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Revolution for cancer treatment: expert -

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ELEANOR HALL: For the thousands of Australians undergoing cancer treatment there's some good news
on the horizon.

According to a leading Australian cancer researcher, we're about to see a revolution in the way
patients are treated.

As Emily Bourke reports that revolution will include better targeting of drugs, fewer side effects
and better outcomes.

EMILY BOURKE: Of the 390,000 Australians living with cancer, half of them will need chemotherapy.

Australian cancer researcher Nick Saunders says he has prepared a report card on cancer treatments
and he'll be delivering his findings at the Brisbane Institute later today.

Professor Saunders says there have been substantial improvements in understanding the biology of
cancer, which means the treatments are more selective and effective.

NICK SAUNDERS: When we treat patients that have insulin dependent diabetes, we give them insulin
and if we have patients who are hypertensive, we give them beta-blockers. These drugs work very
effectively on those diseases because they target the very specificity the lesions associated with
that disease.

We know what causes those symptoms and we can treat them specifically and we are aiming towards
these types of new chemotherapies which are targeted specific towards the defect so that patients
when they take them, don't have all of these other side effects.

EMILY BOURKE: This morning, The World Today spoke to Melbourne woman, Helen who was in her doctor's
waiting room, preparing for her last round of chemotherapy.

HELEN: I was diagnosed at the beginning of January with early breast cancer. The treatment that was
recommended for me was chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy followed by hormonal therapy which
would last between two to five years.

My chemo treatment, I completely lost all my hair on my head. One of the other side-effects
obviously is nausea and feeling very tired.

I did notice there is a symptom called 'chemo fog' or 'chemo-brain'. What you find is that you no
longer anywhere near as sharp as you were. You find it difficult to concentrate. Things that
wouldn't have been a problem to remember just sort of slide off your brain.

EMILY BOURKE: Professor Nick Saunders says some of the most distressing side-effects could soon be
a thing of the past.

NICK SAUNDERS: I think the public is probably unaware of the advances that have been made in the
molecular sciences and just how much we have progressed in understanding cancer and as a practising
cancer biologist, I frequently go overseas to conferences and I can see a lot of these new targets.

There are drugs now for them which are going into clinical trial. These things are going to be
coming into use and will be trialled in Australia soon. So the future is looking a lot better than
it has done for a long time.

EMILY BOURKE: For Helen her challenge to the researchers and doctors is a simple one.

HELEN: There is no such thing as the all clear really. You live day by day with the concern, I
suppose, that it can recur because there is no absolute guarantee. If it is more selective then I
would certainly hope that that is one of the things that they might be able to provide for women.
The peace of mind, you know, that they can see their future in five or ten or 20 years, cancer
free.

EMILY BOURKE: Professor Nick Saunders.

NICK SAUNDERS: If we can deliver more effective therapies which are tolerated by patients which
target the cancer specifically and we can increase those numbers so that the percentages in the
favour of the patient, then I think the peace of mind will come with that.

ELEANOR HALL: That is Professor Nick Saunders from The Diamantina Institute based at the University
of Queensland. Emily Bourke with that report.