Aside from his plan to make Australia a world leader in lithium batteries — which is causing the Liberal party to claim the ALP wants to tax hard-working Australians’ cars — Bill Shorten also promised to provide $2.3 billion to fight cancer if elected.

In his budget reply speech, the would-be — and likely next, if polls and betting markets are to be believed — prime minister of Australia announced “the most important investment in Medicare since Bob Hawke created it”.

“We will invest $600 million towards eliminating all of the out-of-pocket costs for diagnostic imaging,” he said. “We’ll invest $433 million to immediately cover specialist consultations.

<<< Scroll down for a list of small cap ASX stocks fighting cancer >>>

“Every drug recommended by the independent experts will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). We will continue to support our scientists in their work, we’ll invest in the research and the clinical trials.

“And until the day we find a cure I promise the men and women of Australia this. You focus on getting well without worrying about going broke. I can promise you that if you’re in the fight of your life, the Labor government will be with you every step of the way.”

ASX cancer small caps grinning from ear to ear

There are about 140 health, biotech and medtech companies listed on the ASX, with a bit over 30 dedicated to fighting cancer in some way or another.

Dr Steven Fang, CEO, chairman and co-founder of diagnostic biotech Invitrocue (ASX:IVQ), said the funding “could not have come at a better time”.

“In most developed economies healthcare costs are skyrocketing and the cost of managing chronic diseases like cancer are astronomical,” he told Stockhead.

“Any support from the government is hugely welcomed by us, it will help us roll out our services in Australia as well as give us the room to develop in new indications.”

Invitrocue’s flagship product is Onco-PDO, as in oncology patient-derived organoid.

Onco-PDO uses 3D culture to grow a patient’s own cancer cells on scaffolds and then test them in view of the best medicine to use.

The technology is based on the notion that every tumour is slightly different, which means individual patients may react differently to a particular drug or drug combination.

It is currently being made available in Asia and Europe and Dr Fang hopes to bring it to Australia soon.

Dr James Garner, Kazia Therapeutics (ASX:KZA) chief, says he is excited to see how the funding will be used, hoping that it will tackle the disease from all sides.

“Somewhere between a third and half of the Western world ends up dying from cancer, so at a high level anything that helps in that fight is terrific,” he told Stockhead.

“The challenging thing is how do we best invest that as a society. Is it focused on drug discovery and new medicines, new treatment plans, better infrastructure or preventative measures?

“One hopes that it will be all put together, cancer requires thinking about the whole package and I am keen to see from both sides more thinking about integrating all these different ways of approaching cancer.”

Here is a list of small cap ASX stocks with exposure to cancer treatment:

ASX code Company name What they do
AJJ Asian American Medical Group Oncology division focuses on treatment plans and a liver cancer clinic
BD1 BARD1 Life Sciences Lung and ovarian cancer detection tests, vaccine
BIT Biotron Treatments for Hep B, which can lead to cancers
BLT Benitec Pharma Head and neck cancer treatment
CDY Cellmid Oncology drug development and biomarker detection
CGS Cogstate Clinical trial design
CYC Cyclopharm Cancer imaging tech
CYP Cynata Therapeutics Stem cell therapies
GBI Genera Biosystems HPV test - cervical cancer prevention
GTG Genetic Technologies Breast cancer risk tes
IDT IDT Australia Brain tumour drug
IMC Immuron Cancer drugs development and reducing tumour size and side effects of chemotherapy.
IMM Immutep Immunotherapy treatments fro cancer
IMU Imugene Vaccine development for gastric and breast cancer
ITD ITL Health Group Diagnostic testing
IVQ Invotrocue Ltd Screening tests development
IVX Invion "Photosoft" laser cancer treatment
KZA Kazia Therapeutics Developing Cantrixil drug candidate - ovarian cancer
LSH Lifespot Health Self-diagnosis skin cancer app
MDC Medlab Clinical Medical cannabis cancer treatment
NOX Noxopharm Developing cancer-fighting drug Idronoxil
OSL Oncosil Medical Device for use in pancreatic cancer treatments
PAA Pharmaust Cancer treatment for animals with a view to expand into human cancer treatment
PAB Patrys Antibody treatments
PTX Prescient Therapeutics Drug candidates for destroying tumours
PXS Pharmaxis Cancers with fibrotic components
RAC Race Oncology Developing the Bisantrene cancer drug
RGS Regeneus Cellular therapies
RHY Rhythm Biosciences Colorectal cancer test
SDX Sienna Cancer diagnostics Biomarker diagnostics / cancer testing
SPL Starpharma Holdings Dendrimer tech and cancer drug development
SRX Sirtex Medical Liver cancer treatment
TBL TBG Diagnostics In vitro disgnostic testing