Select language:  
1800 620 420
Close menu

Approval for Australian CAR-T therapy manufacturing site to deliver faster access to innovative treatment for patients with aggressive blood cancers

Approval for Australian CAR-T therapy manufacturing site to deliver faster access to innovative treatment for patients with aggressive blood cancers

Friday February 12, 2021

Breakthrough CAR-T therapy is now another step closer to being manufactured in Australia for the first time, allowing faster access to the innovative treatment for eligible Australians with life-threatening blood cancers.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has now granted approval for Cell Therapies Pty Ltd to commence commercial manufacturing of Kymriah® (tisagenlecleucel) in its manufacturing facility at Melbourne’s Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

The approval, announced today, means the site becomes the first and only approved commercial manufacturing hub for CAR-T therapy in the country for both clinical trial and non-clinical trial patients, securing supply of the state-of-the-art treatment onshore.

Primarily used to treat blood cancers, CAR-T therapy is a once-off, individualised treatment that uses the patient’s own reprogrammed T-cells to fight their cancer. The treatment involves extracting a patient’s own immune cells and genetically re-engineering them before infusing them back into the body.

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

Today’s announcement comes after the TGA last year approved the use of CAR-T therapy in Australia for some Australians with aggressive lymphoma and leukaemia, and also follows an $80 million investment by the Federal Government to establish the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre as a new base for CAR-T therapy and other immunotherapy clinical trials.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Chris Tanti applauded the approval, saying the organisation recognised CAR-T therapy as a potential gamechanger in the treatment of patients with aggressive blood cancers and local manufacturing means improved security of supply and greater local capacity to deliver CAR-T therapy to these Australians.

“Until now, Australians with blood cancer receiving this therapy had to have their cells shipped overseas to the USA, so approval for this advanced manufacturing process to remain onshore means that from start to finish, this treatment can be produced and delivered here, and therefore more efficiently,” he said.

“For Australians diagnosed with aggressive blood cancers, every day counts in their treatment journey, and today’s announcement represents faster and easier access to a potential lifeline for some of these patients right here, right now, which is an incredible win.

“Targeted treatments, precision medicine and immunotherapies are changing the face of how we tackle blood cancer in this country. The Leukaemia Foundation is committed to driving development in this area and strongly supports any initiatives to fast-track and increase access to innovations like CAR-T therapy as we set our sights on the blood cancer community’s shared vision to achieve zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035.”

Subsidised access to CAR-T therapy is available for eligible Australian patients with relapsed or refractory Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL), and eligible paediatric or young adult (up to 25 years) patients with relapsed or refractory Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL).

To date, more than 100 Australians have been treated with CAR-T therapy across clinical trials and commercially available therapy in seven treatment sites spanning Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.

The Leukaemia Foundation 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 while undergoing CAR-T therapy.

“Whether you live in a capital city or a rural township, access to new blood cancer therapies is a critical factor influencing survival and it’s our priority to ensure all Australians living with a blood cancer have equal access to the best treatment possible, no matter where they call home,” Mr Tanti said.

END

Blood cancers climb ranks to now become second most diagnosed cancers and second highest cause of cancer-related deaths in Australia

Blood cancers climb ranks to now become second most diagnosed cancers and second highest cause of cancer-related deaths in Australia

Monday February 1, 2021

The Leukaemia Foundation is today releasing alarming new figures confirming that blood cancers combined are now the second most diagnosed cancers in Australia, and the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the country[i].

After an extraordinary 30% increase in incidence rates of blood cancer over the past decade, these latest rankings come at a time when the organisation is also experiencing a massive 30% increase in demand for its services as more Australians living with blood cancer than ever before reach out for support.

On his first day as the Leukaemia Foundation’s newly-appointed CEO, Chris Tanti says this sobering combination makes the 2021 World’s Greatest Shave campaign, launching today, one of the most critically important in the organisation’s history to help Australia’s leading blood cancer charity keep pace.

“These new findings confirm that we really are dealing with some of the nation’s most diagnosed and deadly cancer killers – and that there is simply no time to waste to cure and conquer blood cancer,” he said.

“Last year alone, 17,321 people were diagnosed with a blood cancer such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma, and we know that come 2035, more than twice as many Australians will be diagnosed with one annually – which means more people than ever are going to be seeking the Leukaemia Foundation’s support into the future[ii].

With the Leukaemia Foundation continuing to face a devastating shortfall of donations due to the impact of COVID-19, those taking part in this year’s World’s Greatest Shave will make an extraordinary difference by fundraising toward a collective target of $15 million in 2021.

Now in its 23rd year, the campaign is the single biggest source of revenue for the organisation since it started in 1998 as Shave for a Cure.

“There has never been a more vital time to get behind the World’s Greatest Shave to raise much-needed funds for the Leukaemia Foundation to continue answering the call of families across the country impacted by this complex set of diseases,” Mr Tanti said.

In Australia today, 47 Australians will be told they have a blood cancer, and 15 people will lose their battle with the disease, with blood cancer claiming the lives of more than 5,600 people each year. Blood cancer also continues to remain the most commonly diagnosed childhood cancer accounting for over 40% of all diagnoses[iii].

“As we lead into World Cancer Day this Thursday, we gain a clearer understanding through these latest figures the enormous size, scale and impact of blood cancer. You only have to mention leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma and you’ll soon come across someone who’s faced blood cancer themselves, or who knows and loves someone who’s been diagnosed,” Mr Tanti said.

