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Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt commits to Blood Cancer Taskforce and Action Plan

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt commits to Blood Cancer Taskforce and Action Plan

The Leukaemia Foundation welcomes the commitment from the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt to establish a Blood Cancer Taskforce and Action Plan.

The Blood Cancer Taskforce will work with leading clinicians, researchers and patient groups in the blood cancer community to develop a blueprint and recommendations for Government to improve blood cancer survival rates.

Currently, close to 13,000 Australians are diagnosed with a blood cancer like leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma every year [1], however recent analysis showed the number would increase to around 17,000 people [2] by 2025. This is close to 50 Australians projected to be newly diagnosed, every day, by 2025 – or two people every hour.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch said that this commitment from Government is welcome news for the blood cancer community.

“We are pleased that the Government has acknowledged the need for national leadership and action on blood cancer,” Mr Petch said.

“There are significant differences in treatment and survival outcomes depending on where a person lives, so it’s really important that we work together with Australia’s leading experts, Government and the blood cancer community to develop a plan to beat blood cancer.”

“For people living with blood cancer this is really significant, because we now have bipartisan commitment from both sides of politics to develop a blueprint for action on blood cancer.”

The Leukaemia Foundation looks forward to working with the incoming Government, our members and partners to progress this important work.

The Leukaemia Foundation provides practical and emotional support to Australians diagnosed with a blood cancer at no cost, thanks to the generosity of the community through our fundraising efforts. We invite all Australians living with a blood cancer, their families and carers to subscribe for ongoing information at www.leukaemia.org.au or call 1800 620 420.

Footnotes:
[1] https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/cancer/cancer-data-in-australia/contents/summary 
[2] Incidence data from 2005 – 2015: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/cancer/cancer-data-in-australia/contents/summary 

 

South Australian researchers to develop cutting edge genetic testing

South Australian researchers to develop cutting edge genetic testing

The Leukaemia Foundation is funding a cutting-edge diagnostic test that would help clinicians identify specific gene mutations to offer more effective, targeted treatments for Australians living with blood cancer.

The SA Genomics Haematology Malignancies Node will have the first of three tests available across Australia in six months. This first test, which will sequence 38 genes at the same time – would initially be for people living with a range of myeloid neoplasms – allowing clinicians to identify mutations and then treat them with precision medicines, specific to that genetic anomaly.

At this time next year, clinicians would have access to a second test for myeloma – and a third innovative test for lymphoid malignancies would also be well into development.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Petch said this type of genetic testing and personalised medicines were exciting examples of the innovation taking place in the treatment of blood cancers.

“We are in a very exciting phase of blood cancer treatment where medicine is riding possibly the biggest wave of innovation we have ever seen. Thanks to Australian scientists like these we are revolutionising the way we identify blood cancers, and ultimately how we can treat them more effectively,” Mr Petch said.

“The holy grail is precision medicine, and these types of innovations are some of the most significant advancements in this space.

“Although we can’t yet cure blood cancer, these types of innovations in blood cancer treatment is taking us closer every day.”

The SA Genomics Haematology Malignancies Node has received a $200,000 grant from the Leukaemia Foundation’s National Research Program which will enable the appointment of a medical scientist and bioinformatician for the next two years.

“Having these dedicated staff will help support the group take the tests all the way from concept, through development and strict (National Australian Therapeutics Association (NATA) accreditation, to eventually offering it as a standard of care diagnostic test,” Mr Petch said.

“The Leukaemia Foundation is committed to funding this type of research which is leading Australians closer and closer to a cure,” Mr Petch said.

Further support is critical to ensure all Australians can reap the benefits of genomic medicine, helping people to see beyond blood cancer. If you would like to invest in this new frontier of blood cancer research, contact us 1800 620 420 today to find out how.

CAR-T therapy receives Federal Government funding allowing young people with ALL to receive innovative treatment

CAR-T therapy receives Federal Government funding allowing young people with ALL to receive innovative treatment

The Leukaemia Foundation has welcomed today’s announcement by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt to list CAR-T therapy on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). The treatment will be for use in paediatric and young adult patients up to 25 years of age with B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) that is refractory, in relapse post-transplant, or in second or later relapse.

Today’s announcement of the public subsidy for tisagenlecleucel, formerly CTL019, (Kymriah®) CAR-T therapy will significantly reduce the cost of this procedure for about 30 paediatric and young adult ALL patients per year in Australia

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch said: “It is our priority to ensure all Australians living with a blood cancer have support and equal access to the innovative treatment they need to improve their quality of life and ultimately survive their blood cancer.”

