New funding for genomics research

Earlier this week, the federal government announced the latest research investment through the Genomics Health Futures Mission which will support health clinicians to identify genetic disorders and diagnose rare diseases faster, positioning Australia as a global leader in this area. A multidisciplinary team co-led by The Daffodil Centre’s Deputy Director Professor Anne Cust and Senior Research Fellow Dr Julia Steinberg is one of 17 research teams to receive a share of the $46.5 million investment into genomics research.

Genomic risk prediction and risk-tailored screening and early detection for common cancers

Australia has one of the highest cancer incidence rates in the world. The four most common cancers (breast, prostate, melanoma, colorectal cancers) are estimated to account for around 47% of all new invasive cancers in Australia diagnosed in 2020. These four cancers represent a huge burden to the Australian health system with healthcare costs surpassing $2.6 billion annually and expected to grow substantially with the expansion of new therapies for later-stage disease[1].

To reduce the burden of common cancers and help Australians to live longer, healthier lives, Professor Cust, Dr Steinberg and the team will produce evidence-based recommendations for effective and sustainable genomics-informed risk-tailored cancer screening and early detection.

Professor Cust said “Our research will aim to reduce the burden of cancer by helping to enhance cancer screening and early detection with genomic risk tools that can identify personal cancer risk.

“While Australia has three established, effective national screening programs for cancers of the bowel, cervix and breast, there are opportunities to enhance policy and practice long-term through collecting, analysing and applying evidence on genomics and cancer risk. And, while evidence does not support screening for asymptomatic, average-risk populations for prostate cancer or melanoma, there are compelling opportunities to develop targeted, systematic approaches to improved early detection of these cancers by applying new evidence on genomics to cancer risk assessment tools” Professor Cust added.

The project aims to:

  • generate a new lasting resource of Australian genomic data
  • develop and validate genomic risk tools for the Australians population
  • identify public preferences and develop decision aides for clinical practice
  • determine the most effective and cost-effective risk-tailored screening and early detection strategies.

Dr Julia Steinberg said “We will work directly with consumers, health professionals, and policy-makers to develop recommendations for genomics-informed screening and early detection that we hope will reduce the impact of cancer and save more lives.”

 

[1] Goldsbury DE, Yap S, Weber MF, Veerman L, Rankin N, Banks E, Canfell K, O’Connell DL. Health services costs for cancer care in Australia: Estimates from the 45 and Up Study. PLoS One. 2018 Jul 30;13(7):e0201552. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0201552. PMID: 30059534; PMCID: PMC6066250.

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