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New Multi-Million Dollar Research Program Announced As Light The Night Campaign Launches Today

Monday, 20 August 2018

The Leukaemia Foundation will today unveil the first project to receive funding from its new multi-million dollar national research program.

The Centre for Blood Transplant and Cell Therapy (CBTCT) will receive $1 million from the Leukaemia Foundation to meet the urgent need for new approaches to better prevent and treat the potentially deadly graft versus host disease (GVHD).

The new funding announcement comes as the Leukaemia Foundation launches the annual Light the Night campaign for 2018, with funds raised this year going toward the new national research program.

Leukaemia Foundation’s CEO Bill Petch said this investment towards better outcomes for Australians living with GVHD was the first in a line of funding research and partnerships to be announced this year.

“This funding is part of the Leukaemia Foundation’s new, high impact, research strategy and is committed to supporting medical research that will drive rapid advancements in treatments,” said Mr Petch.

In Australia, GVHD affects an alarming 50 to 70 per cent of stem cell transplant (SCT) recipients and, both young and old. It occurs when donated cells (the graft) see your body cells (the host) as foreign, and attack them. Chronic GVHD severely compromises a person’s quality of life, causing severe abdominal pain, mouth ulcers, muscle or joint pain and extreme damage to vital organs such as lungs and liver.

GVHD is a killer. It is one of the most significant contributors for transplant related deaths and 20% of SCT recipients develop severe acute GVHD that does not respond to conventional treatment, resulting in more than half of those people dying.

“As Australia’s only dedicated blood cancer organisation, the Leukaemia Foundation cannot continue to allow our loved ones to suffer and die from GVHD. We need to take this major step to search for better prevention and treatment in hopes for a future that is free from GVHD, and free from blood cancer,” Mr Petch added.

The Leukaemia Foundation is a major partner and the only non-government organisation to support the CBTCT project. To ensure patients have equitable access to the research and trials conducted by the CBTCT, the Leukaemia Foundation also will provide additional funding for eligible patients for their transport and accommodation needs.

CBTCT’s Principle Investigator, Professor David Gottlieb said the funding would help support research into a better outcome for all Australians living with GVHD.

“The reality is that many patients say they would rather not live than spend the rest of their lives with this awful disease,” Prof Gottlieb said. “This investment will contribute to generating new knowledge in the fields of transplant immunology and cell therapy and improve patient outcomes nationally.”

Light the Night will be held across Australia on Friday, 5th October 2018. To find your closest Light the Night event and support leading blood cancer research visit lightthenight.org.au or call 1800 500 088.