Aussie scientists get approval for ‘future of cancer therapy’ as they pioneer a treatment which could make 80 per cent of cases curable within next two decades
- A new treatment for multiple myeloma has been approved
- 80 per cent of cancers could be cured in 20 to 30 years
- Therapy is a one-off treatment providing a functional cure
A new one-off treatment pioneered by Australian scientists has been approved in the fight against cancer, which some experts believe could pave the way to curing 80 per cent of cases within two to three decades.
The therapy, called CARVYKTI, helps treat patients with multiple myeloma and will be used when other lines of treatment fail.
Around 1,100 Australians lose their lives to multiple myeloma each year, which develops in the blood through plasma cells in bone marrow.
The treatment has now been signed off on by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which is the first time in Australia that a CAR-T cell therapy has been approved for use against a common cancer.
CAR-T cell therapy is a personalised immunotherapy where blood is extracted so that doctors can re-engineer the patient’s own T cells to kill cancer inside the body after it is reinjected.
T cells are part of your immune system which fight infection, and CAR-T cells are designed to find and attack BCMA, a protein found on the surface of nearly all multiple myeloma cells, according to Janssen Biotech and Legend Biotech who developed the new treatment.
A new one-off treatment has been approved in the fight against cancer which some experts believe could pave the way to curing 80 per cent of cancers within two-to-three decades
CAR-T cell therapy is a personalised immunotherapy where blood is extracted so that doctors can re-engineer the patient’s own T cells to kill cancer inside the body after it is reinjected
Blood withdrawal from patients takes between three to six hours before the sample is sent to a special laboratory where structures called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) are placed on their surface over a five-week process.
Once reinjected, the cells rapidly multiply and aggressively attack any cancer cells throughout the body.
The TGA approval is an important step towards making CAR-T cell therapy an option for doctors and patients seeking treatment, according to director of the Centre for Blood Cell Therapies at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Miles Prince.
‘This therapy represents a total paradigm shift, it’s a one-off living drug that can cure patients that have cancers that are otherwise incurable,’ Mr Prince told The Australian.
‘This approval is really important news and it’s the first major step towards regulation of this product. It sets the scene for us to be able to establish this therapy in Australia, and we can start … preparing for the treatment of patients with myeloma.’
CAR-T cell therapy will soon be published on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods and patients who have tried at least three lines of prior therapy unsuccessfully will be approved for its use.
Recent studies into the effectiveness of CAR-T cell therapy have found ‘compelling evidence’ that between 72 to 97 per cent of patients respond to the treatment, according to an Evohealth report.
The report also found that up to 77 per cent of those who responded well to the treatment experienced no disease growth in the 12 months following the reinjection.
Another study by the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago also found that CARVYKTI was effective in people with myeloma who were no longer responding to lenalidomide, a chemotherapy medicine.
T cells are part of your immune system which fight infection, and CAR-T cells are designed to find and attack BCMA, a protein found on the surface of nearly all multiple myeloma cells (pictured T cells attacking a cancer cell)
CARVYKTI has been found to be effective in people with myeloma who were no longer responding to lenalidomide, a chemotherapy medicine (pictured lymphocytes attacking a cancer cell)
Despite the promising findings, patients hoping to receive CAR-T cell therapy will struggle to get approval as there is currently no public funding for the treatment.
The Medical Services Advisory Committee has previously refused to approve public funding requests.
However, Janssen confirmed to the Australian that it would lodge an urgent reimbursement application to the MSAC for consideration in its November meeting.
In the next 25 years another 4.5 million cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed, and more than 100 clinical trials of CAR-T cell therapies are underway to help increase the current survival rate – which sits at 55 per cent after five years.