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 codeCompany nameWhat they do
AJJAsian American Medical GroupOncology division focuses on treatment plans and a liver cancer clinic
BD1BARD1 Life SciencesLung and ovarian cancer detection tests, vaccine
BITBiotronTreatments for Hep B, which can lead to cancers
BLTBenitec PharmaHead and neck cancer treatment
CDYCellmidOncology drug development and biomarker detection
CGSCogstateClinical trial design
CYCCyclopharmCancer imaging tech
CYPCynata TherapeuticsStem cell therapies
GBIGenera BiosystemsHPV test - cervical cancer prevention
GTGGenetic TechnologiesBreast cancer risk tes
IDTIDT AustraliaBrain tumour drug
IMCImmuronCancer drugs development and reducing tumour size and side effects of chemotherapy.
IMMImmutepImmunotherapy treatments fro cancer
IMUImugeneVaccine development for gastric and breast cancer
ITDITL Health GroupDiagnostic testing
IVQInvotrocue LtdScreening tests development
IVXInvion"Photosoft" laser cancer treatment
KZAKazia TherapeuticsDeveloping Cantrixil drug candidate - ovarian cancer
LSHLifespot HealthSelf-diagnosis skin cancer app
MDCMedlab ClinicalMedical cannabis cancer treatment
NOXNoxopharmDeveloping cancer-fighting drug Idronoxil
OSLOncosil MedicalDevice for use in pancreatic cancer treatments
PAAPharmaustCancer treatment for animals with a view to expand into human cancer treatment
PABPatrysAntibody treatments
PTXPrescient TherapeuticsDrug candidates for destroying tumours
PXSPharmaxisCancers with fibrotic components
RACRace OncologyDeveloping the Bisantrene cancer drug
RGSRegeneusCellular therapies
RHYRhythm BiosciencesColorectal cancer test
SDXSienna Cancer diagnosticsBiomarker diagnostics / cancer testing
SPLStarpharma HoldingsDendrimer tech and cancer drug development
SRXSirtex MedicalLiver cancer treatment
TBLTBG DiagnosticsIn vitro disgnostic testing