Ballarat helps find more effective cancer treatment: trial success

Ballarat cancer researchers have played a significant role in a groundbreaking trial that looks set to change the way breast cancer is treated.

Ballarat Oncology and Haematology Services is a site for the ALTTO trial, which has involved trialling two drugs with breast cancer patients around the world.

Ballarat oncologist George Kannourakis said it now appeared that the combined use of the drugs – lapatinib and Herceptin – was a more effective way of treating HER2-positive breast cancer.

“As a result of that trial we’re thinking there’s going to be a different way of treating breast cancer,” Professor Kannourakis said.

“Ballarat’s played a big role in that.” The trial results are due to be presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in December.

Ballarat cancer survivor Deanna Osman is one of eight residents around the region who signed up to the trial.

“I saw it as a good way of receiving a better treatment possibly,” she said.

“It’s also about the future really. I’ve got a daughter and I’d prefer her to get the best treatment possible if it got to that stage.”

Ballarat Oncology and Haematology Services Clinical Trials Unit has been involved in more than 30 clinical trials in the past 12 years.

Professor Kannourakis said access to clinical cancer trials had a double benefit for patients in Ballarat.

They were crucial in gathering valuable research into the diagnosis and treatment of cancers, while giving participants access to the most up-to-date treatments, often not yet widely available in Australia.

He said the fact these opportunities were available at a regional Victorian site was particularly significant.

“Opportunities for all cancer patients to have access and participate in cancer trials are so important,” he said.

“They shouldn’t be compromised because of where they live and we are pleased to be able to provide these opportunities.”

Ballarat Oncology and Haematology Services Clinical Trials Unit was recently awarded $29,000 in funding from Cancer Council Victoria to continue to provide cancer trials to the region’s cancer patients.

It is currently undertaking a trial into renal cancer and will start recruiting for oesophageal and melanoma trials soon.