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04 Feb 2020
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Cancer care in Indigenous populations

  • Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre
Special issue of the Journal of Global Oncology

Menzies School of Health Research is one of Australia’s leading medical research institutes dedicated to improving Indigenous, global and tropical health. Two years ago, Professor Gail Garvey, Head of the Cancer Research Group at Menzies and a Kamilaroi woman from New South Wales, co-authored an open letter to the Lancet Oncology calling on the World Health Organisation (WHO) and governments to prioritise improvement in cancer control for Indigenous people globally.

The letter stated that while there has been progress in preventing, diagnosing and treating many cancers, the potential of the progress has yet to be full realised by the Indigenous people in our region.

Director-General of the WHO Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus responded by saying, “Indigenous peoples are at higher risk for cancers and other diseases and have worse health outcomes than non-Indigenous groups, but this is only the beginning of our understanding of the problem. Appropriate inclusion and classification of Indigenous peoples in information systems, including cancer registries, has been insufficient to inform policy formulation and implementation.”

In January this year, the Journal of Global Oncology published its first-ever special issue, compiled by Professor and Director of Oncology, Monash Health and JGO associate editor Eva Segelov, and Professor Gail Garvey, with an aim to promote understanding about disparities in cancer outcomes for Indigenous people.

More than a dozen commentaries feature in the compilation

The special series comprises articles sourced around the globe addressing three domains: epidemiology and disease and treatment patterns, impact of Indigenous culture, and the empowerment and engagement of Indigenous researchers and communities in setting their own agenda for improving cancer outcomes. 

In the JGO report, more than a dozen articles address a broad range of topics from biobanking and genomic research to roles and responsibilities in Indigenous cancer research, system-level change and psychosocial aspects of delivering cancer care to Indigenous people. 

“Many Indigenous people throughout the world, in high and low-income countries, face substantial economic, health, and social disadvantages,” says Professor Garvey.

"There is often a misconception that Indigenous people with cancer have similar outcomes to others in high-income countries like Australia, but the reality is they have a health disadvantage similar to many lower-income countries”. 

Professor Garvey will join us at the VCCC on Monday 18 May for a Monday Lunch Live lecture to talk about her recent work.