the young people here who are battling with and beating cancer, with the love and support of the doctors and the nurses in this great hospital.

Boronia sang so well for us, Nick on the drums, Zoie on the reverie harp, is that right? And Katerina it was great to talk to you too and just to see the love of your family, all of you supported with strong families, great love and bringing that together with the remarkable sights and professionalism of all the team here.

You're the heroes of today, so thank you.


Now, I mentioned I'm here with Greg Hunt who of course is the Minister for Health and Sport, indeed. Peter Orchard who is the Chief Executive Officer of CanTeen, Professor David Thomas down at the end there, who is the Director of Genomic Cancer Medicine at the Garvan, Anne Kelso the Chief Executive Officer of the NHMRC, the National Health and Medical Research Council, which we're announcing today, is making just under $200 million of additional grants for research.

That is in addition to the $5 million that is coming to CanTeen for research and indeed another $5 million of funding, both that $10 million from the Medical Research Future Fund but we will go into more details about that. But Joey Lynch, a handsome young fellow, fantastic jacket -


What a great coat. Joey has come back from Philadelphia where he has been able to participate in a clinical trial. He is doing well, as you can see. He is in remission and he is passionate about ensuring that more young Australians get access to that cutting-edge medicine here in Australia.

So, let me begin and say a little bit about what's happening here today. We're talking about today particularly the $5 million in funding we're providing to CanTeen from our Medical Research Future Fund, so it can undertake clinical trials here in Australia for adolescents and young adults living with cancer.

The investment will develop the next generation of clinical interventions and best-practice care models for adolescent and young adult cancer patients. It will bring the latest medical innovations within reach of young people in Australia who have - as Joey is going to tell us about - have in the past been forced to travel overseas at great cost. It’ll build on our broader investment in medical research and support for children and young people with cancer. Through our Zero Childhood Cancer initiative, we're providing $20 million to bring together a national network of hospitals, research centres and clinicians, including here on the Randwick campus.

So we are going to hear in a moment from Peter on the progress of the CanTeen project and as I said, from Joey, on how it will change young people's lives.

We are also announcing today over $202 million in funding, over and above the $5 million going to CanTeen, to support our world-leading medical researchers through the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Medical Research Future Fund. The vast majority of the NH&MRC grants announced today, will provide fellowships to support the careers of some of our most outstanding medical researchers. Through our first-round disbursements from the Medical Research Future Fund, we will also support 13 fellowships under our next generation clinical research program.

Medical research, of course, is absolutely essential to continually improving the health for all Australians and it's something that Lucy and I have always been very passionate about. In fact, we have been passionate supporters of the work here at this hospital, the work at the Bright Alliance, here at Prince of Wales.

This is a fantastic institution and while these young people would so dearly rather not be here, you are nonetheless in the best possible hands. So you've got the best people looking after you and we're privileged to be here to support them.

Now, over $38 million of the funding announced today will support vital cancer research and that includes research to improve outcomes for melanoma patients.

It is World Mental Health Week and we’re reminded of the need for greater investigation of the causes and treatments for mental health. We all have a vested interest in everybody else’s mental health.

My friend, the psychiatrist Ian Hickie from the Brain and Mind Foundation at Sydney University has a great term; he talks about the ‘mental wealth of nations’. We all have a vested interest in ensuring that everybody else around us, is mentally well, hence initiatives like ‘RUOK?’ and awareness of people around you and showing some love and care for them.

So $29 million is going towards support for mental health research and that includes funding for critical research on the prevention of childhood suicide.

Anne Kelso, the CEO of the NH&MRC is with us today and she’s going to talk to us further about the important research and the researchers that these grants will be funding.

So I will now ask the Minister, Greg Hunt, to say some more about the medical research he is so passionate about and is doing such an outstanding job in marshalling the resources of government to support it, Greg.


