Monday, 11 September 2023
Private Members' Business
Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma
Investing in medical research and health care is a top priority of our government. Over this government's term in office, we have invested record amounts in improving access to health care right across the nation. Take, for example, the government's Medical Research Future Fund, the MRFF, which is a $20 billion long-term investment supporting Australian health and medical research. What the MRFF aims to do is transform health and medical research and innovation to improve the lives of all Australians and build the economy and contribute to the health system's sustainability. The federal government now uses the interest from this investment to pay for medical research initiatives and innovation right across the country. It is so important for Australians, as we all benefit from life-changing discoveries. It helps our researchers develop their ideas domestically and supports Australia's growing biotech industry, creating future jobs and exports, while also building stronger relationships between researchers, healthcare professionals, governments and the community.
Where our investment in medical research is directly benefiting Australians is those children who are diagnosed with malignancy, with cancer. In Australia, brain cancer is a leading cause of death of children. Today, we are speaking on the motion moved by the member for Mallee on diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG. I will go into what that is. We know that those brainstem gliomas are heterogeneous in their activity. Activity ranges from low-range tumours to more rapidly fatal, aggressive disease of which DIPG is one. Prognosis and treatment often depends on the severity of those symptoms, their duration and the location of the tumour within the brainstem itself. From the title of this disease, we know it originates in the pons, which is a part of the brainstem, so the lower brain. Approximately 80 per cent of the midline gliomas occur within that section of the brainstem. The diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas are usually quite high-grade, are locally infiltrative and have a uniformly poor diagnosis amongst our paediatric patients.
The symptoms are varied. I know the member for Higgins went into detail about some of the symptoms. With this form of malignancy, we can get cranial nerve palsies, which are the nerves exiting the brain which control a lot of the function in the head and neck; long tract signs, things like hemiparesis where part of the body won't be able to move, affecting a child's mobility; hydrocephalus, which is water on the brain, increased pressure on the brain; and also bleeding within the tumour. All of these can lead to poor prognosis of the children who are suffering from this absolutely terrible, terrible disease.
I'm pleased to be part of a government that's working collaboratively with the New South Wales government to invest in further breakthrough research in children's cancer so that one day we can live in a world—not just here in Australia but across the world—where we can cure cancers diagnosed in children. To reach this vision, the federal government has invested $100 million towards the Children's Comprehensive Cancer Centre at the Sydney Children's Hospital in Randwick, and this collaboration between the federal, the New South Wales government and the Children's Cancer Institute aims to strengthen research and support 500 researchers and clinicians work on the challenge of paediatric cancer. This cancer centre is going to train our brightest minds in the vital quest to advance the treatment and prevention of childhood cancers. It will be like none other in Australia. It will be a fully integrated cancer centre, combining world-leading clinical care with groundbreaking research and education to change the face of paediatric cancer. It's said that this centre is going to be operational by 2025.
We've also invested $99 million towards 29 research grants focused on childhood cancers through the returns from the MRFF, and $60 million of this investment is going to the Zero Childhood Cancer Program, a world-leading precision medicine program. This program uses the latest technology to screen cancers and search for drugs that can target them.
Again, I want to thank the member for raising this important issue. It's important that we really shine some light on this area. And I thank the other members for their contributions.