Rare cancer project receives Cancer Council grant

Researchers from La Trobe University in Mildura have received a grant from Cancer Council Victoria for their international project supporting people living in rural communities who have a rare type of cancer.

Thirteen cutting-edge cancer research projects have been awarded $3.3 million through Cancer Council Victoria’s Grants-in-Aid program, which funds high-quality research projects into the causes, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

La Trobe researchers are co-designing and co-developing a first-of-its-kind peer-support online psychosocial intervention program in collaboration with researchers from the Netherlands.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Evelien Spelten said that people diagnosed with rare cancers in regional areas face additional challenges.

“Rare cancers are not that rare – one in five cancer diagnoses involves a rare cancer – yet patients who live in rural and remote areas with a rare cancer have a more difficult, often lonelier illness trajectory, and worse medical and psychosocial outcomes,” Associate Professor Spelten said.

“Rurality exacerbates the complex trajectory rare cancers patients are already in, because of difficulties accessing treatment and tailored supportive care.

“In our first year of funding, together with people with a rare cancer and clinicians, we aim to design and develop a peer-led online supportive care intervention specifically aimed at those living rurally.

“The aim is that we can improve quality of life for rural patients diagnosed with a rare cancer,” Associate Professor Spelten said.

Cancer Council Victoria’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Todd Harper AM, said that since 2015, Cancer Council Victoria has invested more than $40 million in life-saving cancer research and is the largest not-for-profit funder of cancer research in Victoria.

“For well-over a decade, Cancer Council Victoria has heavily invested in understanding the causes of cancer, understanding how we better prevent cancer, and how we can develop better treatments of cancer,” Mr Harper said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted health and medical research, with the economic consequences of the pandemic likely to be felt by the research sector for years to come, compromising a capacity for breakthroughs and innovation that can improve outcomes and save lives.

“Throughout the pandemic, Cancer Council Victoria has continued to prioritise the funding of lifesaving cancer research.”

Monash University, The Royal Women’s Hospital, the University of Melbourne, La Trobe University, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Nutt Lab, and the Colorectal Oncogenomic Group are the institutions that were awarded grants.

Mr Harper added that as the sector recovers from COVID-19, $3.3 million will provide much needed financial investment in cancer research and will aid the retention of expertise within the sector by supporting early-career researchers.

“Investing in high-quality research is essential to make sure Melbourne research institutions retain the best researchers. It supports our mission to improve cancer outcomes and save lives,” Mr Harper said.

“These projects have the potential to be not only game-changing, but life-saving, in their impact on people with cancer.”

“Our grants are donor funded and highlight just how important our supporters – the generous Victorian public – are in helping us work towards the next cancer breakthrough,” Mr Harper said.

Associate Professor Spelten said that this grant will be a game-changer for not only Victorians living in rural and remote communities, but for all rural Australians.

“I work and live rurally, so I am fully aware of the additional problems there are in accessing health care and supportive care. It will be nice for rural people to lead the way for once.”

General Manager of Rare Cancers Australia Christine Cockburn said it is very heartening to see investment in this area.

“It’s well known that inequities exist based on location; research like this is so important to help ensure people living outside metropolitan areas have access to supportive care that takes those extra barriers into account.”

Cancer Council Victoria’s cancer nurses are available on 13 11 20 to provide free supportive care to all Victorians.

About Cancer Council Victoria

Cancer Council Victoria is a non-profit cancer organisation dedicated to world-leading cancer research, prevention, and support since our establishment in 1936. Our mission is to prevent cancer, empower people and save lives.

Find out more at www.cancervic.org.au

Media enquiries: Courtney Carthy – c.carthy-oneill@latrobe.edu.au, +61 487 448 734