New Australian facilities announced for break-through CAR-T therapy and other immunotherapy clinical trials
Tuesday, 26 March 2019
The Leukaemia Foundation welcomes the federal government $80 million investment to establish the Peter MacCallum Centre as a new base for Car-T Cell therapy and other immunotherapy clinical trials in Australia.
The funding package would help to build 2,600 square met facilities to manufacture commercial CAR-T therapy, proving capacity and capability for more than 200 patients, who would have previously had to travel to the United States and pay around $500,000 to access the treatment.
CAR-T cell therapy involves harvesting a patient’s T-cells, a type of immune cell, and genetically engineering them to attack cancerous cells and destroy them. The cells are then reintroduced into the body’s blood stream, where they search for, and kill cancerous B-cells.
The Leukaemia Foundation recognises CAR-T Cell therapy as a potential game changer in the treatment of patients with aggressive leukaemia and lymphoma.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told Australians that the funding was part of next week’s Budget announcement, which would deliver $496 million in health funding in Victoria alone.
A Leukaemia Foundation spokesperson said the funding would ensure Australians could access the game changing CAR-T Cell immunotherapy in their own country.
“Access to the world leading CAR-T Cell therapy will give very sick Australians battling blood cancer access to this treatment, which would have previously been out of reach for most Australians,” the spokesperson said.
“The Leukaemia Foundation’s priority is to ensure Australians living with blood cancer will have equal access to CAR-T Cell therapy, whether they live in a metropolitan city or rural town, anywhere in Australia,” they added.
“We continue to be strong advocates for CAR-T Cell therapy which has shown promising results for Australians living with blood cancers like relapsed or refractory diffuse large B cell Lymphomas, and Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia – Australia’s most common childhood cancer killer.”
Results in previous clinical trials in children and young adults with relapsed or refractory ALL show an 82 per cent remission rate within three months, and a 62 per cent relapse-free survival after two years of the treatment.
While for some patients, CAR-T therapy may lead to a cure, other patients may relapse meaning the therapy will then be used as the mechanism to lead to remission to enable a stem cell transplant as the next line treatment option.
“Immunotherapies and targeted treatments like CAR-T Cell therapy are the new face of treatment for blood cancers. Any support to fast track these treatments to enable increased access to people living with these blood cancers will change the face of blood cancer treatments in this country.”
We look forward to the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) finalising its assessment of the current CAR-T so it can become available through the public health system soon,” the spokesperson said.
For further information please visit www.leukaemia.org.au or contact your local Blood Cancer Support Coordinator on 1800 620 420.