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Government push for blood cancer breakthrough

Photo: Push for blood cancer breakthrough
The federal government is creating a $150,000 task force aimed at improving blood cancer survival rates.

Blood cancer kills 20 Australians each day on average, with death rates due to double by 2035 unless something is done.

The federal government has announced a $150,000 task force aimed at increasing survival rates for leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

It will seek to make Australia the first country in the world where blood cancer is a chronic condition and not a fatal one, Health Minister Greg Hunt says.

New research by the Leukaemia Foundation predicts 186,000 Australians will die from blood cancer by 2035.

"Every day, 41 Australian children, adults, parents and grandparents will be told they have blood cancer and unfortunately 20 people will lose their life," the foundation's chief executive Bill Petch said.
Deaths are expected to more than double to 42 a day within 16 years, with the cost of caring for patients to reach $10.9 billion, compared with $3.4 billion in 2019.

The Leukaemia Foundation will lead the government-funded task force, looking at boosting access to treatment as well as improving testing for those with a genetic predisposition to blood cancer.

It will also examine how to reduce the survival gap between patients living in cities and the country.

Melbourne woman Deborah Sims, joining the task force as a patient advocate, has described access to quality treatment as a "lottery".

"It really is where you are in Australia and where the specialists are," she said.

The task force is expected to finalise its recommendations to the government by the end of May next year.

It comes as the federal government allocates $27 million to help bring down the cost of drugs for treating cancer, stroke and syphilis.

Immunotherapy for head and neck cancers and botox to reduce limb spasms in stroke patients will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

A drug for syphilis outbreaks in indigenous populations will be listed as an emergency medicine, meaning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can access it for free.

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