CAR T-cell therapy will be provided free of charge to about 30 young patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia a year in Victorian centres.
Treatment for local and interstate patients will be provided at the Royal Children’s Hospital and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre as part of a joint-funding agreement announced by the Victorian and Commonwealth governments.
Victorian Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos said the agreement means the CAR T-cell therapy Kymriah will be provided locally for children and young adults up to the age of 25 with ALL who would otherwise face costs of up to $600,000 for treatment in the US.
“Sadly, for many, this expensive treatment was out of reach. These brave young people battling cancer will now be able to get the life-saving therapy they need, without needing to go overseas,” she said
“This is groundbreaking therapy that we’ve not had available before, [and] we’re so proud to be leading the way here in Victoria,” she added.
Federal minister for health said he was hopeful CAR T-cell therapy would also be funded for adults if it receives approval by the TGA. It is currently only available for adults via clinical trials.
The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre has received an $80 million investment to further develop and trial CAR T-cell therapies for Victorian patients into the future.
This will include a new dedicated 14 bed/chair cellular immunotherapy clinical unit for provision of Kymriah and potentially, other novel cellular therapies.
CAR T-cell therapy centres in other parts of Australia are in planning stages.
In 2017, there were 105 new diagnoses for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, of which 60 were children or young adults.