$185 million investment to fast-track treatments for rare and ‘untreatable’ cancers

17 Mar 2022

Children’s Cancer Institute is to be part of an exciting new partnership that will strengthen Australia’s position at the forefront of the cancer treatment revolution and increase clinical trial and drug access for child and adult cancer patients.

The Precision Oncology Screening Platform Enabling Clinical Trials (PrOSPeCT) initiative will establish Australia as a medical manufacturing hub: building links from research through to the clinic; creating jobs; changing lives.

The announcement was made by the Australian Government at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research today.

Over the past decade, immunotherapy and other new treatments have transformed outcomes for thousands of Australians diagnosed with cancer. However, 46,000 Australians a year, including over 200 children and young people, are diagnosed with cancers with limited treatment options.

PrOSPeCT will open up new treatment paths for children and adults across Australia with difficult to treat cancers.

“Genomic medicine allows us to look at the genetics of a person’s cancer, rather than treating it based on location (e.g. breast, colon, skin). This allows us to understand inherited cancer risk and find more effective treatments for people with cancer,” said Professor David Thomas, head of Genomic Cancer Medicine at the Garvan Institute and CEO of the Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Centre (Omico), the not-for-profit company leading the project.

“Through PrOSPeCT, we will fast-track the development, manufacturing and use of precision, personalised cancer treatments, changing lives, creating jobs and building Australia’s sovereign capability in drug development.”

Professor Michelle Haber AM, Executive Director of Children’s Cancer Institute, the paediatric lead for the initiative, said the partnership constitutes a quantum leap in opening up new opportunities for childhood cancer patients in Australia.

Traditionally, drug development has focused on the larger adult cancer market. This has resulted in a lack of investment in novel medicines designed specifically for childhood cancer. And where new drugs have been developed, there have often been long delays in making these drugs available to children, often years after they had been approved for adult use.

“Development of, and access, to novel drugs are among the most critical challenges we face in improving outcomes for children with cancer. Children’s Cancer Institute is therefore very excited to join this ground-breaking venture as a founding partner.”

“The PrOSPeCT initiative builds on the success of the national Zero Childhood Cancer Personalised Medicine Program, which we co-lead with the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, and will help match every child to the most advanced therapeutic approaches available internationally.”

PrOSPeCT is a $185 million investment comprising:

  • $61.2 million from the Australian Government’s Medical Products stream of the National Manufacturing Priority
  • contributions from four core partners:
    • Roche Australia
    • NCI – the National Computational Infrastructure at ANU
    • Children’s Cancer Institute
    • The Minderoo Foundation
  • supported by Bayer Australia, Bioplatforms Australia, Elevation Oncology, George Clinical, Illumina Australia, Microba, Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute, Praxis Australia, Quantium Health Sonic Healthcare, Southern Star Research, and Syntro.

PrOSPeCT is led by Omico, the Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Centre, which is a network of Australia’s leading cancer research institutions and hospitals that grew out of the Molecular Screening & Therapeutics (MoST) Study at the Garvan Institute.

“Minderoo Foundation, through our Strategic Impact Fund, is delighted to invest in this ground-breaking industry-linked program, which is so well aligned with our Collaborate Against Cancer initiative. We expect PrOSPeCT to change Australia’s approach to clinical trials and personalised medicine and further advance the work already underway to unlock healthcare data and accelerate research for the benefit of patients,” said Minderoo CEO, Andrew Hagger.

“This project will help future-proof our health care, specifically for cancer treatment. Combining research and development, clinical trial networks and the manufacture of cancer drugs locally offers early access to potentially life changing treatments to Australian patients,” said Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor.

“These projects will also create highly-skilled jobs in the medical sector while reducing our reliance on overseas suppliers of vital medications,” he added.

“Australia has a tremendous reputation for our medical research and this project will help us consolidate patient data to translate those breakthroughs into genomic cancer medicines right here at home,” said Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt.