Grants for research focussed on rare cancers, rare diseases and unmet medical needs

The federal government has announced $35.9 million in funding for 17 research projects including programs designed to improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, improve neonatal outcomes and to prevent bone loss in critically ill women.

Melbourne University will receive almost $2.4 million to trial the use of Fibroblastic Activation Protein Inhibitors (FAPI) as a novel radiopharmaceutical for the diagnosis and treatment of patients with Cancer of Unknown Primary (CUP).

The FAPI-CUP trial seeks to address the unmet need for more effective diagnosis and treatment options for people with Cancer of Unknown Primary.

The trial will investigate the role of a protein called Fibroblast Activation Protein, together with a new type of PET scan that looks for whether or not cancer cells are expressing the protein, to determine the primary cancer in patients.

The University of Queensland will receive $3.4 million for a randomised trial to reduce the rate of fetal distress and improve neonatal outcomes through the use of sildenafil citrate in labour.

Lack of oxygen during labour is a major cause of stillbirth and neonatal deaths, brain injury and cerebral palsy. Many babies suffer these complications often without any warning or risk factors.

Monash University will receive $1.9 million for its research work, which aims to test two commonly used anti-fracture medications in 450 women in the high-risk category of osteoporosis and fragility fractures.

Women over 50 years of age are more prone to fragility fractures after life-threatening critical illness. This research is considered to have the potential to transform clinical practice in the prevention of bone loss.

Health minister Greg Hunt said the funding, from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), is part of a $614 million package for clinical trials research over ten years.

“This funding is for breakthrough research to discover more options for the diagnosis, early detection and treatment of chronic disease,” said Mr Hunt.

“Tragically, it is estimated more than 40,000 Australians are diagnosed with a rare or less common form of cancer each year, including bone cancer, mesothelioma, eye cancer and cancer of the nose and sinuses.

“Rare diseases are life-threatening or chronically debilitating disorders or conditions uncommon in the general population, such as cancer of unknown origin.

“These diseases typically exhibit a high level of symptom complexity leading to diagnostic delays and require frequent, ongoing multidisciplinary care and treatment.

“Clinical trials are essential for evaluating the effectiveness and safety of medicines, devices, services and interventions to help prevent, detect or treat illness and disease,” added Mr Hunt.

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