Transformative funding for Australian medical research must centre people with a lived experience

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BCNA Director of Policy, Advocacy & Support Services Vicki Durston.

Breast Cancer Network Australia

Medical research achieves much greater outcomes if people with lived experience are involved in its design and implementation, according to Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) – Australia’s leading breast cancer consumer organisation.

Welcoming the Australian Government’s $1.89 billion Health Research for a Future Made in Australia funding package, BCNA Director of Policy, Advocacy & Support Services Vicki Durston said involving consumers means that Australian researchers can remain at the cutting edge of research.

The $1.89 billion package announced on Thursday by the Minister for Health & Aged Care includes $1.4 billion for new research projects via the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), including in priority areas such as women’s health and chronic pain. 

The package also includes $18.8 million to progress a ‘National One Stop Shop’ for clinical trials to make them easier to access. 

“Despite progress in treating significant diseases such as breast cancer, which affects over 20,000 people in Australia each year, there are still huge disparities in outcomes,” Ms Durston said.

“Investing in Australian medical research is vital in improving outcomes but is most effective when people with lived experience are central and the research is designed to find solutions to meet their needs.  

“Equity of access to clinical trials, particularly for those who live in rural and regional areas, is one current barrier, which is why we particularly welcome investment and focus on increasing trials available in Australia, and improving access for those who need them.”   

Ms Durston also noted it is important that research agendas are informed by the needs of consumers, rather than solely by commercial interests. 

BCNA’s internationally recognised Seat at the Table program trains Consumer Representatives to work with researchers to ensure the lived experience and voice is central to all research that aims to improve outcomes for people affected by cancer.

Specialist Breast Surgeon and BCNA Board Alumni Professor Bruce Mann said involving patients in the instigation, design and process of research is critical to achieving better outcomes.

“The funding is very welcome and will mean that more clinical trials can be done in Australia.  

“It is critical that consumers are involved in setting the research agenda – they must be more than merely participants, but involved in determining which questions will be addressed.” 

Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) is the peak national organisation for Australians affected by breast cancer, and consists of a network of more than 175,000 individual members. BCNA supports, informs, represents and connects Australians affected by breast cancer and works to ensure that all Australians affected by breast cancer receive the very best care, treatment and support appropriate to their individual needs.

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