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Find out the latest news at Cancer Council Australia:

High Court ruling protects Australians from gene monopolies

October 2015

The High Court’s unanimous decision today (7/10) that isolating the BRCA1 gene mutation was not a 'patentable invention' should help to ensure that Australian healthcare consumers are protected from commercial gene monopolies.

Director of Public Policy at Cancer Council Australia, Paul Grogan, said the court’s ruling was a great result for the Australian public, and also for healthcare providers and biomedical researchers.

"We need clarity in patent law in Australia – and hopefully the unanimity of today’s High Court ruling provides that," Mr Grogan said. "Although the BRCA patents are about to expire, more cases like this could arise, so it is critical that the law is applied in the same consistent manner – to protect the rights of healthcare consumers, public laboratories and independent researchers.

"The emphatic nature of the ruling should make it clear that genetic materials, whether in their pure form or isolated, and the tests to identify them, should never be subject to commercial monopolisation."

Mr Grogan said the outcome was a great credit to Yvonne D’Arcy, an individual who took on a multinational biotechnology firm in the interests of healthcare consumers everywhere.

"It should also be noted that the Australian High Court’s decision was consistent with the decision of the US Supreme Court. If the court had upheld the validity of the BRCA1 patent, Australia would have been out of step with the US – straight after signing the Trans-Pacific trade deal with the US and insisting that Australians are not disadvantaged by intellectual property arrangements that could compromise access to pharmaceuticals and medical technology.

"Hopefully, governments in all countries will agree that the patent system is designed to reward invention – not processes to find materials that already exist in our biology."


Cancer Council congratulates ‘women of influence’

September 2015

Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s Board, the Hon Nicola Roxon, and Chair of Cancer Council’s National Screening and Immunisation Committee, Professor Karen Canfell, have both been recognised in this year’s list of 100 Women of Influence.

The list, compiled by The Australian Financial Review and Westpac, celebrates outstanding vision, leadership, innovation and action from women across the country in a diverse range of sectors.

Cancer Council Australia CEO, Professor Sanchia Aranda, congratulated Ms Roxon, who joined Cancer Council’s Board earlier this year. "Ms Roxon was honoured in the category of 'Global influence', reflecting her pioneering work in tobacco control and ongoing association with Union for International Cancer Control."

Prof Aranda said it was also gratifying to see recognition of the groundbreaking work of Prof Canfell, who heads the research division at Cancer Council NSW. "Prof Canfell is one of Australia’s leading cancer epidemiologists. Her expertise, particularly in the areas of cervical cancer and the HPV vaccine, see her in demand across many countries.

"Both Ms Roxon and Prof Canfell are shining examples of women who have made significant contributions on the national and international stage and we privileged to have such talented and dedicated people contributing to the field of cancer control."

Prof Aranda also paid tribute to other high achieving women in cancer recognised in the 100 Women of Influence:

  • Prof Maria Kavallaris - Head of the Tumour Biology and Targeting Program / Co-director, Australian Centre for NanoMedicine at the Children's Cancer Institute Australia / UNSW. Awarded for innovation.
  • Dr Ranjana Srivastava - Oncologist at Monash Health, award-winning author and Guardian columnist. Awarded for global influence.

"These women have all made remarkable contributions to cancer control in Australia and internationally," Prof Aranda said.

"We are fortunate to have such a breadth of expertise in Australia and their dedication to building our capacity in cancer research, prevention and treatment."


Film goers told they don’t have to face cancer alone

September 2015

Film goers will be offered information and support from Cancer Council under a unique partnership with director Paul Cox on his new feature film Force of Destiny.

The film is based on Paul’s experience of being diagnosed with liver cancer, and undergoing a lifesaving liver transplant. The love story, starring David Wenham, Shahana Goswami and Jacqueline McKenzie, premiered at the 64th Melbourne International Film Festival in July.

Force of Destiny will be seen across the country in a series of Cancer Council supported screenings beginning in September.

Cancer Council has developed a souvenir cinema programme for the screenings, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the film as well as cancer information and support services available to all those affected by cancer.

