Melbourne shines a light on lung cancer funding inequities

01 December 2014
Dr Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat in the lab
Lung cancer researcher Dr Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat said
there was a desperate need for increased support for lung cancer research.
The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute will host Melbourne’s first Shine a Light on Lung Cancer event on Thursday 27 November.

Shine a Light on Lung Cancer, coordinated nationally by Lung Foundation Australia, raises awareness of the challenges and inequities faced daily by people living with lung cancer. The event at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute will feature presentations by Victoria’s top lung cancer researchers, surgeons, nurses and other specialists.

Dr Marie-Liesse Asselin-Labat, who heads the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute lung cancer research program with Dr Kate Sutherland, said the event would draw attention to the desperate need for increased support for lung cancer research. One in five cancer deaths each year are caused by lung cancer.

“More research is needed as only 14 per cent of people with lung cancer are still alive five years after their diagnosis, a figure that has not changed much over the past 20 years,” Dr Asselin-Labat said. “Although survival rates from other cancers have improved, lung cancer survival has remained fairly static.

“To improve survival we need to better understand the biology of lung cancer so we can develop targeted therapies and personalised medicine for people with the disease.”

Lung Foundation Australia CEO Heather Allan said a recent audit of cancer research investment by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australasian Association of Cancer Registries revealed only five percent of tumour-specific research funding was spent investigating lung cancer, despite the disease being Australia’s number one cancer killer.

“Around 8000 Australians die each year due to lung cancer – that’s more than 20 people a day,” Mrs Allan said. “In fact, more than 11,000 Australians are diagnosed with lung cancer each year and this figure is expected to increase by a further 21 per cent by the year 2020,” she said.

Mrs Allan said mortality rates were high because the disease was generally diagnosed at a late stage.
“The government and community need to work together to adopt a multifaceted approach to the earlier detection of lung cancer and timely access to treatment,” she said.

“We also need to advocate for more money going into lung cancer research. We know that diagnosing lung disease early, especially lung cancer, will lead to better patient outcomes and increased survival in lung cancer patients.”

The five-year survival rates for lung cancer remain low at 14.1 per cent, while breast and prostate cancers have high survival rates at 89.4 per cent and 92 per cent respectively.

“So in November, we are shining a light on lung cancer, to get people thinking and talking about their lungs and what each breath means to them,” Mrs Allan said.
November is Lung Health Awareness Month.

Further information:
Liz Williams
Media and Publications Manager
P: +61 428 034 089
E: williams@wehi.edu.au

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