News and Announcements


Patenting human genes – Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry

Publicly-funded genetic testing and not-for-profit genetic research must be allowed to continue without penalty or undue restriction.

This is the key message of a submission by The Cancer Council Australia, on behalf of its member organisations, to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry into Gene Patenting and Human Health.

The Cancer Council is concerned about a patenting system that allows exclusive rights to a naturally-occurring substance if such rights are to the detriment of public health, particularly by reducing access to or increasing the cost to the community of genetic testing; permitting testing without appropriate genetic counselling; and/or hindering research which would improve genetic testing methods and treatment.

The submission recommends several changes to the current patenting system to compensate for the unusual nature of gene patents and consequently the potential impact these patents may have on the wider healthcare system and health research.

The Cancer Council’s submission can be read online at www.cancer.org.au. Further information about the ALRC inquiry is available at www.alrc.gov.au.

Protecting the advocacy work of the Cancer Councils

The Cancer Council Australia has made a submission to the Board of Taxation, expressing concern about the potential impact of the draft Charities Bill 2003.

Cancer Councils believe they have a responsibility to advocate for improvements in government policy, programs or legislation to reduce the incidence and impact of cancer. Their goal is to ensure that issues related to cancer care and control get the attention, legislative action and funding they deserve.

While the draft bill broadens the legislative definition of a charity and resolves some ambiguities within current common law interpretations, the Cancer Councils believe that several provisions are badly drafted and may hinder rather than enhance the work of charities in Australia.

The submission seeks to ensure charities are expressly permitted to engage in advocacy in pursuit of charitable purposes and on behalf of those they seek to benefit.

The Cancer Council’s submission can be read online at www.cancer.org.au.

National Skin Cancer Action Week

The dangers of tanning is a theme of The Cancer Council’s National Skin Cancer Action Week this year (16-22 November).

Recent Cancer Council research shows that while around 50% of Australian women over the age of 18 say they aren’t interested in being tanned, 25% still want a light tan, 21% a medium tan, and 4% a dark tan.

It seems many Australians wrongly believe tanning without burning and using a solarium is safe. The Cancer Council and the Australasian College of Dermatologists, a supporter of the Action Week, advise that any form of tanning which involves intentional exposure to ultraviolet radiation carries a risk of skin damage, including premature ageing and skin cancer.

Parliamentary briefing

“Cancer prevention: they key to reducing disease and health expenditure” was the topic of the latest meeting of The Cancer Council Australia’s Parliamentary Cancer Information meeting.

Held at Parliament House in Canberra on 5 November, speakers included Professor Alan Lopez, head of the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland and former advisor to the WHO Director-General; Ms Christine Stone, Senior Epidemiologist – Cancer and Genetics at the Victorian Department of Human Services, and Ms Dorothy Reading, Chair of The Cancer Council’s Public Health Committee.

The content of the presentation is outlined in the Cancer Update newsletter.

Awards

Professor Alan Coates AM, CEO of The Cancer Council Australia, is this year’s winner of the prestigious Medical Oncology Group of Australia/Pierre Fabre Cancer Achievement Award.

The Chairman of the MOGA Awards Committee, Dr Michael Jefford, said the award was in recognition of Professor Coates’s outstanding contributions to cancer knowledge and control through his research, practice, teaching and service.

“He is internationally recognised as a leading expert in breast cancer, melanoma, cancer trials and quality of life research, and he has been a role model and mentor for many Australian oncologists,” Dr Jefford said.

The prize was formally awarded to Professor Coates at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Medical Oncology Group of Australia in Canberra on 13 August.

Professor Coates’ address is published in this issue of Cancer Forum.

Professor Lester Peters AM has been awarded a prestigious Gold Medal by the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO).

Professor Peters, a past president of ASTRO who is now Head of Radiation Oncology at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute in Melbourne, is one of only three to receive the Society’s highest honour this year. He was formally presented with his Gold Medal at ASTRO’s annual meeting at Salt Lake City in the US this week.

Professor Peters’ award is in recognition of his excellence in pre-clinical and clinical research, his ability to translate research into clinical practice, and his many contributions to improve the standard of practice in radiation oncology.

He is a former chair, and continuing member, of The Cancer Council Australia’s Medical and Scientific Committee.

