Labor to fast-track leukaemia drug trials

Labor's Bill Shorten will spruik his $20 million pledge for cancer drug trials when he visits Perth.
Labor's Bill Shorten will spruik his $20 million pledge for cancer drug trials when he visits Perth.

Patients with deadly blood cancers will get faster access to potentially life-saving drug trials if Labor wins the May federal election.

Bill Shorten is promising $20 million for a new program Right to Trial, which will make it easier for blood cancer patients to get into drug trials.

Blood cancers are a complex group of diseases that start in the bone marrow. They are the second most frequently diagnosed cancers in Australia and the second biggest cause of cancer death.

"Part of the problem is that while game-changing treatments are being developed, they are often too slow to get to patients when they need it most," Mr Shorten said.

"Our $20 million commitment will give around 1800 blood cancer patients access to new and emerging treatments specific to the genetic markers for their disease.

"(This is) potentially five (to) 10 years before they would be available under traditional clinical trial schemes in Australia."

The latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare cancer report predicts more than 17,000 new cases of blood cancer will be diagnosed in 2019.

More than 6700 people will die from blood cancer this year alone.

"We know that the fastest way to get access to the latest drugs and treatments available in the world is through clinical trials," Mr Shorten said.

He said getting more people into trials will also help gather the evidence for listing drugs on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Research from the Leukaemia Foundation found that one in five blood cancer patients tried to access a clinical trial, but the trials were not available or the patients were ineligible.

The announcement is part of Labor's $2.3 billion investment in Medicare and cancer research, which the party is counting on to win votes in the May election.

Mr Shorten is in Perth on Wednesday, where he is hoping to pick up a number of seats.

Labor is targeting Liberal MP Ken Wyatt's seat of Hasluck, as well as Attorney-General Christian Porter's seat of Pearce.

The Labor leader has been campaigning almost exclusively in Liberal seats in the week since the election was called.

On Tuesday he was in Liberal MP Nicolle Flint's seat of Boothby in South Australia, where he announced $200 million to make sure pathology remained free for cancer patients, as the industry says rising costs are making it difficult to keep prices down.

Australian Associated Press