"We are extremely grateful for the support of the Cancer Council," Paul said. "Cancer affects almost every family in Australia in one way or another.

"We hope that our film creates a larger awareness of the need to care for and support each other, and to remain hopeful. This was very important to me during my illness."

Cancer Council Australia CEO Professor Sanchia Aranda said support services were there for anyone diagnosed with cancer, as well as their family, friends and colleagues.

"A cancer diagnosis can be devastating for an individual, and affects many people surrounding them. These realities are brought to life on film in Force of Destiny.

"Everybody’s cancer journey is different – but we all need information and support along the way. Our experienced 13 11 20 cancer support team are waiting to take calls from anyone affected by cancer – whether it’s a patient, a survivor, their family, friends, school or workplace - to make sure they have all the information and support they need."

Cancer Council supported screenings of Force of Destiny are scheduled for:

  • 4pm, Saturday 5 September, Palace Verona, Sydney
  • 7pm, Thursday 10 September, Cinema Nova, Melbourne
  • 6:30pm, Friday 11 September, Palace Cento, Brisbane
  • 4pm, Sunday 13 September, Palace Electric, Canberra
  • 4pm, Sunday 13 September, Village Cinemas, Launceston
  • 6:30pm, Monday 14 September, Village Cinemas, Hobart
  • 6:30pm, Wednesday 16 September, Deckchair Cinema, Darwin
  • 4pm, Saturday 19 September, Palace Nova East End, Adelaide
  • 6:30pm, Monday 21 September, Cinema Paradiso, Perth
  • 7:00pm, Sunday 27 September, Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs

For more information on the film visit


Spotlight on children’s cancer

September 2015

September is International Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, a time when cancer organisations around the world put the spotlight on children’s cancer and the need to improve diagnosis, treatment and outcomes.

Cancer Council Australia CEO, Professor Sanchia Aranda, said that with 650 children aged 0-14 expected to be diagnosed with cancer in Australia this year, Cancer Councils around the country were actively involved in research aimed at improving childhood cancer treatment and support.

"Research is a vital part of the important work of Cancer Councils and this includes a number of projects related to children’s cancers," Professor Aranda said.

"One example is the work of Professor Murray Norris and his team from the University of New South Wales, funded by Cancer Council NSW. The team have already improved treatment for children with leukaemia who were likely to relapse, and now they are working to prevent drug resistance, find new therapies and understand the causes of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)."

Professor Aranda said a critical aspect of childhood cancer research was being able to track trends over time and clinical information. Cancer Council Queensland independently manages and funds the Australian Paediatric Cancer Registry, recording the clinical and treatment information on all children diagnosed with cancer in Australia.

"Over the last year, data from the register has shown improvements in survival rates for acute myeloid leukaemia and positive trends for long-term childhood cancer survivors. Five-year survival for childhood cancers increased from 76 per cent in 1992-2001 to 82 per cent during 2002-2011.

"However, there is still plenty of work to be done, with an estimated 85 Australian children aged 0 - 14 dying of cancer last year, and many more feeling the effects of the disease and their treatment for years to come."

Professor Aranda said a critical aspect of Cancer Council’s work in children’s cancers was to provide information and support to children, childhood cancer survivors and their families.

Cancer Council recently produced a new national booklet, Cancer in the School Community – a resource for teachers, students and families impacted by cancer in the school environment. Other Cancer Council resources include Talking to kids about cancer, which aims to support families communicate with children about their cancer, or a family member or friend who has cancer, and Life during and after childhood cancer, which explores a range of aspects from diet and fatigue to school issues.

"As well as our range of cancer publications, we provide confidential phone information and support via Cancer Council 13 11 20 to anyone impacted by cancer,” Professor Aranda said.

"By calling 13 11 20 families can access a range of support services provided by Cancer Councils which aim to help relieve some of the stress on families – that can include things like financial support, practical assistance, transport and accommodation services, counselling services and support group and networks."1

"We also encourage those who have experienced childhood cancers to share their story - such as Nicole Quinn, who was diagnosed with leukaemia at age 13 and Amy Bond who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia at age 6."

