Sony Foundation funds $100,000 for youth cancer research

The highest unmet need of adolescents and young adults (AYAs) with cancer in Australia is having access to an exercise professional (37%) despite 4 out 5 identifying it as needed during treatment, just after pain management(1). It comes at an opportune time with Exercise Physiologist Claire Munsie being awarded $90,000 from Sony Foundation to undertake a research project to explore the benefits of exercise for young people during cancer treatment. It is intended the outcomes of the research will guide future services to better support young people with cancer and contribute to a national project with other Youth Cancer Services across Australia. A further $10,000 grant was awarded to Reichelle Yeo, from Centenary Institute University of Sydney who won the People’s Choice award for her submission.

The You Can Innovate Research Award is part of a pioneering approach by Sony Foundation’s youth cancer initiative, You Can, to drive interest amongst young researchers to tackle a grossly under-funded area of cancer research. Improvements in survival for certain cancers has been lower amongst young people than children or older adults over the last 20 years(2) . Despite this, government funding of research focused on the area of patient care and survivorship is less than 6%.

“Unfortunately, adolescents with cancer are losing the war as my age group receives the least amount of funding from the government for research. Having access to someone like Claire whilst being on treatment would have been incredible. I think this is definitely a big step in a positive direction and I those applicable will be able to benefit as soon as possible.” Jess Olson, You Can Champ and three-time cancer survivor

Sony Foundation CEO Sophie Ryan said; “The funding of the You Can Innovate Award is the next step in our mission to ensure that investment is addressing the needs of AYAs and improving survival outcomes for young cancer patients.”

“Keeping young people fit, healthy and strong during treatment is something I see as not only important, but essential. Adolescents and young adults (AYAs) however are a unique cohort who are physically, biologically and psychosocially different to adult and paediatric patients and therefore need to be investigated as their own entity,” Claire Munsie senior exercise physiologist at the WA Youth Cancer Service.

(1) Susan Sawyer (6 Feb 2017). Support Care Cancer. “Unmet need for healthcare services in adolescents and young adults with cancer and their parent carers”

(2) Approximately half of the cancer types that affect AYAs still have 5-year survival rates below 77%. For example, for AYAs (15-29 years) diagnosed with leukaemia in Australia between 2004 – 2010 the projected 5 year survival rate was only 68% compared to 97% in children aged 0-14, and 73% in adults aged 3—39 years. (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.2011. Cancer in adolescents and young adults in Australia Cancer series no.62.Cat.no.CAN59.Canberra:AIHW.)

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