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Vital cancer treatment now available through Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for more Australians living with blood cancer

The Leukaemia Foundation has welcomed news that cancer treatment, blinatumumab (Blincyto®) will be available for patients in the early stage of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) who have minimal residual disease (MRD, through the Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme (PBS) effective December 1, 2019. A patient has MRD if they respond well to initial chemotherapy, but a small number of cancer cells can still be detected.

Blinatumumab (Blincyto ®) was previously available through the PBS only for patients with relapsed or refractory forms Philadelphia chromosome negative (Ph-) B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (B-ALL).

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia is a rare, life-threatening form of leukaemia that affects both adults and children. Up to 450 Australians are diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia each year, and around half are children.

Leukaemia Foundation CEO Bill Petch joined Federal Minister for Health, The Hon. Greg Hunt MP and industry leaders today at the Royal North Shore Private Hospital in Sydney for the announcement.

Mr Petch said the extended listing of blinatumomab meant that there were more options available for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia patients, which is welcomed and appreciated by the blood cancer community.

“This is an important announcement for people living with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which is an acute and incredibly aggressive form of blood cancer.” he said.

The announcement comes just one-week before the national Blood Cancer Taskforce are set to meet at the Australian Parliament House in Canberra with the Federal Minister for Health.

In response to the Leukaemia Foundation’s Blood Cancer in Australia report recently released, the Federal Minister for Health, The Hon. Greg Hunt MP announced the development of a national Blood Cancer Taskforce and charged the Leukaemia Foundation with delivering Australia’s first National Strategic Action Plan for Blood Cancer, with a goal of zero lives lost from blood cancer by 2035.

The Blood Cancer Taskforce unites Australia’s leading hematologists, researchers, patients and members of the blood cancer ecosystem for the first time to work with the Leukaemia Foundation to develop the National Strategic Action Plan, which will provide the blueprint to help tackle key issues facing people affected by blood cancer community today and into the future.

Mr Petch said the formation of the Taskforce and development of the National Strategic Action Plan together mark a major milestone for the blood cancer community and will set the national agenda around blood cancer for many years to come.

The Leukaemia Foundation provides free practical, emotional and educational support to Australian’s diagnosed with a blood cancer including ALL. The Leukaemia Foundation produces a series of disease specific newsletters including ALL News, and invites all Australians living with the disease to subscribe for ongoing information here.