Thanks very much, Prime Minister and to Peter and Anne, to Joey and David, to all of our magnificent medical researchers. But above all, to Katerina and to Nick, to Zoie and Boronia, you make us really proud.

Today is, in theory about medical research, in practice it’s about you. It’s about giving our young people hope and a future and an opportunity which might otherwise not be there.

So medical research saves lives and protects lives. It makes us better as a country and it makes us better as humans. To meet these beautiful young people who are on the most difficult of journeys, but with incredible hope and a sense of possibility, because of the care that they are receiving, because of the medical research, to find exactly why we do our jobs and why everybody here does theirs.

In short, as the Prime Minister set out, we’re launching the CanTeen clinical trials today. Joey was able, through the support of CanTeen, to travel to the United States. But in the future, his treatment is the sort of treatment which should be occurring here in Australia. So that everybody has that opportunity.

Our goal is very simple; to give every child and every teenager the opportunity for cancer treatment here in Australia. To work towards the eradication of childhood cancer; a simple, clear, absolute and achievable goal in our lifetime. I think that is the case.

So today, with the CanTeen launch, there is also the launch of the more than $200 million of funding. As the Prime Minister said, cancer is the largest area. Mental health also receives $29 million and then there is $22 million for cardiovascular support. $15 million for injury and $15 million for Indigenous support as well as a focus on diabetes and dementia amongst other things.

But to break it down to something specific, for example there is research which is being done on childhood leukaemias, for those beautiful children that are under one year of age. Their survival rate is lower than children who are older and as a parent, can anybody imagine anything more challenging? So if we can lift those survival rates that will make every dollar worthwhile.

We have research into rejection of chemotherapy in some young children, again, something incredibly important. Then, as the Prime Minister said, research into suicide prevention for young children. So that's why our research matters, because at the end of the day it saves lives and protects lives. Peter.


Thanks, Greg.



CanTeen wants to thank the Prime Minister and the Minister for this wonderful announcement of $5 million for clinical trials with adolescent and young adult cancer patients. It really fills out the picture for us.

The Australian Government has already provided terrific funding that has allowed us to set up world-class youth cancer services for these young patients. Now we can bring clinical trials and add them to that wonderful foundation and give access for young patients to the latest developments and possibilities in treatment.

This will mean the saving of lives for those young people, as well as shaping the future of treatment for young cancer patients here in Australia.

It’s an enormous opportunity and CanTeen is thrilled to work with the Government on taking us forward and with the State and Territory governments that we partner with around cancer services across the country. It’s an enormous day for young cancer patients and thank you very much for coming today.

I’d also like to now introduce Professor David Thomas. We have a clinical trials expert advisory group. Professor Thomas is the chair of that expert advisory group amongst other hats that he wears at the Garvan Institute here in Sydney. But also I regard David as the grandfather of adolescent, young adult medicine here in Australia.

He’s been the person who worked on the first youth cancer service here in Australia at the Peter MacCallum Hospital in Melbourne, so it's terrific to have you here, David.


Thank you, Peter. When I started in adolescent young adult oncology, I fitted the US criteria for adolescents and young adults. I don't anymore. It’s interesting to reflect on how much has changed over the past 15 years since we set up the first adolescent and young adult cancer unit at Peter Mac in Victoria. It’s gone from something that was driven from passion in the community and philanthropy, into a core government investment.

The youth cancer services have literally transformed the care of young cancer patients, providing them with a focus for the first time, to concentrate all of our assets onto improving outcomes. It’s very pleasing for me in particular, a believer in science and the ability of science to transform health outcomes, particularly at this time, to see that potential turned into something in the form of clinical trials.

There is no doubt that clinical trials have to be the standard of care for patients who are fighting for their lives and this will enable youth cancer services to reach forward through that dimension. Through things like genomics, the enormous power of technology to deconvolute cancers to give us clues to how to personalise therapy. Through precision medicine, through trials that are powered in that way, we are going to see this trial's investment capacity, allow that science to enter the lives of the people in this room.

