Access to CAR-T therapy will now be available to lymphoma patients | Leukaemia Foundation

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

Tuesday 28 January 2020

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.

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