Enlightened by 70 years of research into cell biology, we have a wealth of understanding of what makes cancer tick. That has now evolved to the clinical level, where patients are benefiting from precision medicine tools, available to clinicians in the oncology space.
These were the views of Professor David Thomas (head of Genomic Cancer Medicine at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research) in his podcast with independent health care publisher "the Limbic" recently.
Committed to better outcomes for all Australians, Roche Diagnostics Australia partnered with thelimbic.com in the production of this podcast on precision oncology. Precision oncology has recently passed a significant milestone in Australia, which could see it become the standard of care in Australia.
In the podcast, Professor Thomas describes the advances in genomic profiling in Australia and how the development of targeted treatments has led to a revolution in oncology. Prof. Thomas gives a fantastic description of how oncology has evolved in an Australian context, from the anatomical mindset of surgical removal, to chemotherapy, and now to the ability to know how a particular gene has been amplified.
Prof. Thomas is a veteran of Australian oncology. Graduating from the University of Melbourne (1982-88), Prof. Thomas completed his post-graduate training as a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in medical oncology (awarded 1997), before completing his PhD in 1997 from the University of Melbourne.
In 2018, Prof. Thomas established Omico - a not for profit industry leader that brings together Australia’s major cancer centres, leading research institutes, federal and state governments, industry partners and patients. With the purpose statement of Outsmarting Cancer Together, Omico are actively involved in progressing clinical trials and research in the field of oncology.
As recent as March 2022, Roche announced joint investment in a partnership which will enable thousands of eligible cancer patients to gain access to comprehensive genomic profiling (CGP). The PrOSPeCT initiative (or Precision Oncology Screening Platform Enabling Clinical Trials) is a $185 million project to establish Australia as a regional hub for the development of innovative medicines to treat cancer.
This year, Roche Australia partners with OMICO, the Australian Federal Government and other industry partners in PrOSPeCT. What this means for patients is the ability to participate in this 2 year program and get access to medicines and treatment for cancers, that might otherwise be unavailable to them. Over 4500 patients will be eligible to be enrolled in biomarker clinlical trials, yielding siginficant real world data
Roche Australia has a long and proud history in the treatment of cancer. The recent PrOSPeCT announcment echos the launch of Herceptin (Trastuzumab), launched by Roche in Australia in the late 1990s.
Herceptin was the first HER2-targeted therapy for breast cancer. It is a monoclonal antibody that binds to HER2 receptors present on the surface of HER2-positive tumour cells, blocking them from receiving growth signals and flagging them for destruction by the immune system.
Many people with breast cancer (mostly women) could not afford it as part of their therapy before it was subsidised by the government. The Australian Government agreed to finance Herceptin by adding it to the PBS in 2006, ensuring equal access for all Australians.
Today, ‘personalised therapy’ (based around the new molecular classification of cancers) goes one step further than the Herceptin era of cancer treatment. Precision oncology enables physicians to treat cancer with more specific forms of drugs, which has much better outcomes for patients. This latest approach to cancer treatment enables physicians to treat Australia's big 4 (breast and lung cancer, followed by bowel and prostate cancer) in a far less toxic manner than conventional chemotherapy.