Herald Sun

Cancer travel burden

Drug trials out of reach

- LUCIE VAN DEN BERG MEDICAL REPORTER lucie.vandenberg@news.com.au

AUSTRALIAN­S with terminal blood cancer are being forced to travel overseas or pay thousands of dollars for new treatments because of difficulty accessing clinical trials.

Two major patient advocacy groups are calling for a major overhaul of trials to ensure patients with lymphoma, leukaemia and myeloma can access cutting-edge treatment.

New research from the Leukaemia Foundation and Myeloma Australia found only 20 per cent of terminally ill patients who tried to obtain new medicine were successful.

Almost 40 per cent of the 600-plus cancer patients surveyed had to pay for the new therapy with savings or assets and 17 per cent had to move to get the treatment.

One of those is a Victorian mother of three with terminal cancer who is travelling overseas to be part of a drug trial, which she hopes will give her one last chance to see her children grow up. The cruel irony is the drug was developed in Melbourne, but because of her age she cannot access the clinical trial here.

“I’m now having to leave my family and full-time job in a last-ditch attempt to save my life by going overseas to enter a clinical trial for six months,” the 40-year-old, who wished to remain anonymous, said.

“The frightenin­g thing for me is that I will be boarding a plane in the next few weeks and kissing my children goodbye, not knowing if I will ever see them again.”

Myeloma Australia chief executive Stephen Roach and Leukaemia Foundation’s Dr Anna Williamson blame bureaucrac­y for the difficulty accessing new treatments, and will call for an improved system in Canberra today.

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