‘Five decades at the cutting edge’: ALLG turns 50


By Geir O'Rourke

20 Apr 2023

The Australasian Leukaemia and Lymphoma Group (ALLG) has launched a dedicated website outlining its ‘five decades of impact’ as the group celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Formed in 1973 following a meeting of seven haematologists from around the country, the organisation started out life as NHL Cooperative Chemotherapy Study Group. The aim was ambitious: to create the country’s first collaborative trials group for haematology/oncology.

Professor Judith Trotman

Some 50 years later, that ambition has been more than realised, while blood cancer treatment has transformed – in no small part thanks to the thousands of volunteer members’ efforts.

Now running across 93 hospitals around Australia and New Zealand, the ALLG has supported over 12,500 patients in over 160 clinical trials so far.

It has also had greater than 220 publications in peer reviewed journals, presented results at 293 scientific conferences and collaborated with 10 international research cooperative trial group partners.

The upshot has been extraordinary advances in survival for patients with a wide range of haematological cancers, says the ALLG’s scientific advisory committee chair Professor Judith Trotman.

“Fifty years ago, most patients with blood cancer died within months,” she said.

“Now, many will have a near-normal life expectancy.”

The head of haematology at Concord Hospital in Sydney, Professor Trotman said she still remembered attending her first ALLG meetings as a registrar some 22 years ago.

“I remember sitting in ALLG meetings being so excited to hear about these trials that were really at the cutting edge, but I had to ban myself from attending any more until I had actually recruited a single patient to an ALLG trial.”

“Since then, it’s been a real privilege to be a part of the ALLG’s involvement – and often leadership – in the global revolution in targeted blood cancer care.”

She pointed to the group’s pioneering work in the use of molecular response targets to guide treatment decisions in CML as a key achievement, adding the ALLG had run some of the first ever trials resulting in treatment-free remission for the disease.

But the group had made contributions across the full spectrum of blood cancers, Professor Trotman said.

“Clinical trials conduct has grown enormously in sophistication” she said.

“And the important thing about modern ALLG trials are that they are focussing on more than just survival, but on the broader priorities of our patients. Better Treatments and Better Lives is a living tagline.”

“It’s our own Australian and New Zealand patients participating: Caucasians, Asians and the Pasifika peoples, who we increasingly realise have different characteristics and needs to those elsewhere.”

Professor Trotman said the ALLG’s future promised to be even more exciting.

“Our scientific working parties are large, committed teams of talent: well led and and well-supported and are developing an incredibly broad pipeline of trials now.”

“We are developing trials across every blood cancer. Our members are clinician researchers inspired by the patients they cure, and driven by those we can’t” she added.

How blood cancer survivorship has changed over the years
Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)
• In 1989, only 35% (one third) of adults in their 20s diagnosed with ALL survived 5 years after diagnosis
• Thirty years later, in 2018, more than 75% of these young adults with ALL are alive 5 years after diagnosisAcute myeloid leukaemia (AML)
• In 1989, 15% of persons in their 40s and 50s (or “middle aged adults”) diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia survived 5 years after diagnosis.
• In 2018, 53% of these adults diagnosed with AML survived 5 years after diagnosis, a greater than three-fold improvement.

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)
• In 1989, less than half (49%) of persons over 80 years old diagnosed with CLL survived 5 years after diagnosis
• In 2018, two thirds (66%) of persons over 80 years old diagnosed with CLL survived 5 years after diagnosis

Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML)
• In 1989, less than half (48%) of young adults in their 20s and 30s diagnosed with CML survived 5 years after diagnosis
• In 2018, 96%, almost every one of these young adults diagnosed with CML survives 5 years after diagnosis

Hodgkin lymphoma (HL)
• In 1989, 78% of all persons diagnosed with HL survived 5 years after diagnosis
• In 2018, 88% survived 5 years after diagnosis. The survival advances for older adults (aged in their 60s and 70s) diagnosed with HL has risen from 46% to 70% survival in thirty years.

• In 1989, 28% of all persons diagnosed with myeloma survived 5 years after diagnosis
• In 2018, 57% of all persons diagnosed with myeloma survived 5 years after diagnosis

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)
• In 1989, 45% of all persons aged 60-80, the majority of patients diagnosed with NHL, survived 5 years after diagnosis
• In 2018, 77% of this population diagnosed with NHL survived 5 years after diagnosis
Source: ALLG



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