Monday, 11 September 2023
Private Members' Business
Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma
I thank the member for Mallee for bringing this important motion to the House. I too acknowledge the need to invest more into diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma. I acknowledge the contribution we've just heard from the member for Higgins, and I appreciate her background and knowledge that she brings into this place on issues such as this.
I've got to admit that, until I was approached by the member for Mallee, this wasn't a cancer I was aware of. It reinforces why it is important to bring these private members' motions into the House. Not only is it important to reinforce the message to the government of the day, in terms of the importance of research and the anecdotes that members can bring about these things, but it also helps to broaden the understanding and awareness of something that's clearly a critical issue.
As we've heard, DIPG is a very aggressive childhood brain cancer. It develops in the brain stem, striking children in the middle of childhood, with diagnosis typically around the age of five to seven. Tragically, at this stage there is no cure. It is the most aggressive of all childhood cancers, and it's the primary cause of death amongst paediatric brain tumours. Due to the location of the tumour, removal by surgery is not possible. Patients do not respond to chemotherapy and radiotherapy; care is palliative only. You can only imagine the heartache of having a child diagnosed with this and understanding that all you can do is help the child through to the end of their life at such an early age.
I've been in this place now for quite a number of years, and we have seen a turnaround in other cancers. We've seen research with immunotherapy now for melanoma, and melanoma is not the death sentence that it was. Not everyone responds to immunotherapy, but a large proportion of people do, and I personally know people who are alive today because of improvements in immunotherapy for melanoma. The breast cancer survival rate is also now much higher, largely due to the research. I remember a couple of years ago meeting a group, in the Mural Hall here, who were lobbying for research into rare cancers. Sadly, when they held the meeting the following year, the young lady that I spoke to had already passed away. So it is important that these harder, more deadly cancers are focused on in our research.
A lot of the research happens in the capital cities, but I'd like to make the House aware of some work that's happening in my part of the world, championed by Samuel Johnson from the Love Your Sister charity. Samuel's charity has raised about $20 million over the years. They're doing funding trials now—in conjunction with Macquarie University, the Western Cancer Centre Dubbo and the Royal Flying Doctor Service—in precision medicine with regard to cancer treatment. I'm sitting here looking at medical professionals—and I'm no medical professional—but it was explained to me that not all cancers are the same and that the sooner the individual make-up of a cancer is diagnosed the more precise the treatment can be. This trial will be not only in Dubbo but also in other centres—even the small community of Brewarrina and some of the more western towns. Upon diagnosis, a sample is taken and grown—I believe—in a lab. An identification of this cancer is made and, therefore, the treatment can be better targeted.
So we do know that incredible progress can be made. The families that have children diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma will be hanging onto hope that future breakthroughs will help their children survive this disease. I strongly support this motion.