Blood cancer does not discriminate. It can develop in anyone, can occur at any age and at any stage of life across all states and territories, from children to adolescents and young adults to working adults with families and older Australians. Sadly, there are no screening programs available for blood cancers and there is no way to prevent blood cancer through lifestyle change.

Mr Tanti said the Leukaemia Foundation is bracing for a spike in blood cancer diagnoses as COVID-19 restrictions ease and more Australians seek health check-ups, potentially receiving the gutting news that they have blood cancer in the process.

“Blood cancer symptoms can sometimes be subtle or similar to other conditions such as a virus, often making it a silent disease that can be tricky to catch – but if it remains unchecked, the consequences can be devastating,” he said.

“The reality is blood cancer doesn’t stop for a global pandemic and we know for every day since COVID-19 began, another 47 Australians would have developed blood cancer even if they don’t yet know it.

“That is why we are urging Australians not to postpone trips to their doctor and to address any health concerns immediately. Ongoing symptoms such as recurrent infections, increased fatigue or bruising or enlarged lymph nodes should be urgently discussed with your GP.”

Money raised from World’s Greatest Shave not only supports families impacted by blood cancer, but it also helps research scientists continue their search for better ways to diagnose and treat blood cancer more effectively.

“The Leukaemia Foundation will not stand idly by while blood cancer continues to take so many lives. It’s time to turn the tables on blood cancer and to realise our goal of zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035. We urge all Australians to join with us in taking a stand against blood cancer by rallying together, signing up to World’s Greatest Shave, and bravely shaving their head in 2021,” Mr Tanti said.

Officially ramping up to ‘Shave Week’ between March 10-14, join the fight against blood cancer and register by downloading the app, signing up online at www.worldsgreatestshave.com or call 1800 500 088 for more information. #worldsgreatestshave  #shaveforacure  #shavechallenge

*ENDS*

Australia’s most commonly diagnosed cancer in 2020, persons, all ages Australia’s most common cause of cancer-related death in 2020, persons, all ages
1.        Breast cancer 19,974 1.        Lung cancer 8,641
2.      Blood cancers combined 17,321 2.     Blood cancers combined 5,631
3.       Prostate cancer 16,741 3.       Colorectal cancer 5,322
4.       Melanoma of the skin 16,221 4.       Pancreas cancer 3,300
5.       Lung cancer 13,258 5.       Prostate cancer 3,152

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

[i] https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/cancer/cancer-data-in-australia/contents/summary

[ii] https://www.leukaemia.org.au/how-we-can-help/advocacy-and-policy/state-of-the-nation/

[iii] https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/cancer/cancer-data-in-australia/contents/summary

New Leukaemia Foundation CEO ready to step up the fight for a future free from blood cancer

New Leukaemia Foundation CEO ready to step up the fight for a future free from blood cancer

Thursday January 28, 2021

The Leukaemia Foundation has launched into 2021 with renewed energy, experience and passion at the helm, as newly-appointed Chief Executive Officer Chris Tanti commences leading the organisation from Monday 1 February 2021.

An accomplished CEO in Australia and America, Mr Tanti began his career in social work and, for the past 25 years, has held national and international senior executive positions, including CEO of Australia’s National Disability Services and leading mental health organisation, Headspace.

Mr Tanti holds qualifications from La Trobe and Melbourne Universities, in addition to Harvard Business School, and has dedicated his career to health services advocacy and organisational innovation.

Leukaemia Foundation Chairman Dr Carrie Hillyard AM said the organisation was thrilled to have a professional of Mr Tanti’s calibre steering the Leukaemia Foundation into its 46th year and beyond.

“Chris’ career is characterised by the creation of game-changing health services, in addition to extensive experience in strategy, service delivery and operational management. Most importantly, Chris has a genuine resolve to change healthcare for the better and he is dedicated to improving lives and delivering lasting impact for the communities he works to serve,” she said.

“This combination means Chris brings the perfect skillset to head Australia’s leading blood cancer charity and the experience to drive progress to help Australians conquer their blood cancer. As a new decade begins, we look forward to Chris being an enthusiastic leader of both the Leukaemia Foundation and the broader blood cancer community.”

Mr Tanti said he was proud to take up position as a strong voice for all Australians living with blood cancer, no matter where they live or what their diagnosis.

“You only have to mention leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma and you’ll soon come across someone who’s faced blood cancer themselves, or who knows and loves someone who’s been diagnosed. The sheer number of Australians impacted by this complex set of diseases is staggering, and sadly that number is continuing to rise at an extraordinary rate,” he said.

“While the blood cancer journey has improved for many, there is much work to do to improve this journey for all, and I am ready to join the passionate Leukaemia Foundation team and the wider blood cancer community to do that work – to fix our sights firmly on a future free from blood cancer and drive life-saving outcomes together.

“I am inspired by the Leukaemia Foundation’s vision and the critical role it plays in the lives of patients and families every day, and excited to lead an organisation that aligns with my values and energy to create positive, lasting change for vulnerable Australians.

“The Leukaemia Foundation is the only national charity dedicated to helping Australians with blood cancer and related disorders to survive and live their best life after diagnosis. We will create better access to treatment, care, support and information for every family facing blood cancer around Australia, wherever they are across the country, and by uniting with the broader blood cancer community, we will realise our shared vision of zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035.

