Date published: 
28 January 2020
Media type: 
Media release
General public

Access to a cutting edge and potentially curative cancer therapy will be expanded for patients with particular forms of lymphoma, following a positive recommendation from the medical experts on the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC).

Between 200 and 250 additional cancer patients with Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma, Transformed Follicular Lymphoma and Primary Mediastinal B Cell Lymphoma, are expected to benefit from access to the CAR T-cell therapy, Kymriah®, each year.

Kymriah is a type of CAR T-cell therapy that uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. The patients T cells are extracted from the body, genetically reengineered and programmed to recognise and destroy cancer cells, and then reimplanted into the body.

Together with states and territories, the Government currently provides Kymriah to children and young adults with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia for free.

Treatment would cost more than $500,000 for each patient without Government funding.

The agreement with Novartis to extend the availability of this treatment to patients with some types of lymphoma through the public health system, follows a positive recommendation from the medical experts on the MSAC. An MSAC recommendation and agreement with the supplier is an essential step in the public funding process. 

Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma is the most common type of Non Hodgkin Lymphoma. Most patients respond very well to current treatments, but for a small number of patients the disease relapses or is resistant to everything available.

Transformed Follicular Lymphoma and Primary Mediastinal Large B Cell Lymphoma are less common types of lymphoma that can also be hard to treat in some patients.

Treatment with Kymriah gives patients a new chance at achieving remission.

As Kymriah is a highly specialised treatment, it is delivered to patients in specialised tertiary public hospitals.

Melbourne is also set to become one of the few cities in the world to manufacture CAR T-cell therapies for the treatment of cancer, with the signing of an historic partnership agreement between Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Novartis Pharmaceuticals, to manufacture Kymriah in Melbourne.

The Government welcomes this announcement.

This historic partnership agreement adds to the Morrison Government’s broader commitment to the Parkville Precinct and Victoria as a world leading health and medical research centre, with a particular focus on cancer.

It follows our $460 million investment in a range of health and medical research centres throughout the state, including $80 million to establish the Centre for Excellence in Cellular Immunotherapy at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.  

The Centre for Excellence in Cellular Immunotherapy is supporting the capacity and capability of Australia’s leading cancer specialists to use CAR T-cell therapy for the treatment of certain types of cancer.

The manufacture of Kymriah at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre means patient cells will no longer need to be shipped overseas for processing.

Australia will become one of the few countries in the world to manufacture CAR T-cell therapies.

This demonstrates the advanced medical manufacturing capabilities we have in Australia and Victoria.

The Morrison Government’s commitment to ensuring Australians can access affordable treatments, when they need them, remains rock solid.

Former ministers: