CAR T-CELL THERAPY

CAR T-cell therapy is a new form of immunotherapy that uses specially altered T-cells to directly and precisely target cancer cells.

The immune system is made up of a variety of cells and organs that normally protect the body from infection and cancer.

An important component of the immune system are T-cells, which have the capacity to hunt down and destroy abnormal cells, including some cancer cells.

Sometimes, cancer cells find ways to evade the immune system; so, the immune system needs to be retrained and enhanced to recognize and attack cancer cells.

CAR T-cell therapy is one innovative approach to program and strengthen the immune system to attack some forms of cancer.

After a small portion of a patient's own T-cells has been collected from the blood, these cells are re-engineered in a special laboratory so they now carry special structures called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) on their surface.

When these CAR T-cells are reinjected into the patient, they multiply rapidly and these engineered receptors may help the T-cells to identify and attack cancer cells throughout the body.

CAR T-cell therapy has been shown to be effective in B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and adult diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). 

There are no approved CAR-T treatments worldwide for solid cancers. However, research is underway at Peter Mac in CAR T-cell treatment of solid cancers.  Please see ClinicalTrials.gov for further information.

CAR T-cell therapy is distinct from, and does not replace, allogeneic (from a donor) stem cell transplant.  Find out more information on allogeneic transplants. 

Access

Regulatory approval

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved Novartis’ CAR T-cell therapy product Kymriah® (tisagenlecleucel, formerly CTL019). The approved indications are for the treatment of paediatric and young adult patients up to 25 years of age with B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) that is refractory, in relapse post-transplant, or in second or later relapse; and for the treatment of adult patients with relapsed or refractory diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL) after two or more lines of systemic therapy. 

Funding approval

The CAR T-cell therapy Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) is currently funded for:

  • paediatric and young adult patients (up to 25 yrs) with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) who relapse or do not respond to initial therapy.

CAR T-cell therapy will soon be publicly funded in Australia for the treatment of eligible adult patients with relapsed or refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) (see eligibility criteria  for treatment with Kymriah).

This follows a positive recommendation from the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) and announcement  by the Minister for Health on Tuesday 28 January 2020.

For any queries related to patient eligibility for CAR T-cell therapy or how patients can access this treatment, please email us at: [email protected]

Clinical trials

We continue to look for new uses of CAR T-cell therapy in clinical trials, and we are looking to enrol specific patients into current and upcoming clinical trials in Leukaemia, Lymphoma and some solid cancers. For clinical trial availability email: [email protected] or visit ClinicalTrials.gov.

Please discuss with your haematologist or oncologist to assess if CAR T-cell therapy is an appropriate therapy for your disease.