“Our goals are bold and ambitious, but they must be. We can’t stand idly by while blood cancer continues to take so many lives. It is time to turn the tables on blood cancer, and I am proud today to begin leading the organisation championing that change at a national level.”

END

Myeloma patients can look forward to a targeted new treatment option on PBS in 2021

Myeloma patients can look forward to a targeted new treatment option on PBS in 2021

Monday December 28, 2020

The Leukaemia Foundation is celebrating the news that for the first time in more than a decade, a new type of medicine targeting multiple myeloma will be added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), with the listing effective from day one of the new year.

The Federal Minister for Health, The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, has announced multiple myeloma patients whose blood cancer has progressed after initial treatment will be able to access daratumumab through the PBS starting 1 January 2021. The medicine will be used in combination with bortezomib and dexamethasone as a second line treatment.

Multiple myeloma is a complex blood cancer affecting the body’s plasma cells, which produce antibodies. Myeloma develops when plasma cells undergo a cancerous change and multiply at an increasing rate, taking over the bone marrow. It most commonly occurs in people aged 40 and older, and it is slightly more prevalent in men. Patients experience weaker bones which are more prone to breaking, as well as bone pain, kidney damage, frequent infections, anaemia and increased bleeding and bruising.

Currently, 2,339 people are diagnosed with myeloma each year, however it is expected 4,952 people will be diagnosed with this type of blood cancer in 2035. Sadly, 1,054 Australians already lose their life to myeloma each year, and this figure is projected to increase to 3,037 people by 2035.[1][2]

Daratumumab is a targeted therapy that works by attaching to a specific protein on the surface of a myeloma cell, and by doing so triggers the patient’s own immune system to attack and destroy myeloma cancer cells.

The Minister’s announcement is the first time in 13 years that an innovative new agent encompassing a different mode of action against myeloma has received a PBS listing, with an estimated 1,000 Australians reportedly eligible to benefit from the listing each year.

Leukaemia Foundation General Manager of Blood Cancer Partnerships Tim Murphy said the Minister’s announcement marks an important and progressive step to address a high unmet need for new myeloma treatment options.

“While treatment options and survival rates for some blood cancers are improving, the sad reality is that myeloma is an incurable disease which becomes progressively harder to treat after each relapse as patients become refractory to different treatments, so the impact of a diagnosis of myeloma on peoples’ lives and the ongoing affect to their health remains severe,” he said.

“This is a fantastic and important win to kickstart a new year for around 18,000 Australians who are currently living with myeloma.

“This innovative treatment option is ground-breaking and has the ability to truly turn the tables for some myeloma patients in what can be a long fight against this debilitating blood cancer.

Mr Murphy said the Leukaemia Foundation has been advocating for access to innovative treatment options, including for increased access to daratumumab, and welcomed this result for Australians living with myeloma.

“We are proud to stand beside Australians living with blood cancer to be their voice and fight to get them access to the best therapies, wherever they live, as we work with the broader blood cancer community towards the shared vision to see zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035,” he said.

In 2019, the Leukaemia Foundation released the State of the Nation: Blood Cancer in Australia report, which led to Minister Hunt supporting the Leukaemia Foundation to establish a Blood Cancer Taskforce.

The Blood Cancer Taskforce is a unique collaboration of Australia’s leading haematologists, researchers, patients and members of the blood cancer community who have spent the past year working with the Leukaemia Foundation to develop Australia’s first National Strategic Action Plan for Blood Cancer.

In September this year, the Minister announced the release of the National Action Plan, which provides a blueprint to tackle key issues facing people affected by blood cancer today and into the future, and maps the path to achieve zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035.

Mr Murphy said the release of the National Action Plan marked a major milestone for the blood cancer community which will set the national agenda around blood cancer for many years to come and ultimately improve outcomes for patients, including those diagnosed with myeloma.

“Enabling access to novel and specialised therapies, including removing roadblocks to patient access to these therapies, is a key priority of the National Action Plan,” he said.

“This announcement by the Minister is a step in the right direction to break down these barriers for some Australians living with blood cancer, and we look forward to seeing further progress in this area into the future as the National Action Plan is implemented.”

END

[1] https://www.leukaemia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/State-of-the-Nation-Blood-Cancer-in-Australia_Leukaemia-Foundation.pdf
[2] https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/cancer/cancer-data-in-australia/contents/summary

Combination treatment option for CLL patients now available through PBS

Combination treatment option for CLL patients now available through PBS

Monday 30 November, 2020

The Leukaemia Foundation has welcomed news that a new specialised combination treatment will be made available to some Australians living with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from tomorrow.

The Federal Minister for Health, The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, has announced that CLL patients unsuitable for standard chemotherapy-based treatments will now have access through the PBS to venetoclax in combination with obinutuzumab as a first line combination treatment option.

CLL is a slow-growing leukaemia affecting developing B-lymphocytes which is commonly diagnosed in people over the age of 60. These specialised white blood cells usually produce antibodies to protect against infection and disease, but instead undergo a malignant change to become leukaemic cells.

CLL can remain stable for months and years causing minimal impact on lifestyle and general health for many people diagnosed with this blood cancer, however in other cases, the leukaemic cells multiply uncontrollably, crowding the bone marrow and interfering with normal blood cell production, and these cases can require treatment soon after diagnosis.

While CLL is a relatively rare type of cancer, it is the most common type of leukaemia diagnosed in Australia. Currently, 1,875 Australians are diagnosed with CLL each year, however this figure is projected to reach 3,800 by 2035. The number of Australians losing their life to this blood cancer each year is also expected to more than triple during this time, from 306 Australians annually in 2020 to 1109 in 2035.[1]

Leukaemia Foundation General Manager of Blood Cancer Partnerships Tim Murphy said while conventional chemotherapy is often the starting point for CLL treatment, there has been a strong unmet need for access to additional first-line treatment options for this blood cancer, which the organisation has been advocating to change.

“The Leukaemia Foundation is committed to empowering Australians with blood cancer to better manage its impacts and live well after diagnosis, which is especially important for people with blood cancers like CLL that develop and progress slowly,” he said.

“Unfortunately some CLL patients are unfit for chemotherapy or struggle tolerating its side effects, and it is crucial that these Australians have an accessible and affordable alternate option available to them as they undertake what can be a lengthy blood cancer journey.

“As a daily orally-administered treatment which can for the most part be taken at home, venetoclax in combination with obinutuzumab is an effective and relatively unobtrusive option for these patients which avoids the debilitating side effects they would otherwise face with chemotherapy-based therapies, thereby improving their quality of life and simplifying access to the treatment they need.

“The Leukaemia Foundation has been advocating for access to innovative treatment options and we celebrate this result for Australians living with CLL.

“The Leukaemia Foundation is proud to stand beside all Australians living with blood cancer to be their voice and fight to get them access to the best therapies to treat their specific disease, wherever they live, as we work towards our shared vision to see zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035.”

Late last year the Leukaemia Foundation released the State of the Nation: Blood Cancer in Australia report, which led to Minister Hunt supporting the Leukaemia Foundation to establish a Blood Cancer Taskforce.

The Blood Cancer Taskforce is a unique collaboration of Australia’s leading haematologists, researchers, patients and members of the blood cancer community who have spent the past year working with the Leukaemia Foundation to develop Australia’s first National Strategic Action Plan for Blood Cancer.

The Minister recently announced the release of the National Action Plan, which provides a blueprint to tackle key issues facing people affected by blood cancer today and into the future, and maps the path to achieve zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035.

Mr Murphy said the release of the National Action Plan marked a major milestone for the blood cancer community which will set the national agenda around blood cancer for many years to come and ultimately improve outcomes and quality of life for patients.

“Breaking down barriers to patient access to therapies which are most effective and appropriate for them is a priority of the National Action Plan,” he said.

“We commend the Minister for listing this therapy on the PBS as another step in the right direction providing access to treatment for some Australians living with blood cancer, and we look forward to seeing further progress in this area into the future as the National Action Plan is implemented.”

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

END

Latest grants announced in Australia-US blood cancer research co-funding partnership

Latest grants announced in Australia-US blood cancer research co-funding partnership

Sunday November 29, 2020

Two new research projects co-funded through a partnership between America’s The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), Snowdome Foundation and Leukaemia Foundation will focus on acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), seeking to improve understanding and treatment of these blood cancers.

Prof. Ravindra Majeti, Stanford University in the US, will join with Assoc. Prof. Dan Thomas, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), to examine personalised targeting of AML mutations, while Prof. John Pimanda, University of NSW (UNSW), will explore how to achieve optimal responses to specific MDS and AML treatments. Each project will receive a three-year grant worth US$600,000.

2019 marked the first time the Snowdome and Leukaemia Foundations partnered with LLS to enable four Australian researchers access to funding through a special Australian round of the LLS Translational Research Program. The goal of the translational research was to reduce the time between laboratory findings and actual treatment. The announcement today of the 2019/20 grant recipients Majeti, Thomas and Pimanda brings together a total of six projects across Australia and the US, which have benefitted from this partnership to date.

Leukaemia Foundation General Manager of Blood Cancer Partnerships Tim Murphy said the organisation welcomed the opportunity to again unite with LLS and Snowdome Foundation to support leading Australian blood cancer researchers to undertake innovative work with a potential global impact.

“Accelerating research to achieve rapid advancements in blood cancer treatment is a key priority of the Leukaemia Foundation and by partnering with other organisations with the same goals, we can increase the depth of research we are able to fund,” he said.

“The more we know about specific blood cancers and best treatment options, the better our chances of curing and conquering this complex set of diseases, and the closer we are to realising our vision to see zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035.”

Chief Scientific Officer of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Lee Greenberger, Ph.D. said: “It is a privilege for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to work with the Snowdome Foundation and the Leukaemia Foundation, as we join forces to bring better therapies to patients with blood cancer. This international collaboration between the most talented blood cancer scientists and clinicians in both Australia and the U.S., has already improved outcomes and will pave the way for a brighter future for these patients. We are at a pivotal time in blood cancer discovery and there has never been a more important time to work together towards our common goals.”

Snowdome CEO Kirstee Macbeth added: “We are extremely pleased to continue the collaboration between The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Snowdome Foundation and the Leukaemia Foundation to support Australian researchers in 2019/20. Australia is fortunate to have such talented blood cancer researchers however, crucial funding is needed to support their work. This partnership enables those investigators to facilitate further advances into blood cancer research, to increase the reach and ultimately, provide positive treatment outcomes for patients. Snowdome is passionate about making hope real for all blood cancer patients and we look forward to seeing the inspiring research proposals.”

Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a group of blood cancers that result in progressive failure of normal blood cell production and can transform into acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

AML is the name given to a group of leukaemias that develop in the myeloid cell line in the bone marrow. AML is characterised by overproduction of immature white blood cells, preventing normal blood cell formation by crowding the marrow and potentially spilling into the bloodstream and circulating around the body. AML is an aggressive blood cancer with a low average 5-year and long-term survival rates. Whilst most patients appear to achieve a remission with treatment, the majority eventually relapse.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society-Snowdome Foundation-Leukaemia Foundation Translational Research Program 2019/20 recipients and their respective research proposals to improve understanding of, and treatment for, MDS and AML are:

Prof. Ravindra Majeti (Stanford University) and Assoc. Prof. Dan Thomas (SAHMRI)

Prof. Majeti and Assoc. Prof. Thomas recently discovered a strong link between the metabolism of leukemia cells and common leukemia-causing mutations through modulation of a central metabolic factor called alpha ketoglutarate. They have since developed innovative methods that can assess the fate of alpha ketoglutarate-dependent reactions on DNA, histones, lipid production, and energy metabolism. This research proposes to apply these methods to characterize AML patient samples to inform a precision medicine therapy approach to treating the blood cancer. It also aims to investigate pharmacologic agents targeting the alpha ketoglutarate-dependent reactions. The objective of the research is to develop personalised medicine through metabolic targeting to deliver mutation-directed therapies to AML patients. Prof. Majeti is Professor of Medicine, Chief of the Division of Haematology, and Member of the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Assoc. Prof. Thomas is a clinical haematologist and blood cancer scientist. He has recently returned from working with Prof Majeti at Stanford University to lead his own Myeloid Metabolism Laboratory at SAHMRI. He has developed algorithms to predict and design mutation-specific therapeutics and novel stem cell assays to study leukemia stem cells.

This project is also kindly supported by a gift to the Leukaemia Foundation made in honour of John and Maureen Wilson.

Prof. John Pimanda (UNSW)

The most effective medicine to treat MDS, azacitidine, works in only half of MDS and associated AML patients who commence treatment. Over the past decade, Prof. Pimanda and his team have identified treatment alternatives for patients who have been proven, or have potential to be, non-responsive to azacitidine. The research proposes to discover new medicine that improves azacitidine efficacy by using a novel chemical-genome screen using a MDS cell line to identify specific genes that can make MDS cells more sensitive to the medicine. This information will then be used to identify molecular pathways amenable to pharmacological manipulation to achieve the same effect. Efficacy of medicine combinations in enhancing azacitidine activity can then be assessed, using azacytidine non-responder MDS cells to undertake pre-clinical testing in preparation for a future clinical trial. Prof. Pimanda heads a research group at the Prince of Wales Clinical School at UNSW Sydney. He is the founder of the NSW Myeloid Malignancy Network and one of Australia’s leading researchers in the field of MDS.

END

About The Leukaemia Foundation:

The Leukaemia Foundation stands with Australia to help cure and conquer blood cancer – with care. Together we are attacking every blood cancer, from every direction, in every way we can. We stand beside every Australian to be their voice and their someone-to-turn-to, fighting to get them access to the best care. We also accelerate research that’s delivering rapid advancements in blood cancer diagnosis and treatments. Plus, we provide services and support that empower people living with any blood cancer to live well after diagnosis. You can learn more about the Leukaemia Foundation and blood cancer at leukaemia.org.au

About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society® (LLS) is a global leader in the fight against cancer. The LLS mission: cure leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world, provides free information and support services, and is the voice for all blood cancer patients seeking access to quality, affordable, coordinated care. Founded in 1949 and headquartered in Rye Brook, NY, LLS has regional offices throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more, visit www.LLS.org. Patients should contact the LLS Information Resource Center at (800) 955-4572, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., ET.

About the Snowdome Foundation

Snowdome was formed in 2010 with a mission to accelerate next-generation treatments for Australian blood cancer (myeloma, lymphoma and leukaemia) patients to help them live longer, better lives. It aims to accelerate access to innovative blood cancer treatments by channelling government and private philanthropic investments into ground breaking research, clinical trials, and personalised therapies. To date, Snowdome has raised more than $37 million and Snowdome support has assisted over 410 Australian blood cancer patients to gain access to early-phase clinical trials. Find out more at www.snowdome.org.au

New treatment now available through PBS for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma patients

New treatment now available through PBS for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma patients

Sunday November 1, 2020

The Leukaemia Foundation has welcomed news that a new specialised treatment will begin being available to some lymphoma patients through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) starting today.

The Federal Minister for Health, The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, has announced that Australians diagnosed with erythrodermic cutaneous T-cell lymphoma who have not responded to other treatments can now access the medication methoxsalen as part of treatment with extracorporeal photopheresis.

Minister Hunt said an estimated 75 patients may benefit from this listing each year.

The ECP treatment involves attaching a patient to a machine that removes some of their blood, separates the white blood cells and returns the red blood cells and platelets to the body. The white blood cells are mixed with methoxsalen, exposed to ultraviolet light, then administered to the patient, which can activate their immune system to fight the blood cancer.

Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) is a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that affects the skin and causes an accumulation of malignant T-cells in the skin, resulting in raised, rash-like or itchy patches of skin, skin lumps or ulcers and swollen lymph nodes. It can also involve the blood and other internal organs. Mycosis fungoides and Sézary syndrome are the two most common types of CTCL.

Leukaemia Foundation General Manager of People Living with Blood Cancer Kathryn Huntley said the Leukaemia Foundation is committed to empowering Australians living with lymphoma with access to the best information, support, treatment and care so they can manage its impacts and live well with their blood cancer.

“People living with blood cancer who are diagnosed with rare blood cancers like CTCL face significant hurdles in accessing new treatments in a timely manner and have significant treatment needs that are often unmet,” she said.

“The Leukaemia Foundation is grateful this medication and treatment will now be more readily accessible and affordable for Australians living with this specific rare lymphoma.”

The Leukaemia Foundation has been advocating for improved treatment options for CTCL, including for a PBS listing of mogamulizumab to treat relapsed or refractory CTCL – a medication which has been shown to prolong progression-free survival and reduce symptoms. The organisation also continues to advocate for access to ECP for blood cancer patients experiencing Graft Versus Host Disease.

“The Leukaemia Foundation is proud to stand beside Australians living with blood cancer to be their voice and fight to get them access to the best therapies to treat their specific disease, wherever they live, as we work towards our vision to see zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035,” Ms Huntley said.

Late last year the Leukaemia Foundation released the State of the Nation: Blood Cancer in Australia report, which led to Minister Hunt supporting the Leukaemia Foundation to establish a Blood Cancer Taskforce.

The Blood Cancer Taskforce is a unique collaboration of Australia’s leading haematologists, researchers, patients and members of the blood cancer community who have spent the past year working with the Leukaemia Foundation to develop Australia’s first National Strategic Action Plan for Blood Cancer.

Last month the Minister announced the release of the National Action Plan, which provides a blueprint to tackle key issues facing people affected by blood cancer today and into the future, and maps the path to achieve zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035.

Ms Huntley said the release of the National Action Plan marked a major milestone for the blood cancer community which will set the national agenda around blood cancer for many years to come and ultimately improve outcomes for patients with rare blood cancers like CTCL.

“Enabling access to novel and specialised therapies, including breaking down roadblocks to patient access to these therapies, is a key priority of the National Action Plan,” Ms Huntley said.

“This announcement by the Minister is a step in the right direction to remove these roadblocks for some Australians living with blood cancer, and we look forward to seeing further progress in this area into the future as the National Action Plan is implemented.”

The Leukaemia Foundation provides free practical, emotional and educational support to Australians diagnosed with a blood cancer including CTCL and other lymphomas. The Leukaemia Foundation produces a series of disease specific newsletters including Lymphoma News, and invites all Australians living with the disease to subscribe to ongoing information here.

END

Leukaemia Foundation and HSANZ PhD scholarships to improve outcomes for people with AML and MPN

Leukaemia Foundation and HSANZ PhD scholarships to improve outcomes for people with AML and MPN

Thursday October 15, 2020

The Leukaemia Foundation and the Haematology Society of Australia and New Zealand (HSANZ) have today proudly announced the latest round of PhD Scholarships, supporting research to improve outcomes for people living with blood cancer.

Basit Salik, Dr Jamie Kuzich and Dr Julian Grabek have been named the successful recipients of the 2021 round of PhD Scholarships to support their work on projects to improve understanding and treatment for Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) and Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPN).

AML is an aggressive blood cancer with an average 5-year survival rate of 28% and low rates of long-term survival. Whilst most patients appear to achieve a remission with current treatment, the majority eventually relapse.

Currently 1,122 people are diagnosed with AML each year in Australia and sadly, 1,111 Australians lose their life to the disease annually. Alarmingly, these figures are projected to grow to reach 3,722 people diagnosed per year and 2,847 dying from the disease each year by 2035.

MPNs occur when bone marrow stem cells grow and reproduce abnormally. In patients with MPN, abnormal stem cells produce excess numbers of one or more types of blood cells (red cells, white cells and/or platelets). These abnormal cells cannot function properly and can cause serious health problems unless properly treated and controlled.

People with MPN have an increased risk of the disease transforming to an acute leukaemia depending on the subtype – essential thrombocythaemia (4%) Polycythaemia vera (9%) and myelofibrosis (21%).

Leukaemia Foundation Acting CEO Alex Struthers said accelerating research and providing access to best practice treatments are important foci for the Leukaemia Foundation and were identified as key priority areas in the organisation’s State of the Nation: Blood Cancer in Australia report and the recently-released National Strategic Action Plan for Blood Cancer.

“Research is a crucial tool to improve blood cancer survival rates and ensure Australians can live well with their diagnosis, and while these reports show us that significant gains have been made in this area, they also show is that there is more work to be done to reduce mortality and associated economic costs,” she said.

“With more than 5,600 Australians losing their life to a blood cancer each year and more than 186,000 people expected to die from blood cancers by 2035, ensuring increased and sustained investment in research is more important than ever to drive down these figures and save lives.

“Over the past two decades, the Leukaemia Foundation has proudly invested more than $54.5 million into research, including supporting over 370 researchers across 290 research projects, through PhD scholarships and research grants, at over 50 hospitals, research institutes and universities.