That's my hope, that's my expectation and that's what I want to see happen. A very exciting time. Thank you.



Yes, I would just like to say as the Prime Minister did say, I did go over to Philadelphia last year to take part in my own clinical trial, having been diagnosed with lymphoma in 2008. I had reached a point in late 2015 where I had run out of curative options and there was nothing available in Australia, so I was forced to look overseas. Not just for treatment, but to save my life in a way.

So the fact that now, trials such as the one that I had to secure $600,000 US for, to go on and travel overseas to receive, will now be available in Australia. It's just so, so important to me. Because at its base level, what these trials will be doing is they are going to be saving lives.

The trial that I was on saved my life and these trials that will be running in Australia, are going to save the lives of young Australians that don't have any more options.

So on a very personal level I would like to thank the Prime Minister and the Minister and the Australian Government for this investment because it's going to save the lives my friends and support their families through a time which they never want to go through, but we can do our best to support them in. So thank you for that.



Just to quickly introduce Joey. He is a CanTeen board director, but also has worked very hard, as you can hear, to get access to a clinical trial in the States. I really want to thank Joey for flying up today, to be part of this. He has been an absolute advocate for the needs of young patients here and his story is incredibly compelling. Thank you, Joey. If I can introduce Professor Anne Kelso now to talk about the announcements.


Good morning, everyone. It’s a great honour to be here with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health to talk about the funding that’s being provided today for health and medical research.

The more than $200 million that’s been announced today is just a wonderful investment in the future health and wellbeing of all of us, of all of the Australian community. I think it's very interesting to be doing that in a place like this, where we see the translation of research into the best possible health care for young patients.

It’s also a time when we can see how the combination of Commonwealth investment can be made with state and philanthropic investment, to create these extraordinary facilities where research can be put into practice for the best possible health care. The $200 million-plus that is being announced today is, as the Prime Minister said, largely going to fellowships for our most promising emerging researchers. Which I think will be a launching pad for their ongoing careers in research in Australia and we hope will keep them here for all of our benefit.

But the funding is also going to our international Australian stars, these are our most senior and most respected, most established researchers around the country. So it’s a wonderful opportunity for the Commonwealth to support the careers of our absolute best researchers. Many of those researchers are working in cancer research.

Today also the announcement covers a number of other types of grants and I want to mention just one of those types and those are the centres of research excellence. There are 16 of them being announced today and four of them are in cancer research, one for melanoma, one for our absolute world-leading cervical cancer program, which was enhanced with the announcement of Gardasil 9 by the Prime Minister and the Minister on Sunday - also for the better implementation of research evidence into practice. Finally for a centre which will be focused on stem cell transplantation for leukaemia and the prevention of graft versus host disease, which is a very significant problem for many leukaemia patients.

So these centres are going to be a way of bringing together people around the country, to make sure we continue to be at the absolute leading edge of the delivery of best possible cancer care to all patients.

So thank you very much.


Thanks Anne.


Well, thank you. Thank you all very much. So we have some questions? Happy to take some.


In terms of the $5 million going to CanTeen, how many young lives do you think it could possibly save, with these clinical trials now available in Australia?


Well, the answer of course – I’ll throw to Peter – but just the important thing about clinical trials is that the trials themselves can save lives, but as they demonstrate and prove new treatments, new therapies, of course as that is translated as Anne was saying into clinical work around the country and indeed around the world, the life-saving potential is enormous.

But Peter you might - or have I answered it?



You have got very close, but if I could just add, 150 young people will die from cancer each year. 60 per cent of those will die from either leukemia, sarcoma or a brain tumor. The research we are going to target will be in two to three of those cancer types, depending on the proposals we receive, but the result, the efficacy of those is yet to be tested obviously, but there will certainly be opportunities that weren't there for those young patients if those trials didn't exist.


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