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Leukaemia Foundation welcomes MSAC recommendation for genetic testing for blood cancers

The Leukaemia Foundation has welcomed the Medical Services Advisory Committee’s (MSAC) landmark support for the creation of a new Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) item for blood cancer genomics.

The proposed genetic tests will help haematologists identify the specific type of blood cancer a patient has, enabling clinicians to more precisely match patients to targeted therapies. It can also help identify whether the patient will respond to treatment and the likelihood of relapse.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Chris Tanti said the MSAC’s recommendation marks a major improvement for blood cancer patients and their supporters.

“We acknowledge and applaud MSAC for its recommendation. The Leukaemia Foundation has been a vocal advocate for universal access to genomic testing in Australia for many years. This technology has the potential to save lives, by ensuring faster and more accurate diagnostics and more precise treatment. Yet for most patients, this testing is not standard,” Mr Tanti said.

“Lives are still being needlessly lost due to inconsistencies in diagnosis, treatment and care. Systematic genetic and genomic testing is essential to reducing errors and improving survival outcomes. Getting an accurate blood cancer diagnosis and the best treatment should be universally available, regardless of where someone lives or whether they can afford to pay.”

The Leukaemia Foundation has continued to drive the need for genomic testing as part of its wider strategy to drive down mortality rates and improve outcomes for blood cancer patients. Genomic testing as a standard of care was one of the key findings from the National Strategic Action Plan for Blood Cancer (2020)1.

Blood Cancer Taskforce Co-Chair and Director, Clinical Haematology at the Peter MacCallum Centre & Royal Melbourne Hospital, Professor John Seymour said MSAC had made a substantial and potentially transformative step forward for patients with blood cancers, and the wider blood cancer community more broadly.

“National availability of such testing for all patients in need, regardless of their capacity to pay, breaks down a barrier to accurate diagnosis of their specific blood cancer among the more than 200 distinct entities. An accurate diagnosis is a necessary and fundamental first step to inform and enable optimal therapy,” Professor Seymour said.

The Leukaemia Foundation’s latest 2023 State of the Nation: Blood Cancers in Australia report demonstrated the potential impact of harnessing this technology is demonstrable and profound. New data from the report showed 31 per cent of blood cancer patients who had a genomic test had their diagnosis and treatment plan altered2, potentially improving not only their chances of survival but their overall quality of life.

“MSAC’s recommendation marks a significant milestone for the wider blood cancer community. Equitable access through the MBS to genomics testing has the potential to bring us one step closer to our vision of zero lives lost to blood cancer by 2035,” Mr Tanti said.

“We are encouraged that ‘MSAC considered the testing to be safe, effective, good value for money, and to have an acceptable cost to the Medicare Benefits Schedule’3. We now urge the Government to accept MSAC’s advice and subsidise access to this new, lifesaving technology.”

The full recommendation for genetic testing for variants associated with haematalogical malignancies is available on the MSAC website.

The full State of the Nation: Blood Cancers in Australia 2023 report is available at