Oncologists Forum

The first online medical forum for oncologists and haematologists in Australia and New Zealand will be held in February next year.

A faculty of leading oncology specialists has been established to help implement the new 20:20 Oncologist Forum.

The forum will include presentations from both international and Australian specialists and allow registrants to discuss the local implications of emerging issues and trends, via the Internet.

Dr Michael Green, Medical Oncologist at The Royal Melbourne Hospital and Chair of the 20:20 Oncologist Forum said the forum provides an innovative arena for the oncologists and haematologists to “debate, learn and share opinions on current issues and research”.

A survey conducted with 25 Australian oncologists revealed the need for a unique, interesting setting that could facilitate scientific discussion rather than just provide an educational agenda.

“The Forum has been developed in response to these results, and it is the objective of the faculty to ensure the content and structure of the forum is not just educational but encourages debate,” said Dr Green.

The first forum is to be held in late February 2004 and will be designed to fit into the RACP CME guidelines.

For further information or to register interest, email oncology@virtuebroadcasting.com.au.

Cervical cancer screening conference

The Cancer Council Australia will be hosting a one-day conference on cervical cancer screening as part of an international meeting to be held in Melbourne next April.

The cervical cancer screening stream of the 18th World Conference on Health Promotion and Health Education will be held on Thursday, 29 April at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre.

The program will provide opportunities to share knowledge and showcase existing good practice in cervical screening programs, highlight future opportunities and new technologies, raise awareness of access and equity issues of disadvantaged woman, and allow for the development of networks to facilitate and maintain collaborative relationships.

It is expected that the focus of the cervical screening conference stream will offer the opportunity for presentations on current issues including new technologies in cervical screening, the human papilloma virus (including a vaccine and testing), and effective recruitment measures for reaching unscreened women.

The Cancer Council Australia gratefully acknowledges the Victorian and Australian governments for their assistance through funding support of the cervical cancer screening stream.

UICC grants and fellowships

The International Union Against Cancer (UICC) is offering research grants and international fellowships that provide opportunities for continuous professional education in a variety of disciplines through long, medium and short-term work and training periods abroad. They are intended for qualified investigators, clinicians and nurses who are actively engaged in cancer research, clinical oncology or oncology nursing or are educators in these fields.

UICC Yamagiwa-Yoshida Grants provide support for establishing or conducting three month long bilateral (between any two countries) cancer research projects to develop experimental research methods and techniques. Selection will take place in April 2004 and, if successful, projects can start within a month. There are six to eight grants available, valued at $10,000. Applications close 1 January 2004.

Beginning Investigators fellowships are funded by the American Cancer Society for beginning investigators and clinicians in the early stages of their career. There are six to eight fellowships available, valued at $40,000 for 12 months. Applications close 1 December 2003.

Translational Research fellowships are aimed at improving the translation of basic, experimental, and applied research insights. There are two to three fellowships available, valued at $55,500 for 12 months. Applications close 1 December 2003.

Wishlist Christmas hampers

Wishlist.com.au has developed a range of gourmet Christmas hampers as a fundraising initiative to support The Cancer Council Australia. Your purchase of a Blitzen Reindeer, Cupid Reindeer or Vixen Reindeer hamper includes a $5, $10 or $15 contribution to The Cancer Council Australia*. For further information or to order, visit Wishlist.com.au.

*Please note: Purchasing Blitzen, Cupid and Vixen hampers cannot be used as a tax deduction and tax invoices cannot be issued by The Cancer Council Australia. 

CEO profiles

In each edition of Cancer Forum this year we have profiled the CEOs of The Cancer Councils.

The Cancer Council ACT
Joan Bartlett

Ms Joan Bartlett commenced as Executive Officer of The Cancer Council ACT in January 1999.

Ms Bartlett has worked in the not-for-profit sector since early 1991, working first for an organisation offering Employment Assistance Programs (EAPs), followed by four years as the Education Director of Family Planning ACT, and then three years as the Executive Director of Lifeline Canberra.

After arriving in Canberra from Queensland in June 1989, Ms Bartlett worked briefly in the training and development areas of three Commonwealth Government Departments: (the then) Department of Finance, (the then) Department of Health and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

At the beginning of her working life, Ms Bartlett had begun at Sydney Hospital as a student nurse in 1966, completing only one year before taking up teacher training.  In 1971, after teaching in country NSW and Sydney she went overseas for four years working in hospitality (and occasionally crewing yachts) for a living.

