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Access to CAR-T therapy will now be available to Lymphoma patients

Access to CAR-T therapy will now be available to Lymphoma patients

Tuesday 28 January, 2018

The Leukaemia Foundation has welcomed today’s announcement by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt to expand access to the innovative CAR T-cell treatment Kymriah to some patients battling some particular forms of lymphoma.

Access to the ground-breaking treatment will now be available to between 200 and 250 additional patients living with the blood cancers diffuse large B cell lymphoma, transformed follicular lymphoma and primary mediastinal B cell lymphoma each year.

Today’s announcement follows the positive recommendation from the Medical Services Advisory Committee.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch said the announcement was another strong step forwards to giving more Australians living with blood cancer better access to the best and most innovative new treatments available.

“This treatment has been available to patients in many other countries for some time, and the Leukaemia Foundation is pleased that today, adult Australians with particular types of lymphoma will have the same access.

“With the number of Australians facing a blood cancer diagnosis continuing to rise, the Leukaemia Foundation looks forward to CAR-T therapy and other similarly innovative therapies being made available to more Australian patients in the future.”

The therapy was approved in Australia for paediatric patients living with forms of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) only last year.

The Minister also today announced Melbourne’s Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre will become an Australian hub and global centre for manufacturing Kymriah, supporting Australian patients to receive treatment in Australia.

Mr Petch said ensuring equal access to new treatments was a crucial key to conquering blood cancer, and Australian manufacturing of this treatment represented further progress towards this goal.

“To have this innovative treatment manufactured locally in Melbourne at the same facility where it will be used to treat patients improves its accessibility and represents a significant leap in Australia’s support for CAR-T therapy broadly,” he said.

The Leukaemia Foundation has strongly advocated for CAR-T therapy to be publicly subsidised in Australia and has committed to supporting patients with free emotional and practical support including accommodation close to the treatment centre for the full duration of the treatment period.

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

CAR-T therapy involves harvesting a patient’s T-cells – a type of immune cell – and genetically engineering them to attack and destroy cancerous cells. The cells are then reintroduced into the body’s blood stream, where they search, and kill, cancerous B-cells.

“Patients who will access this treatment who have relapsed may have no other option and it therefore presents a better chance of survival.”

Without government funding, the treatment costs more than $500,000 for each patient.

The Leukaemia Foundation recently announced the release of a first of its kind, State of the Nation: Blood Cancer in Australia report which recognised CAR-T cell therapy as just one example of the innovation taking place in the treatment of blood cancers.

Among recommendations in the game-changing report was the need to give all Australians better access to the best treatments available. With the support of the Federal Government, 30 of Australia’s blood cancer leaders have formed the country’s first Blood Cancer Taskforce which is now working on the first National Strategic Action Plan for Blood Cancers.

“The Leukaemia Foundation is proud and privileged to stand with Australia’s remarkable blood cancer community to make sure everyone has access to the best care, to accelerate research delivering rapid advancements and to empower people with blood cancer to live well,” Mr Petch said.

“We’re not going to stop until together we have cured and conquered one of Australia’s most prevalent and deadly cancers.”

The Leukaemia Foundation is also working towards a new goal to see zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035.

Find out more about the State of the Nation: Blood Cancer in Australia report and the Blood Cancer Taskforce.

Subscribe to receive the Leukaemia Foundation’s news and updates here.

Blood Cancer Taskforce member receives Order of Australia

Blood Cancer Taskforce member receives Order of Australia

Saturday 25 January 2020

The Leukaemia Foundation is today congratulating Blood Cancer Taskforce member Dr Joe Collins who has been appointed as a Member to the Order of Australia in the 2020 Australia Day Honours.

Dr Collins, a survivor of blood cancer himself, has been recognised for his significant service to the community through charitable initiatives, exceptional leadership and advocacy in childhood cancer.

Dr Collins is currently the Chairman of the Lions Kids Cancer Genome Project at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and Chairman of the Steven Walter Children’s Cancer Foundation. He has held many leadership positions in some of Australia’s most influential childhood cancer associations, including being the Founding Chairman of the Australian Lions Childhood Cancer Research Foundation.

In 2019, Dr Collins joined Australia’s Blood Cancer Taskforce, which includes 30 of Australia’s leading blood cancer experts and stakeholders, to deliver the country’s first National Strategic Action Plan for Blood Cancer, working towards a goal of zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch said the Australia Day Honour for Dr Joe Collins was recognition for many years of tireless dedication towards a better future for those battling cancer.

