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Andrew Forrest draws on Family experience in push to Eliminate Cancer

For Andrew Forrest and his wife, Nicola – as for so many people – the fight against cancer is personal.

Both sides of their family have been afflicted, dating all the way back to Mr Forrest’s great-great-uncle John – the first premier of Western Australia – who was killed by melanoma 99 years ago. More recently, both have watched close family members struggle against the “emperor of all maladies”.

Neither is keen to talk about these personal experiences. “Cancer has probably touched every family in some way,” Mrs Forrest said. But these experiences are at least part of the reason cancer research was at the top of the couple’s philanthropic to-do list.

Of the family’s record $400 million donation, $75 million worth of “catalytic” seed funding will go towards eliminating cancer – a disease that will kill an estimated 100 million people over the next decade.

Researchers say that after a series of scientific breakthroughs and technological advances, they are poised to launch a decisive counterattack on the disease, but what they need is better co-ordination.

The Eliminate Cancer Initiative will bring the fragmented research community together and harness the collective wisdom of government, industry, academia, healthcare providers and patients. It will turbocharge the movement in an effort to make cancer history.

Mr Forrest said Monday was “a very bad for cancer and a very good day for patients”. He hopes cancer can be rendered a non-fatal disease within his lifetime: “I would like to see it done this generation as a gift to the next generation.”

Mrs Forrest said the donation would ensure vital information and technology was shared, “so that one plus one equals 11, instead of two”.

Internationally renowned cancer-fighter Ronald DePinho – who travelled from his home in Texas for the Forrests’ announcement and will be an executive director of the ECI – said the funding would send a message of hope to millions.

“At this very moment in history, scientific breakthroughs and major technological advances have positioned the world to make a decisive assault on the cancer problem,” he said. “History will write that our generation illuminated the deepest scientific mysteries of cancer. Let it also be written that our generation stood together to ensure that our knowledge reached those in need.”

Grant McArthur, of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, said initiatives such as pushing for expanded international tobacco controls and running new and improved global clinical trials could be established quickly.

“There are initiatives that are shovel-ready, that we can move forward with very quickly,” Professor McArthur said.

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