After ten years working as a student and as a stay-at-home parent, Ms Bartlett returned to work in 1985 as a Special Education teacher at the Barrett Adolescent Centre, near Brisbane, working for two years with adolescents with psychiatric illnesses.  Following this experience Ms Bartlett was employed as a guidance officer (counsellor) in high schools around Brisbane for three years.

Ms Bartlett is currently studying for an MBA majoring in Association Management from the University of New England.  She holds a Masters of Educational Studies degree (Guidance and Counselling) and Bachelor of Educational Studies degree (both from the University of Queensland), a Graduate Diploma in Special Education from Charles Sturt University as well as a Diploma of Teaching and Teaching Certificate from (the now) University of Wollongong.

Her early attraction to things medical, plus training and experience in education and counselling and her current interest in governance and association management, have each contributed to her finding managing The Cancer Council ACT a most fulfilling experience.

The Cancer Council Tasmania
Lawson Ride

Mr Lawson Ride was appointed foundation Executive Director of The Cancer Council Tasmania in April 1995 and has been responsible for the growth and development of the Council and its programs to date.

Prior to his appointment he enjoyed a long and varied career in a range of agencies within the Tasmanian public service. During eight years in the Department of Health Mr Ride held a range of senior management positions in health promotion, public affairs and the secretariat, before his final appointment as Senior Private Secretary to the Minister for Health and Community Services.

Mr Ride was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 1999 to study rural cancer control in Norway, Ireland, Canada and the US, and has since been able to adapt and implement a number of initiatives to meet Tasmanian needs.

Tasmanian born, Mr Ride is a former army officer and professional musician, a graduate of the University of Tasmania (in administration and politics), and is state vice president of the Public Relations Institute of Australia.

The Cancer Council Australia
Professor Alan Coates AM

Alan Coates graduated in Medicine from the University of Melbourne in 1966.  After completing training in internal medicine at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, he entered a research fellowship at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research and subsequently joined its tenured faculty.  Laboratory studies in cellular immunology led to the MD (Melbourne), and to a laboratory and clinical interest in the immunology of melanoma.  In 1976 he moved to the United States for training in medical oncology at the Wisconsin Clinical Cancer Center with Paul Carbone. During this time he established a laboratory program in tumour immunology and developed a lasting interest in the design, conduct and analysis of clinical trials to provide high quality evidence about the efficacy of cancer treatments.

Since returning to Australia in 1978 he has practised as a medical oncologist to the Sydney Melanoma Unit, and was its Research Director from 1985 to 1998. He joined the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in 1980 and became Associate Professor in Cancer Medicine in the University of Sydney in 1985. He is now Clinical Professor in the School of Public Health in the University of Sydney. He has been a member of ASCO and AACR and of the Clinical Oncological Society of Australia (COSA) since 1978, serving as COSA President in 1994 and 1995.

Professor Coates’ research interests include clinical trials in melanoma and breast cancer, and studies of quality of life in cancer patients, particularly the links between quality of life and duration of survival. He has published some 200 journal articles, 30 editorials and 20 book chapters.

In 1998 Professor Coates became Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Cancer Society (now The Cancer Council Australia). He remains active in breast cancer clinical research and in clinical practice at the Sydney Melanoma Unit and the Department of Medical Oncology at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. He is Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Australian New Zealand Breast Cancer Trials Group and co-Chairman of the International Breast Cancer Study Group Scientific Committee. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Council of the Schweizerische Institut fuer Angewandte Krebsforschung (SIAK) and was elected the first non-US oncologist member of the Board of Directors of the American Society for Clinical Oncology, serving from 2000 to 2003.

Professor Coates was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2002 for service to medicine in the field of oncology, particularly through breast cancer research.

New COSA Executive Officer

Ms Margaret McJannett has been appointed Executive Officer of the Clinical Oncological Society of Australia (COSA).  Ms McJannett also replaces Mr Lawrie Wright as The Cancer Council Australia’s Administrative Officer.

Margaret has been involved in cancer care for the past 24 years. She was previously an oncology nurse consultant with the Sydney Melanoma Unit at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, and more recently working at the Sydney University’s Medical Psychology Research Unit, where she was involved in developing treatment decision aids for cancer patients.

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