“On behalf of the Leukaemia Foundation, I sincerely congratulate Basit Salik, Dr Jamie Kuzich and Dr Julian Grabek and we look forward to seeing their research translate into improved results for people in our community living with AML and MPN.

“The more we all know about blood cancer and best treatment options, the better our chances of curing and conquering this complex set of diseases, and the closer we are to realising our united vision to see zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035.”

The Leukaemia Foundation has been supporting Australian blood cancer research and the careers of promising scientists and clinicians for over 20 years. These PhD Scholarships, valued at $130,000 each, are part of the Leukaemia Foundation’s National Research Program which has invested more than $54.5 million into research since 2000.

The Leukaemia Foundation is proud to partner with HSANZ – an organisation which promotes excellence, advocates for improvements in the care of patients with blood cancer and supports blood cancer research. Together the Leukaemia Foundation and HSANZ aim to help more medical and science graduates pursue a research career in blood cancer through co-funded PhD scholarships.

The Leukaemia Foundation thanks Brydens Lawyers and the Bourne Foundation for their generous contribution and support to the PhD Scholarship program.

The Leukaemia Foundation is committed to funding research the drives rapid advancements in treatments, diagnostics and novel therapies and gives Australians access to the latest treatments through clinical trials. More on the Leukaemia Foundation’s National Research Program here.

The Leukaemia Foundation receives no ongoing government funding, and the National Research Program relies on the continued support of generous donation. To find out how to support the Leukaemia Foundation’s National Research Program call 1800 620 420.

“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,” Ms Struthers said.

Learn more about the successful research projects here.

Find out more about AML here, more about MPN here, or subscribe to the Leukaemia Foundation’s disease-specific newsletters here.

END

About The Leukaemia Foundation:

The Leukaemia Foundation stands with Australia to help cure and conquer blood cancer – with care. Together we are attacking every blood cancer, from every direction, in every way we can. We stand beside every Australian to be their voice and their someone-to-turn-to, fighting to get them access to the best care. We also accelerate research that’s delivering rapid advancements in blood cancer diagnosis and treatments. Plus, we provide services and support that empower people living with any blood cancer to live well after diagnosis. You can learn more about the Leukaemia Foundation and blood cancer at leukaemia.org.au.

About HSANZ:

The Haematology Society of Australia and New Zealand aims to promote, foster and develop the discipline of haematology in all its aspects and particularly provides support and advocacy for research in haematology. More about HSANZ here.

Osher Gunsberg shines a light on blood cancer and hosts Australia’s first virtual Light the Night event

Osher Gunsberg shines a light on blood cancer and hosts Australia’s first virtual Light the Night event

Tuesday September 30, 2020

Osher Gunsberg has today been announced as host of the Leukaemia Foundation’s first virtual Light the Night event, with the popular Australian media personality set to guide tens of thousands of people across the country through a special evening of blood cancer awareness this October.

For 13 years, close to 400,000 Australians affected by blood cancer have gathered in cities and towns nationwide for the annual Light the Night event, to stand united in support for each other and a shared hope for a future free from blood cancer.

Due to COVID-19, this year’s Light the Night has been reimagined as a virtual event, with registered participants now able to join with Osher and the national blood cancer community when they stream the official ceremony online on Saturday 10 October at 8pm local time.

Light the Night host Osher Gunsberg said he was proud to be supporting the Leukaemia Foundation and to give back to the organisation that supported his mum during her battle with blood cancer.

Osher’s mother battled the blood cancer myeloma also known as multiple myeloma, for several years and sadly passed from the disease in 2018.

When my mum was battling myeloma, a highlight of her week was the support from her Sunday walks with the Leukaemia Foundation’s [volunteers]. She felt so much support, so much solidarity and was full of gratitude,” Osher said.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t miss my mum, however I’m grateful for the lessons she has taught me during that time.”

Every day, 47 Australians are diagnosed with a blood cancer including myeloma, lymphoma and leukaemia. The Leukaemia Foundation’s latest State of the Nation: Blood Cancer in Australia report confirms that in just 15 years, by 2035, this number will more than double to 100 people per day.

Leukaemia Foundation General Manager of Supporters Rachael Lance said the Leukaemia Foundation warmly welcomes Osher Gunsberg as this year’s Light the Night host and is encouraging all Australians touched by blood cancer to register now and join the organisation for this very special event.

“It will be one national moment for the blood cancer community to come together – regardless of where you live, or your connection to blood cancer. Everyone will be able to join in and be part of this shared experience of support, hope and unity,” Ms Lance said.

“We Light the Night to give hope to everyone touched by blood cancer now, and to cure and conquer blood cancer into the future.”

Light the Night is free to attend and all fundraising through the event provides precious relief for families affected by blood cancer as well as supporting the Leukaemia Foundation to work towards achieving zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035.

Join Osher Gunsberg and other Australians affected by blood cancer at this year’s Light the Night event.

Official Lanterns can still be secured by new participants up to Thursday, 1st October so they can be delivered in time for the night.

To register or for more information, visit lightthenight.org.au or phone 1800 500 088.  

National Action Plan represents Australian first opportunity to achieve zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035

National Action Plan represents Australian first opportunity to achieve zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035

Sunday, September 27 2020

The Leukaemia Foundation has today welcomed the Federal Government’s release[1] of the National Strategic Action Plan for Blood Cancer, a first of-its-kind report to unite Australia towards a goal of zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035.

