National genomics initiative offers hope to cancer patients


Thursday, 03 August, 2023

National genomics initiative offers hope to cancer patients

Australia’s largest cancer genomics initiative was formally launched last week, bringing hope to thousands of Australians battling incurable or advanced cancers including ovarian, pancreatic and sarcomas.

Over the next two years, PrOSPeCT (Precision Oncology Screening Platform Enabling Clinical Trials) will give 23,000 cancer patients from across Australia free access to genomic profiling, clinical assessment of their results by an expert team and matching to the best advanced precision (personalised) treatments available locally, including early-stage clinical trials. It is expected to increase clinical trials activity in Australia by identifying cohorts of patients with advanced or incurable disease across a range of cancers who may otherwise not have the opportunity to enter a clinical trial.

PrOSPeCT harnesses the combined expertise and resources of cancer research centres and diagnostic and treatment services around the country, forming a powerful collaboration and setting up new treatment pathways. It is being led by not-for-profit cancer genomics pioneer Omico (also known as the Australian Genomic Cancer Medicine Centre), a network of cancer research institutions and hospitals.

The program is being powered by public and private funds totalling $185 million — including $61.2m from the Australian Government as part of the Modern Manufacturing Initiative, $25m from the NSW Government, and a commercial collaboration between Omico, the National Computational Infrastructure at the Australian National University, the Children’s Cancer Institute and Roche Australia. Omico will also partner with UNSW Sydney’s newly created Centre for Molecular Oncology, which will be led by Omico founder and CEO Professor David Thomas.

“Precision oncology harnesses genomics to apply highly specific and effective precision treatments to take on the most challenging cancers,” Thomas said. “It’s the front line of advanced treatments and through PrOSPeCT we can offer precision oncology nationally to all who may benefit.

“PrOSPeCT is set not only to transform access to advanced treatments for those who desperately need them, it will also unify an extensive national cancer network while building our capabilities, infrastructure and skills in cancer research and care. It will place Australia firmly on the global stage in this rapidly evolving area, setting benchmarks to bring genomics to large numbers of patients.”

It is anticipated that the PrOSPeCT initiative will lead to an estimated 650 high-skilled local jobs, a $525m investment in local clinical trials and $135m in savings to the health system through access to innovative therapies via clinical trials. In addition, the network will provide a platform for interstate collaboration and accelerate set-up and completion of clinical trials for adults and children with cancer.

“PrOSPeCT brings a nationally coordinated approach at scale to the community that will deliver free genomic profiling of an eligible person’s tumour, no matter where they live, and quickly identify potential matches to new treatments and trials,” said Christine Cockburn, General Manager of Rare Cancers Australia. “From genomic screening, more than a third (38%) of patients will receive guidance on new targeted treatments relevant to them, giving the potential to significantly extend lives.”

Over 10 years, PrOSPeCT will build a real-world biodata platform of 70,000 profiles, yielding valuable long-term scientific evidence to shape future cancer treatment and research. This database will be accessible to researchers both locally and overseas, and is anticipated to attract interest and clinical trial investment from the international pharmaceutical and biotech sector.

Image credit: iStock.com/DamienGeso

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