CAR-T therapy now accessible in Victoria for young Australians with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

CAR-T therapy now accessible in Victoria for young Australians with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia at no cost

Monday 5 August 2019

The Leukaemia Foundation has welcomed the announcement by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and Victorian Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos to collaborate and co-fund CAR-T therapy in Victoria. The treatment will be available immediately and at no cost for 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 announcement confirms that tisagenlecleucel, formerly CTL019, (Kymriah®) CAR-T therapy will be available at the Royal Children’s Hospital and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre for Victorian patients and for interstate patients who travel to Melbourne to receive the treatment.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch said: “We applaud the collaboration between Federal and State governments to ensure this innovative treatment is available in Victoria at no cost to patients.”

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

The Leukaemia Foundation will support all paediatric and young adult patients accessing this CAR-T therapy. This includes practical support such as accommodation and support services in Melbourne as well as emotional support for ALL patients and their families.

“We want to make sure that all Australians have equal access to this procedure, whether they live in a metropolitan city or rural town, anywhere in Australia. We remain committed to encouraging and supporting fast access to innovative treatment for all Australians living with blood cancer,” Mr Petch said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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