“Dr Collins is a true hero of childhood cancer in Australia and has dedicated his life to helping Australians fight this disease. We are privileged to have him as part of the Blood Cancer Taskforce to help us deliver this plan which provides a blueprint to help tackle key issues facing the blood cancer community,” Mr Petch said.

The Taskforce was established in September 2019 with the support of Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and followed the release of the first-of-its-kind State of the Nation: Blood Cancer in Australia report which identified the true size, scale and impact of blood cancer today and into the future.

Find out more about the Report and the Leukaemia Foundation’s response My Life Counts, a summary of key findings, statistics and recommendations for reducing the impact of blood cancer in Australia.

Subscribe to receive the Leukaemia Foundation’s news and updates here.

Leukaemia Foundation amongst Australia’s most reputable charities

Leukaemia Foundation amongst Australia’s most reputable charities

The Leukaemia Foundation is proud to again be voted among Australia’s most trusted charities in the annual Reputation Institute’s Charity Reputation Index.

Up one place from 2018, the Leukaemia Foundation is now listed at Number 18 of the 40 charities listed in the Australian Charity Reputation Index (RepTrak®) which surveys Australian’s to measure the overall reputation of the country’s largest charities.

The annual index uses a scoring system that includes measures of trust, admiration, respect and overall esteem, and also considers a further range of dimensions such as services, innovation, workplace, citizenship, governance, leadership and cost management. It also looks at opinion change, communication, supportive behaviours and news awareness.

According to the Australian Charity Reputation Index, 1 in 5 people said their opinion of the Leukaemia Foundation had improved over the past 12 months, citing research, effective use of funds and the possibility of finding a cure as reasons for the sentiment.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch said the Leukaemia Foundation was proud to be listed among such a prestigious group of charities.

“The Leukaemia Foundation is proud and privileged to stand with Australia’s remarkable blood cancer community to make sure everyone has access to the best care, to accelerate research delivering rapid advancements and to empower people with blood cancer to live well.

“We’re not going to stop until together we have cured and conquered one of Australia’s most prevalent and deadly cancers,” Mr Petch said.

“We place the needs of people living with blood cancer at the centre of everything we do, and we are honoured that Australians are recognising our work in this way.”

Mr Petch said the past three years have been significant for the Leukaemia Foundation, seeing the organisation integrate from a state-based structure to one national federated body. While continuing to offer all Australians living with blood cancer every possible pathway to support, the integration has also seen the Leukaemia Foundation prepare for a future where the number of Australians living with blood cancer faces an unprecedented rise.

“Last year the Leukaemia Foundation released a first-of-its-kind Blood Cancer in Australia Report, and in conjunction with the Federal Government developed the first National Blood Cancer Taskforce,” he said.

The Blood Cancer in Australia Report shows that the number of Australians living with blood cancer was much higher than was previously known. It revealed there are now 110,000 Australians living with a form of blood cancer, and projected that number would rise to 275,000 by 2035.

“That report not only revealed the true size, scale and impact of blood cancer in Australia today, but outlined an agenda for change which will drive down both the personal and economic toll blood cancer is set to have on our country.”

“It showed it was time for a national collaborative response and we are honoured to lead the national blood cancer taskforce including the brightest haematologists, researchers, patients and members of the blood cancer ecosystem to develop a National Strategic Action Plan to help tackle the key issues facing the blood cancer community today and into the future.”

– ENDS –

About the Charity RepTrak®

The Charity RepTrak® is produced each year by the Reputation Institute, which also produces the annual Company RepTrak®, Country RepTrak® and City RepTrak®. Charity RepTrak® collates insight directly from consumers and does not rely on any information provided by the organisations being studied. The list of 40 charities studied in the Charity RepTrak® is compiled by the Reputation Institute using data published by The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) the independent national regulator of charities. Several criteria are used to select charities such as total revenue, familiarity and geographic operations. In addition to collating overall reputation, the Charity RepTrak® also measures how Australians feel about each of the 40 charities according to seven parameters; Services, Innovation, Workplace, Citizenship, Governance, Leadership and Cost Management. The Charity Reputation Index surveys Australian Adults aged 18 and older using an online panel, with results weighted to ensure they represent appropriate gender and age groups nationally.