To assist GPs and health professionals, Cancer Council has produced a ‘red flags’ guide to alert health professionals to the warning signs of cancer in children.

Those looking for more information on childhood cancers can also check out the government agency, Cancer Australia’s new Children’s Cancers website.

1) Support services vary between state and territory Cancer Councils.


National Cancer Expert Reference Group - Consumer advocate

September 2015

The National Cancer Expert Reference Group (NCERG) is seeking expressions of interest for a second consumer advocate.

NCERG is a high-level, expert national cancer forum that is jointly chaired by the Commonwealth Government and Victoria with representation from all jurisdictions, Cancer Australia, Cancer Council Australia, the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia and consumer input. NCERG has developed a National Cancer work plan to improve cancer care and outcomes for all Australians.

Expressions of interest are welcomed from individuals in any state or territory who are capable of representing the viewpoints and concerns of cancer consumers, consistent with the National Framework for Consumer Involvement in Cancer Control.

NCERG generally holds two face-to-face meetings per year, one in Canberra and one in Melbourne; and two teleconferences. Depending on current employment arrangements, consumer advocates may be entitled to sitting fees for meetings (currently $384 per day). Travel and accommodation costs associated with attending meetings will also be paid.

If you are interested, please provide an expression of interest (no more than two pages) outlining your skills and experience for this position to the NCERG Secretariat by 30 September 2015 by email to or post to:

NCERG Secretariat, MDP 702
Department of Health
GPO Box 9848
Canberra  ACT  2601

Further information on NCERG is available on the Department of Health website or from the NCERG Secretariat on or (02) 6289 8094. 

The National Framework for Consumer Involvement in Cancer Control is available on Cancer Australia’s website or from the NCERG Secretariat.

All information provided in response to this request will be managed in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 and Australian Privacy Principles.


Scholarships available for Oceania Tobacco Control Conference

July 2015

This year’s Oceania Tobacco Control Conference, hosted by Cancer Council WA, will take place in Perth from 20 – 22 October.

A range of bursaries and scholarships is now available to help fund the attendance of those working in tobacco control in the region, who would otherwise be unable to attend.

The event, held over three days, attracts health experts and researchers in the field of smoking and tobacco control across Oceania, and provides the opportunity to meet and explore current issues as well as ideas for the future.

In addition to the primary theme of achievements and aspirations within the tobacco control community, the conference will address areas including, but not limited to:

  • People - those with mental health issues, pregnant women, Indigenous peoples, youth, prisoners and homeless people.
  • Policy - tobacco control advocacy, legislation, regulation, plain packaging, smoke-free areas, second-hand smoke and smoke-drift.
  • Practice - brief intervention, public education/resources, normalisation/denormalisation, Quitlines, cessation methods, GP and health professional practices.
  • Products - plain packaging, graphic warnings, brand variants, nicotine addiction, NRT products, harms from tobacco/nicotine, multiple drug use and chop-chop.
  • Producer - industry promotion and public relations.
  • Price - tobacco taxes and excise, price discounting and duty free cigarettes.
  • Promotion - social marketing, mass media, social media and tobacco retailers.

For details on bursaries and scholarships, visit the conference website.


Health practitioners needed for research

June 2015

Australian health professionals are being asked help contribute to a survey as a part of research that aims to help improve communication with Indigenous cancer patients.

In Australia there is a wide disparity for survival outcomes for Indigenous people with cancer, especially in the first two years after diagnosis. Communication between health professionals and their patients has been identified as a contributing factor.

The research, being conducted by the Menzies School of Health, will seek to determine the needs of health professionals when communicating with Indigenous cancer patients, as well as document the types of strategies, skills and resources which health professionals have found aid effective communication with Indigenous patients. Ultimately, the project aims to inform the development of practitioner resources.

The researchers are seeking Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian health professionals who are:

  • working with Indigenous cancer patients as a general practitioner, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, surgical oncologist, haematologist, oncology nurse or Indigenous health worker
  • currently living in Australia
  • 18 years or older
  • competent in English.

