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Armstrong boosts Australia cancer work

  • Story Highlights
  • Armstrong is competing in his first professional event since retiring in 2005
  • Seven-time Tour de France winner using his return to promote efforts to fight cancer
  • Rudd says funds to go to an institute and four national cancer clinical trials
  • Cancer kills 38,000 Australians annually
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(CNN) -- Hours after meeting cycling champion and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced his government would devote about $3.8 million in new funding to cancer research.

Lance Armstrong speaks with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Tuesday in Adelaide.

Lance Armstrong speaks with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Tuesday in Adelaide.

Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner, is competing in his first professional event -- Australia's Tour Down Under -- since retiring in 2005. He has said he plans to use his return to competition to promote his high-profile efforts at fighting cancer internationally.

"Lance has become a passionate advocate for cancer research -- and my government strongly supports his cause," Rudd said Tuesday, speaking in Adelaide.

Rudd said his government will spend about $2.5 million on the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science in Adelaide for its research into blood cell cancers, such as leukemia. The rest of the funds will go to four national cancer clinical trials.

Australia's most recent federal budget included $198 million to fight cancer, which kills 38,000 Australians annually, Rudd said.

"Just one day after launching the LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Campaign, Prime Minister Rudd is already taking action in the fight against cancer and setting an outstanding example for world leaders to follow," Armstrong said in a statement on his Lance Armstrong Foundation Web site.

"He took the sobering statistics about this global epidemic to heart and recognizes that we have no time to waste."

At age 25, Armstrong, already a promising cyclist on the pro circuit, was diagnosed in 1996 with testicular cancer, which spread to his abdomen, lungs and brain. After years of treatment, he returned to win the Tour de France -- cycling's premiere event -- every year from 1999 to 2005.

Armstrong has said he does not expect to compete for victory in the weeklong Australian tour, the first of the season, but to use it as a tune up.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Rudd joked about his meeting with Armstrong.

"We've just been having a yak to Lance Armstrong," he said. "(We) have been giving our advice on the finer tips of cycling, and he's promised to take that advice on board."

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