Subscribe to receive the Leukaemia Foundation’s news and updates here.

Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has today approved the use of the first CAR-T therapy in Australia

Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has today approved the use of the first CAR-T therapy in Australia

Thursday 18 January 2020
Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has today approved the use of the first CAR-T therapy in Australia.

A revolutionary cancer therapy that supercharges a patient’s immune cells to hunt and destroy cancer cells has been approved for use in Australia, ushering in a new era in medicine.

The TGA has approved Kymriah® (tisagenlecleucel, formerly CTL019) CAR-T therapy 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.

The therapy is also approved for the treatment of adult patients with relapsed or refractory diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL) after two or more lines of systemic therapy. Publicly-subsidised access through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) has not yet occurred.

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

Results from the ELIANA CAR-T cell clinical triali in children and young adult patients with relapsed or refractory ALL show an 82% remission rate within 3 months and a 62% relapse-free survival after 2 years.

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

The CAR-T therapy will be available at three treatment centres in Australia, including Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Royal Melbourne Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. Patients are required to privately pay for the treatment which is estimated at around $598,000 in costs for the therapy alone.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch applauds the TGA approval and confirmed this is a step closer to ensure Australians living with blood cancer have equal and affordable access to the latest cutting-edge treatments, as soon as possible.

“We know targeted therapy; precision medicines and immunotherapies are leading the way in blood cancer treatments and we are committed to driving development in this area. Mr Bill Petch said. 

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Government’s goal is to make Australia one of the global treatment centres for CAR-T therapy.

He said he was working closely with State and Territory ministers to provide access to patients through the public system as soon as possible. 

The Leukaemia Foundation strongly advocates for CAR-T therapy to be publicly subsidised in Australia and has committed to supporting patients with free emotional and practical support including accommodation close to each treatment centre for the full duration of the treatment period.

“Whether you live in a metropolitan city or a rural town, access to new therapies will be a critical component and it’s our priority to ensure all Australians living with a blood cancer have support and equal access to the treatment they need.” Mr Bill Petch said.

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. ALL is characterised by an overproduction of immature white blood cells, called lymphoblasts or leukaemic blasts. More than 300 adults and children are diagnosed with ALL each year in Australia.

DLBCL is an aggressive type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that develops from the B-cells in the lymphatic system. It is the most common subtype of non-Hodgkin lymphoma accounting for 30%-40% of all cases in Australia, which equates to around 1500 people newly diagnosed each year.

The Leukaemia Foundation provides free practical and emotional support to Australian’s diagnosed with a blood cancer including ALL and DLBCL.

-ENDS –

Supporting Australians living with blood cancer affected by the bushfire crisis

Supporting Australians living with blood cancer affected by the bushfire crisis

The Leukaemia Foundation’s CEO Bill Petch has acknowledged the immediate and ongoing impact the recent bushfire events will continue to have on people living with a blood cancer across the country.

“Our hearts go out to all Australians directly or indirectly impacted by these devastating fires. The loss and trauma experienced by this tragic disaster is simply unfathomable and nothing short of heartbreaking,” he said.

“Our sympathies are with the thousands of Australian families who have felt the full force of the sheer devastation and havoc unleashed by these fires. Our utmost gratitude is with those who are working courageously and tirelessly on the frontline of this ongoing battle, and to those in our national community who have given generously in a show of support for all involved in this crisis, we sincerely thank you.

“For those of us fortunate enough to not have been personally impacted by the fires where we live, it can be incredibly difficult to comprehend what any Australian caught up in this crisis has experienced in recent weeks and months.

“It is harder again to imagine what people battling a blood cancer in these fire-ravaged areas must be experiencing.”

Mr Petch said he recognised the uncertainty and stress likely being felt by Australians living with blood cancer who may be facing disruption to their treatment regime or care plan or who could have been cut off from their local support or clinical services due to the change in conditions.

“The impact of these fires will only compound the challenges already faced by regional and rural patients and families when it comes to accessing treatment and services,” he said.

Mr Petch said the Leukaemia Foundation’s full suite of support services were available to patients impacted by the fires, including accommodation while undergoing treatment, transport to medical appointments, emotional support, education and information around blood cancer, and other practical and financial support services.

“Our team members are reaching out to Australians who we are aware of who are living with blood cancer in affected areas to ensure their safety and that they are receiving the care they need, and our telephone lines are open. We urge all blood cancer patients and their families who have concerns or questions to contact us for support,” he said.