How can I participate in the survey?

Please follow the link provided and complete the on-line survey.The survey will take approximately 30-40 minutes to complete. You will be able to update responses until the survey is finished or until you have exited the survey.


Roxanne Dubash wins Cancer Council student essay competition

May 2015

Medical student Roxanne Dubash, from the University of Newcastle/New England Joint Medical Program, has won the 2015 Cancer Council Australia Student Essay Competition.

Roxanne's winning essay on 'Research and the Changing Landscape of Oncology: The Journey of Cancer Control' explored the impact of science on cancer prevention, treatment and detection from the 16th Century, through to present day.

Mapping out landmark discoveries in cancer causes, treatment, prevention and treatment, Roxanne also provided commentary on how these discoveries impact modern day medical education.

Essay were judged by Cancer Council’s Oncology Education Committee according to their concise and logical presentation of their argument, relevance to cancer care in Australia and relevance to medical students.

Committee Chair, Darren Starmer, said that with a high number of quality entries, it was hard to pick a winner, but Roxanne’s entry stood out.

"As well as being well written, engaging and concise, Roxanne's essay captured the breadth of research developments in cancer control over a significant time period and demonstrated how they remain relevant today."

Roxanne's prize includes a trip to Vienna, Austria to attend the World Health Organisation's – Collaborating Centre for Cancer Education's International Summer School 'Oncology for Medical Students'.

Second place in the competition was awarded to Yiliang Zheng, while third place went to Reuben Sum. Both will receive book gift vouchers.

The competition is open to any student currently enrolled in a medical course in an Australian University. For the 2015 competition, students were asked to submit an essay on the theme 'Research and the changing landscape of oncology'.


#Beaniesforbraincancer helps raise awareness of brain cancer

May 2015

Following TV star Carrie Bickmore’s powerful speech about brain cancer at the Logies, Cancer Council Australia is encouraging Australians to get behind Brain Cancer Action Week (4-8 May). 

Carrie spoke about her late husband’s personal experience with brain cancer and encouraged Australians to help raise awareness by posting photos of themselves in beanies online, using the hashtag #beaniesforbraincancer

Each year, around 1700 Australians are diagnosed with brain cancer, and sadly, approximately 1200 people die from the disease. It is also the leading cancer killer for young people under the age of 39 and children under the age of 10. Compared to other cancers, it also has a relatively low survival rate of just 22 per cent.

As well as funding brain cancer research, Cancer Councils are involved in providing support and information to brain cancer patients. During Brain Cancer Action Week free education and support forums are being held in both Sydney and Melbourne.

For further information on brain cancer please see our website, or call us on 13 11 20.



Genetic ovarian cancer risk

March 2015

The decision of actress Angelina Jolie to have preventative surgery to prevent ovarian cancer is currently attracting lots of attention in the news. Australian women may be curious to know more about ovarian cancer and the BRCA genes.

In Australia, around 1 in 81 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in their lifetime and around 1330 new cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed each year.

It is estimated that up to 10 per cent of ovarian cancer cases are linked to known genetic risks, with a small percentage of women carrying the BRCA genes linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Women with a history of breast or ovarian cancer in their family who are concerned about their genetic risk can discuss this with their doctor, who can advise on whether or not genetic testing is appropriate for them.

Preventative surgery on the basis of genetic risk to ovarian cancer is a complex issue. We recommend anyone considering this form of surgery to make an informed decision by gaining expert advice.

There is no screening test for ovarian cancer, but women should be aware of some of the signs and symptoms, which include:

  • persistent abdominal pain
  • pelvic or back pain
  • cramps, swelling, bloating
  • symptoms of urinary frequency or changed bowel habits with constipation or diarrhoea and/or nausea
  • fullness after food, weight loss, loss of appetite
  • tiredness
  • painful intercourse or vaginal bleeding.

If you have questions about ovarian cancer, you can call Cancer Council support and information on 13 11 20.


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This page was last updated on: Thursday, August 9, 2012