Released today by Federal Minister for Health, The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, the groundbreaking National Action Plan was developed by the Blood Cancer Taskforce together with the broader blood cancer community and provides an evidence-based blueprint setting the national agenda to cure and conquer blood cancers.

It is the roadmap to achieve the vision of zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035, underpinned by zero preventable deaths regardless of geography or background, through equitable access to best practice treatment and care for all Australians.

The release of the National Action Plan during Blood Cancer Awareness Month this September comes one year since the Minister established the Blood Cancer Taskforce and charged the unique collaboration of 29 of the country’s top blood cancer experts, patients and leaders with developing the agenda for change. The move was prompted by the release of the Leukaemia Foundation’s State of the Nation: Blood Cancer in Australia report.

Today’s National Action Plan launch includes Federal Government funding support to continue the work of the Taskforce into the future and kickstart implementation of actions within the plan.

Leukaemia Foundation Acting CEO Alex Struthers said the significance of today’s announcement for Australians living with blood cancer could not be overstated.

“Today, together, we turn the tables on blood cancer in this country,” she said.

“The release of the National Action Plan backed by the support of the Federal Government marks a paradigm shift to change the face of treatment and survival outcomes for all Australians facing blood cancer.

“We congratulate the Federal Government for elevating the growing issue of blood cancer to the national agenda. This is a vital moment in time which will lead to significant, positive change for people across our country living with this disease for generations to come.”

“We are delighted to continue as the lead organisation to support the Taskforce in its work to implement the recommendations of the National Action Plan.”

Ms Struthers said the Leukaemia Foundation was proud to have played a key role in bringing the issue of blood cancer into the national spotlight by commissioning the State of the Nation report – a comprehensive, evidence-based report which identified that blood cancer is more significant and prevalent than ever before.

“For the past 45 years, the Leukaemia Foundation has supported and advocated for people living with blood cancer, standing with every Australian affected by this disease to be their voice and their someone-to-turn-to and fighting to get them access to the best treatment, care and support,” she said.

“Through the release of the State of the Nation report last year, we began ushering in a new era of change for the national blood cancer community, and, united with that community, we have worked hard since to build momentum towards targeted national action to cure and conquer blood cancers, which is what we are seeing today.”

Ms Struthers said while Australia had strong health systems across the country which were achieving remarkable results in improving blood cancer survival rates and treatment, there was more work to be done to improve access to treatment and supportive care.

“The Leukaemia Foundation wants to ensure all Australians living with blood cancer have the same access to the best treatments, services and care, at the right time, no matter where they live. Breaking down these barriers is our priority,” she said.

“It is our hope that implementation of the National Action Plan will unite Australia’s blood cancer community and governments to bridge gaps in treatment and care, and, ultimately, realise what is now a shared vision to see zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035.”

The National Strategic Action Plan identifies four major priorities to improve outcomes for people living with blood cancer and their families:
•    Achieve best practice
•    Empower patients and their families
•    Accelerate research
•    Enable Access to novel and specialised therapies

“The National Action Plan shows us that through coordinated and strategic collaboration between patients, patient organisations, clinicians, researchers, industry and government, we could see greater access to evidence-based treatments and care nationally, which will improve survival rates for Australians living with blood cancer,” Ms Struthers said.

“Equally important, it also shows us the potential to collectively reimagine how we are all walking alongside people living with blood cancer, empowering them throughout their journey and supporting them to live full lives after diagnosis.

“The Leukaemia Foundation celebrates the National Action Plan as an exciting opportunity to transform blood cancer treatment and care. We look forward to joining with the broader blood cancer community to support its implementation and, ultimately, save and improve thousands of Australian lives today and into the future.”

View the full National Strategic Action Plan here.

A complete list of Blood Cancer Taskforce members is available here.

Leukaemia Foundation spokespeople are available for comment by contacting the Leukaemia Foundation media team on media@leukaemia.org.au

END

About Blood Cancer in Australia
Incidence and Mortality[2]:

  • Every year, 17,321 Australians will be newly diagnosed with blood cancer such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. This is equivalent to 47 people every day or one person every 31 minutes.
  • Incidence of blood cancer continues to grow. Over the past 10 years, incidence of blood cancer has increased by over 30%.
  • Blood cancer does not discriminate. It can develop in anyone, can occur at any age and at any stage of life across all states and territories, from children to adolescents and young adults to working adults with families and older Australians.
  • When combined, blood cancers are among the most frequently diagnosed cancers in Australia, and the most significant cause of non-preventable cancer death.
  • One in 10 Australians diagnosed with cancer will have a blood cancer.
  • Over 5,600 people in Australia are expected to lose their life to blood cancer or related blood disorders this year. This is equivalent to 15 people per day in Australia.
  • Blood cancer is one of the highest causes of cancer death in Australia, claiming more lives than breast cancer (3,031) and melanoma (1,375) combined.
  • Approximately one in nine cancer deaths in Australia will be due to blood cancer.
  • There are no screening programs available for blood cancers, and there is no way to prevent blood cancer through lifestyle change.

Prevalence[3]:

  • Based on AIHW data, the State of the Nation: Blood Cancer in Australia report identified issues with the under notification of blood cancers in Australia and anticipates that more than 110,000 people are currently living with blood cancer or a related blood disorder in Australia today.