The Minister for Health Greg Hunt announced $67 million for tailored treatment for every Australian child with cancer on April 30.
The money is a joint investment through the Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) and the Minderoo Foundation.
All Australian children and young adults diagnosed with cancer will now have access to genetically guided, precision treatments, the health department said in a media release.
The money will go to the Zero Childhood Cancer national precision medicine program that aims to reduce childhood cancer to zero.
“Cancer is always a devastating diagnosis. Each year, about 750 children aged 14 or less are diagnosed with cancer in Australia,” Hunt said in the press release. “Many of these children have cancers that are very difficult to treat and have a less than 30 percent survival rate.”
The new funding will help to increase support from 150 to 1,000 children per year.
Hunt thanked Minderoo Foundation Chairman Andrew Forrest AO for its $12.2 million contribution. Forrest said supporting the cancer program was an important part of the Minderoo Foundation’s work.
“Over the last twelve months, we’ve seen ZERO achieve incredible breakthroughs in the fight against cancer,” said Forrest. “Minderoo Foundation is pleased the program will soon be available to all Aussie kids and their families.”
Children with cancer will receive free profiling of their cancer cells. From there, researchers can test new therapies that will provide the most effective treatment for each individual child.
Cancelled Press Conference
A press conference had been scheduled for Hunt and Forrest to announce the funding, but was canceled at the last minute.
A spokesperson for the Minister for Health told the Epoch Times on April 30: “The [funding] announcement was issued by Media Release so as not to distract focus from the importance of this life-saving program for children.
“Over the coming years, this important partnership will give many Australian families the potential for better outcomes and real hope.”
This comes after Forrest broke with etiquette and unexpectedly invited a Chinese diplomat to speak to the press at a similar ministerial press conference with Hunt the day before.
Forrest’s move was criticised by members of Parliament and the press because of its timing.
Diplomatic tensions between Australia and China have cooled this week after the Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye said the “Chinese public” may boycott Australian universities and products if Australia continues to push for an inquiry into the origins and handling of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.
In response, the prime minister and other ministers said they would not bow to “economic coercion.”
Liberal MP Andrew Hastie wrote on Facebook: “This guy drops out of the sky in his private jet and enables the Chinese Communist Party to ambush a Commonwealth press conference. Yeah, we’re not happy. Now is not the time for games. Australia must come first.”
Forrest responded to the criticism on Channel 9’s Today show on April 30: “There was no surprises there … this is the biggest non-story ever.”