The Leukaemia Foundation will support all paediatric and young adult patients accessing this CAR-T therapy. This includes accommodation and support services in Melbourne, where the treatment is currently offered at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. The Foundation also provide accommodation and support services throughout Australia, such as emotional support and ALL patient information.

“We want to make sure that all Australians have equal access to this procedure, whether they live in a metropolitan city or rural town, anywhere in Australia,” Mr Petch said.

Today’s listing of tisagenlecleucel – the only chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T) therapy currently approved by the TGA – comes following the Medical Services Advisory Committee’s (MSAC) approval for the treatment for young people. MSAC is still evaluating tisagenlecleucel for the treatment of adult patients with relapsed or refractory diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL) after two or more lines of systemic therapy.

“We remain committed to encouraging and supporting fast access to innovative treatment for all Australians living with blood cancer,” Petch said.

CAR-T therapy involves extracting a patient’s own beleaguered immune cells and genetically re-engineering them before infusing them back into the body to hunt and destroy cancer cells. The single-shot “living drug” has generated enormous excitement in the medical world.

Results from previous clinical trials in children and young adults with relapsed or refractory ALL show an 82% remission rate within 3 months and a 62% relapse-free survival after 2 years of the treatment.

While for some patients CAR-T therapy lead to a cure, other patients may relapse meaning this will be used as the mechanism to lead to remission to enable a stem cell transplant as the next line treatment option.

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. It is characterised by an overproduction of immature white blood cells, called lymphoblasts or leukaemic blasts. ALL is the most common type of childhood leukaemia, and the most common childhood cancer.

The Leukaemia Foundation provides free practical and emotional support to Australians diagnosed with a blood cancer including ALL. The LeukaemiaFoundation produces a series of disease specific newsletters and invites all Australians living with blood cancer to subscribe for ongoing information at www.leukaemia.org.au or call 1800 620 420.

For more information and to coordinate an interview with Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch please contact media@www.leukaemia.org.au

New PBS listing vital to Australians living with B-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia

New PBS listing vital to Australians living with B-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia

Thursday, 4 April 2019

The Leukaemia Foundation has welcomed news Australians living with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (B-ALL) will have access to the drug inotuzumab ozogamicin (Besponsa®) through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) after the listing was announced in this week’s Federal Budget.

According to the Federal Government, Australians living with B-ALL will soon pay $6.50 per script for the drug, compared to the current cost of $120,000 a course.

The PBS listing of inotuzumab ozogamicin – or inotuzumab – ensures the treatment will be more widely accessible and affordable and gives clinicians access to a wider range of treatment options.

B-ALL, sometimes called Burkitt type ALL, is a less common type of ALL which arises in more mature white blood cells.

Tuesday night’s PBS listing encompasses use of inotuzumab for chemotherapy treatment of relapsed or refractory Philadelphia chromosome negative CD22 positive B-ALL.

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow, characterised by an overproduction of immature white blood cells. ALL means bone marrow is unable to make adequate numbers of red cells, normal white cells and platelets, resulting in ALL patients becoming more susceptible to anaemia, recurrent infections, and to bruising and bleeding easily.

More than 300 adults and children are diagnosed with ALL each year in Australia. ALL’s quick progression means treatment needs to begin soon after diagnosis, with chemotherapy the main form of treatment for the blood cancer.

The majority of children living with ALL can move into remission with treatment. However, survival rates are more variable in adults, who are the most likely to be affected by B-ALL.

The announcement is part of a multi-million-dollar funding package from the Federal Government supporting new and revised PBS listings.

Mr Petch said the listing of inotuzumab on the PBS was a step forward for B-ALL patients.

“Ensuring affordable access to treatment through the PBS is vital for improving the quality of life of Australians living with B-ALL and ultimately helping them to survive their blood cancer,” he said.

“We look forward to seeing more PBS listings to ensure Australians of all ages diagnosed with a blood cancer have affordable access to the innovative treatments they need as quickly as possible wherever they live.”

The Leukaemia Foundation provides practical and emotional support to Australians diagnosed with a blood cancer including ALL at no cost, thanks to the generosity of the community through our fundraising efforts. The Foundation produces a series of disease specific newsletters including ALL News, and invites all Australians living with the disease to subscribe for ongoing information at leukaemia website.