“We understand that blood cancer doesn’t stop for fires. We appreciate that there will be people who need our support and we wish to remind them that we are here to help.”

Mr Petch said the number of Australians being diagnosed with a blood cancer and the demand on Leukaemia Foundation services hadn’t slowed in light of recent events.

“Just like bushfires, blood cancer doesn’t discriminate. It can develop in anyone, of any age, at anytime, anywhere – and the reality is that for every day that these fires have ravaged our country, 41 Australians have been diagnosed with a blood cancer,” he said.

Whether you or someone you know is affected by blood cancer and needs support, we encourage everyone to please call us on 1800 620 420 and speak with your local Blood Cancer Support Coordinator.

Subscribe to receive the Leukaemia Foundation’s news and updates here.

Aussies urged to answer the call

Aussies urged to answer the call

Thursday 5 December 2019

Aussies who dare take on the world’s top obstacle race course can now rise to the challenge of supporting those facing one of the toughest battles of all, with the Leukaemia Foundation combining forces with Spartan Race to tackle blood cancer.

For the first time ever, Spartans taking to the starting line of Spartan Race events Australia wide have a chance to join the Leukaemia Foundation’s Team Beat Blood Cancer and channel their sweat and tears into fundraising to help see zero lives lost to the complex set of diseases by 2035.

A report recently released by the Leukaemia Foundation found that by 2035, 275,000 Australians will be living with blood cancer – more than double the number of people battling these diseases today. It also shows that up to 186,000 people may die as a result of blood cancer over the next 16 years.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch said funds raised by generous Australians who dedicate their Spartan Race to people facing a blood cancer diagnosis would help meet the growing demand on vital patient services and support the Leukaemia Foundation to continue to fund ground-breaking blood cancer research.

“Funds raised by Spartans competing for Team Beat Blood Cancer are critical to help the Leukaemia Foundation continue to support Australian families affected by blood cancer through advocating for equal access to new therapies and treatments as well as providing educational, emotional and practical support such as transport and accommodation,” he said.

“This is a chance for Australians to truly answer the call to greatness, not only for themselves, but in support of the 41 children, adults, parents and grandparents diagnosed with blood cancer every day.”

Harnessing the fastest growing participant sport in the world, Spartan Australia is innovating obstacle racing on a global scale, running more than 130 races around the world annually, including three core Spartan Races each escalating in distance, obstacle count and challenge level.

Spartan Australia Managing Director Chris Heverin said: “Spartans pride themselves on resilience staring down a course riddled with challenges including barbed wire, walls, rope and heights. But overcoming a blood cancer diagnosis was another challenge entirely and one that no Australian should have to face. And now every Spartan has the chance to personally change lives and make a difference themselves by signing up to race for the Leukaemia Foundation and joining the fight against blood cancer.

“We also encourage all Leukaemia Foundation supporters, looking for a way to shake up their fitness routine or chasing an adrenaline rush you won’t soon forget, to challenge themselves by signing up for a Spartan Race and raise funds to help change lives.

“Whether you’re a fitness fanatic, a reluctant gym goer or haven’t broken a sweat in years, there’s a race type for you, and that means there’s an opportunity to play your part in supporting Australians battling these diseases,” Mr Heverin said.

There are six chances to race for Team Beat Blood Cancer at Spartan Australia events:

  • 7 December 2019 – Melbourne City, VIC
  • 7 March 2020 – Oberon, NSW
  • 28 March 2020 – Melbourne, VIC
  • 7 April 2020 – Latrobe Valley, VIC
  • 9 May 2020 – Port Stephens, NSW
  • 6 June 2020 – Sunshine Coast, QLD

To register for Team Beat Blood Cancer to race for the Leukaemia Foundation or for more information, visit https://spartan.www.leukaemia.org.au/.

To find out more about Spartan Australia, visit www.spartanrace.com.au

Leukaemia Foundation joins Giving Tuesday Australia

Leukaemia Foundation joins Giving Tuesday Australia

Generous Australians are encouraged to help the Leukaemia Foundation put a present under the Christmas Tree for children living with blood cancer as part of this year’s Giving Tuesday Australia.

Blood cancers like leukaemia and lymphoma remain the most commonly diagnosed childhood cancers in Australian children aged 0-14.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch said donating funds on Giving Tuesday would help the Leukaemia Foundation spread a little Christmas joy for those families fighting the disease.

