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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information and to coordinate an interview with Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch please contact