The young lives worth $11 million less than battle over wind farms
ONE kills at least 35 kids a year, the other hasn’t killed anybody.
Yet investigating the effects of wind farms on humans received 24 times the funding of research into children’s brain cancer.
The National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia’s peak research funding body, awarded just $534,102 towards finding a cure for paediatric brain cancer in 2016.
Yet, in 2015, $12.5 million was awarded to researching the effects of wind farms on humans. It was a funding decision mired in controversy, seen as part of the Coalition’s division and distaste for alternative energy, and which found no ill effects.
Other grants awarded by the NHMRC included $845,278 for research into the link between omega-three supplements and aggressive behaviour; $1.89 million into combating asthma in Vietnam and $2.4 million to reduce salt intake using food policy interventions.
The NHMRC’s $534,102 funding towards paediatric brain cancer is the lowest amount since 2006 and less than a third of what was
granted in 2012 under Labor.
Paediatric brain cancer is Australia’s deadliest disease for children. One child dies every nine days and outcomes have not changed in three decades. Four out of five children diagnosed will die.
Kylie Newton, whose 10year-old daughter Sienna is a rare brain cancer survivor, said those who live are often affected by the treatment.
In Sienna’s case, 33 rounds of radiotherapy could affect her learning ability.
“Sienna is the one in five who survive. The lack of research funds is a poor effort, look at leukaemia where they did invest money and now nine out of 10 kids survive,” Mrs Newton said
The investment into paediatric brain cancer research has dropped significantly each year since the Liberals came to power, halving between 2012 and 2013 and further reducing to the current low rate.
Brain cancer researcher Associate Professor Kerrie McDonald said the amount granted in 2016 saw dozens of research projects knocked back. “It amounts to just one grant, it’s pathetic and I know among my 20 colleagues that they at least put in two applications for grants each last year so we know that 40 to 60 applications got knocked back,” Prof McDonald said.
“The NHMRC tell us that the applications weren’t competitive enough on the basis of the science compared to more established cancers.”
In stark contrast, the $160 million breast screening program was expanded to include 70- to 74-year-olds thanks to an extra $64.3 million grant in the same year.
“This makes me want to cry because it is so disproportionate to the outcome for brain cancer,” Prof McDonald said.
“It’s just not fair on the younger population that get brain cancer. Not only is it the number one killer of young people, it’s also the most expensive cancer to have.”
Professor David Walker, a Brisbane-based neurosurgeon, wrote to the current Senate Inquiry into Rare Cancers suggesting the government “quarantine” funds for brain cancer research.
His group, which has been working on immunotherapy trials, has been knocked back several times for grants.
He works for free on their current research and said changing the brutal death rate depended on funding.
Kylie Newton with her daughter Sienna Newton, a rare brain cancer survivor. and Sienna’s little sister Ebony.