We’re all pleased to see that Australia seems to be turning a corner in the face of COVID-19. Nevertheless, with the pandemic still at the forefront of news coverage, it’s easy to lose sight of other causes in need of our attention.
In 2020, 147,956 cases of cancer are estimated to be diagnosed in Australia. Every one of those undergoing, or about to undergo treatment for cancer will be acutely aware of the increased threat they face from COVID-19.
Cure Cancer is committed to funding cancer research across all areas and types of cancer. We fund bright, young researchers at the start of their careers, whose groundbreaking ideas many other funding bodies won’t take a chance on.
Dr Jessica Duarte is just one of the brilliant scientists we’re working with this year. Based at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute in Melbourne, Jessica’s project will predict treatment outcomes in rare cancers.
Around 42,000 Australians will be diagnosed with a rare cancer this year alone. Despite 50 per cent of cancer deaths being a result of rare cancers, they receive a mere fraction of the funding of more common cancers.
Due to the lower incidence rate, rare cancers are often excluded from clinical trials and studies. While incidence is low for individual rare cancers, collectively they comprise almost 3 per cent of all diagnoses.
Receiving a rare cancer diagnosis is incredibly distressing. Lower survival rates in comparison to more common cancer types are a major source of anxiety for patients and families. To further compound this, the increased dangers posed by COVID-19 will cause patients a huge amount of stress over the coming months.
With your help, Jessica’s study could lead to a personalised medicine approach where all cancer patients, irrespective of cancer type, have a unique treatment plan with a high likelihood of success. By analysing a drop of blood taken from patients undergoing immunotherapy, she aims to predict how they’ll respond to treatments aimed at boosting their immune systems.
“Effective immune engagement occurs when the immune system recognises and destroys a tumour cell,” Jessica explains. “But tumours have developed ways to escape this immune attack, which is when they grow uncontrollably. Patients who have strong immune engagement live longer,” she says.
“Our work may allow us to determine if a patient’s immune system is actively engaging with the tumour, and thereby predict their likelihood of responding well to immunotherapy treatment.”
Without funding, research like Jessica’s may not have a future. The cancellation of key fundraising events and social gatherings as a result of COVID-19 has brought Cure Cancer’s ability to fundraise close to standstill.
Cure Cancer receive no government funding, and between the months of April to June, we estimate a loss of over $500,000 funds raised – equating to over 10,000 hours of cancer research. As a result, we need your donations more than ever.
Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support this crucial work.
Together, let’s make this the last generation to die from cancer.