CAR-T cell therapy tisagenlecleucel (Kymriah) has been funded by the federal government for paediatric and young adult patients up to the age of 25 with B-cell precursor ALL.
The funding, through public hospitals via the National Health Reform Agreement, follows long-anticipated approval by the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) for its use in young patients with disease that is refractory, in relapse post-transplant, or in second or later relapse.
Announcing the funding, federal health minister Greg Hunt said it would allow children and young adults to access CAR-T cell therapy at specialised tertiary public hospitals in Australia rather than need to travel overseas for the treatment that would cost more than $500,000.
The product sponsor Novartis said Kymriah could be a treatment option for about 30 paediatric and young adult acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) patients per year who relapse or do not respond to initial therapy. The company said had entered into negotiations of a manufacturing agreement to complete the technical transfer of the manufacturing process for its CAR-T cell therapy to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne.
“CAR-T therapy is paradigm-changing and we welcome this announcement which will ensure young ALL patients will now have affordable access to this transformative treatment,” said Associate Professor Simon Harrison, Director of Centre of Excellence in Cellular Immunotherapy and Director of Apheresis, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
“We are proud that we can offer these state-of-the-art therapies as a government funded standard-of-care to Australian patients who need them.”
Just weeks ago the government announced $80 million funding to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne to help it become a domestic CAR-T cell manufacturing hub.
The treatment is currently also under MSAC consideration for use in adult patients with relapsed or refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), a significantly larger patient population than the estimated 30 which may benefit from the latest funding.