Senate Inquiry into Funding for Research


On 29 November 2016 the Senate established the Select Committee into ‘Funding for Research into Cancers with Low Survival Rates’ to inquire and report on the impact of health research funding models and the availability of funding for research into cancers with low survival rates. The committee is to inquire and report on their findings by 28 November 2017.

Together with the AGITG Consumer Advisory Panel (CAP), Russell Conley – CEO AGITG, was involved in preparing a submission. Russell and members of the CAP were invited to appear as witnesses at the Senate Inquiry hearing on 18th May 2017.

Representing the AGITG were Jan Mumford – CAP Chair, Dan Kent – AGITG Board Member & prior CAP Chair, Prof. John Simes – AGITG Board Member & Group Coordinator, James Armstrong & Julie Marker – CAP Members, and Russell Conley, CEO AGITG.

As presented to the Inquiry, GI Cancers have some of the lowest 5-year survival rates. As the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2017 Report “Cancer in Australia” showed:

Three of the eight cancers with the highest mortality rates >70% are cancers of the GI tract viz:

  • Pancreas
  • Liver
  • Oesophagus

Whilst Six of the twelve cancers with the lowest 5 year survival rates (<30%) are also cancers of the GI tract viz:

  • Pancreas
  • Liver
  • Oesophagus
  • Stomach
  • Gallbladder and Extra‐Hepatic Bile Ducts
  • Other Digestive organs

In light of this, we have made the following recommendations in our submission:

  1. Define “low survival cancers”.
  2. Annual Commonwealth funding targets could be set: e.g. for 30% of cancer funds to be allocated to funding studies into low survival rate cancers, provided the high quality criteria of the funding program is maintained.
  3. Establish transparent, routine reporting of the incidence and mortality of rare cancers as a subset of low survival rate cancers, as well as transparent, routine reporting of funding allocations to low survival cancers. Monitoring and regular reporting is needed to know if we are achieving any change (and return on investment of any new funding models).
  4. Under the Australian Medical Research and Innovation Strategy provision should be made for the 2019 ‐ 2021 Priorities to specifically address international (and local) collaborative research into low survival rate cancers.
  5. A sustained focus on ‘low survival cancers’ will be required to achieve enduring change to these rare or ‘difficult to treat’ cancers. Cancer Australia should be tasked with developing, implementing and maintaining a National Cancer Research Plan which among other research matters provides specific reference for implementing strategies to address “low survival and difficult to treat” cancers.

For a copy of the complete submission click here.