“Many Australian children undergoing life-saving treatment are far from home and living in an unfamiliar world of uncertainty and turmoil,” Mr Petch said.

“For those families living through a childhood blood cancer diagnosis, there’s often just no time to think about Christmas.

“But a donation as part of the Giving Tuesday appeal can ensure the Leukaemia Foundation can make sure Santa can find them.”

Mr Petch said this holiday season, children right across Australia will spend Christmas in hospital or at a Leukaemia Foundation accommodation facility. Parents are often unable to work through the lengthy treatment process children face fighting the disease.

“Financial stress is an enormous reality for these families. Parent have to drop everything in order to focus on the care and treatment needed. A small donation can make the world of difference for these families on Christmas Day.”

Just $29 can give a child a Christmas Stocking full of treats, $53 can buy a toy and book pack, and $82 can provide a Christmas surprise for the whole family.

Australians can give a gift at https://leukaemia-foundation.giveeasy.org/leukaemia-foundation-christmas-appeal-2019-giving-tuesday.

Subscribe to receive the Leukaemia Foundation’s news and updates here.

Dr Kai Li Chai receives scholarship

Monash University’s Dr Khai Li Chai receives scholarship to further research into immunoglobulin therapy

Wednesday 27 November 2019

The Leukaemia Foundation and the Haematology Society of Australia and New Zealand (HSANZ) have collaborated to award Monash University PhD student Dr Khai Li Chai a three-year, $120,000 scholarship.

The funding will support Dr Chai’s research into hypogammaglobulinaemia in people living with a range of blood cancers: chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and multiple myeloma, and individuals who have undergone stem cell transplants.

Hypogammaglobulinaemia is a condition where the body does not produce enough antibodies and can be associated with serious and recurrent infections. It is a significant cause of mortality and morbidity in affected patients.

Dr Chai’s work will evaluate the efficacy, standard of practice and clinical outcomes of immunoglobulin therapy, which is frequently administered to patients with hypogammaglobulinaemia . Her work will investigate how detailed patient immune profiles can be used to guide and monitor optimal dosing and duration of immunoglobulin therapy to develop a more clearly defined and effective standard of care.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch said the Leukaemia Foundation HSANZ New PhD Scholarships are part of the Leukaemia Foundation’s National Research Program which has seen more than $50 million invested into blood cancer research since 2002.

“Over the past 17 years the National Research Program has supported 506 researchers and co-investigators to undertake 278 research projects through PhD scholarships, clinical and post-doctoral fellowships and research grants,” Mr Petch said.

“The investment into research has contributed to the development of many new techniques and therapies which are now either undergoing clinical trials or are being used in clinics as part of everyday therapy. This includes treatments like Venetoclax, bortezomib, CAR T-cell therapy and liquid biopsies for blood cancers – a world first.”

Accelerating research and providing equal access to best practice treatments were also identified among the Leukaemia Foundation’s key priorities in the recently released State of the Nation: Blood Cancer in Australia report . The report showed accelerating research has the potential to further reduce mortality rates and health and economic costs of blood cancers, which are projected to claim more than 186,000 lives between now and 2035 – equal to more than 1.4 million years of potential life lost.

The Leukaemia Foundation receives no ongoing government funding, and the National Research Program relies on the continued support of generous donation.

“Donations allow us to continue to invest in Australian blood cancer research and to support the next generation of researchers, driving this type of innovative research for better treatments, better care and ultimately a cure for blood cancer,” Mr Petch said.

To find out how to support the Leukaemia Foundation’s National Research Program call 1800 620 420.

Subscribe to receive the Leukaemia Foundation’s news and updates here.

Burden on rural patients lightened

Burden lightened for rural patients needing life-saving treatment

The Leukaemia Foundation’s patient accommodation facilities in Townsville will continue to be a home away from home for blood cancer patients from rural and remote Queensland, following a sizable donation from the Freemasons.

As Aramac Masonic Lodge, some 550km away closed its doors for the last time in 2019, they had one final wish – to help support outback cancer patients and their families.

So together with Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemasons Queensland, the Lodge recently donated $60,000 towards the Queensland Freemasons Village, which offers accommodation and support for patients and their families while they undergo treatment at Townsville Hospital.

Freemason David Gray, formally of Aramac Masonic Lodge, said he was excited to make the journey up to Townsville today, to celebrate the donation.

“$60,000 could provide over 750 nights of accommodation, which act as a home-away-from-home for families during blood cancer treatment,” he said.

“People with blood cancer from our own community in Central West Queensland have stayed at the Village, so we know how having a place to stay made an immense difference for them,” he said.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch said last financial year the Leukaemia Foundation provided 5,213 nights of accommodation to 125 families at Freemasons Village – with 72 of these families staying more than once during their blood cancer journey.

“Every day another 41 Australians are diagnosed with a blood cancer, and unfortunately most regional and rural Australians who are diagnosed will have to leave their home, work and local community behind to relocate to a major city for their treatment,” he said.

“Providing this accommodation service in Townsville is the Leukaemia Foundation’s way of giving blood cancer patients living in regional and rural areas a chance to access life-saving treatment with their loved ones by their side, free of charge.

“The Leukaemia Foundation is deeply grateful for this incredibly generous donation which will have a huge and positive impact on Queensland families in their greatest time of need during their blood cancer journey.”

Hand Heart Pocket Chief Executive Officer Gary Mark was appreciative of Aramac Lodge for bringing this initiative to the organisation’s attention so that together a bigger difference could be made, through their Grassroots Grants program.

“Our focus is to alleviate suffering and to empower people to lead better lives, which is why this initiative appealed to us,” Gary said.

“At a grassroots level, we recognise the importance of ensuring health services remain accessible to regional and remote Queenslanders.”

About Hand Heart Pocket

As an independent charity founded by the Freemasons of Queensland, Hand Heart Pocket helps in areas of state-wide and local need that have limited access to other funding. We work with other charities to identify and fund initiatives that have real, life-changing potential. We also collaborate with Freemason Lodges across Queensland and help individuals in times of extreme need to get them back on their feet. We use our funds wisely to give a hand up and to build potential.

For more information about Hand Heart Pocket, visit www.handheartpocket.org.au 

Subscribe to receive the Leukaemia Foundation’s news and updates here.

Vital cancer treatment now available through Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

Vital cancer treatment now available through Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for more Australians living with blood cancer

The Leukaemia Foundation has welcomed news that cancer treatment, blinatumumab (Blincyto®) will be available for patients in the early stage of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) who have minimal residual disease (MRD, through the Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme (PBS) effective December 1, 2019. A patient has MRD if they respond well to initial chemotherapy, but a small number of cancer cells can still be detected.

Blinatumumab (Blincyto ®) was previously available through the PBS only for patients with relapsed or refractory forms Philadelphia chromosome negative (Ph-) B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (B-ALL).

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is a rare, life-threatening form of leukaemia that affects both adults and children. Up to 450 Australians are diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia each year, and around half are children.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch joined Federal Minister for Health, The Hon. Greg Hunt MP and industry leaders today at the Royal North Shore Private Hospital in Sydney for the announcement.

Mr Petch said the extended listing of blinatumomab meant that there were more options available for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia patients, which is welcomed and appreciated by the blood cancer community.

“This is an important announcement for people living with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which is an acute and incredibly aggressive form of blood cancer.” he said.

The announcement comes just one-week before the national Blood Cancer Taskforce are set to meet at the Australian Parliament House in Canberra with the Federal Minister for Health.

In response to the Leukaemia Foundation’s Blood Cancer in Australia report recently released, the Federal Minister for Health, The Hon. Greg Hunt MP announced the development of a national Blood Cancer Taskforce and charged the Leukaemia Foundation with delivering Australia’s first National Strategic Action Plan for Blood Cancer, with a goal of zero lives lost from blood cancer by 2035.

The Blood Cancer Taskforce unites Australia’s leading hematologists, researchers, patients and members of the blood cancer ecosystem for the first time to work with the Leukaemia Foundation to develop the National Strategic Action Plan, which will provide the blueprint to help tackle key issues facing people affected by blood cancer community today and into the future.

Mr Petch said the formation of the Taskforce and development of the National Strategic Action Plan together mark a major milestone for the blood cancer community and will set the national agenda around blood cancer for many years to come.

The Leukaemia Foundation provides free practical, emotional and educational support to Australian’s diagnosed with a blood cancer including ALL. The Leukaemia Foundation produces a series of disease specific newsletters including ALL News, and invites all Australians living with the disease to subscribe for ongoing information here.