FOR the first time in more than 10 years, people with some incurable forms of lymphoma – Australia’s most commonly diagnosed blood cancer – should soon have access to a range of new treatments.
Some of these therapies have been approved for use in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and now patients are waiting for drug manufacturers to have them assessed for affordable access on Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
Several new lymphoma therapies may already be accessed through participation in a clinical trial and many are showing very promising results.
These therapies will be the first new treatment options available to lymphoma patients since the introduction in 2003 of the targeted therapy, rituximab, which greatly improved survival rates for people with lymphoma.
“It’s really an exciting time, and people with lymphoma should ask their clinicians about what clinical trials they may be eligible for,” says Tracey Dryden, National Lymphoma Coordinator for the Leukaemia Foundation.
A key challenge in Australia is affordable access to the world’s best therapies to treat lymphoma and there are several therapies readily available internationally that Australians do not have access to on the PBS.
As Australia’s peak body for lymphoma, the Leukaemia Foundation is also committed to improving access to new blood cancer therapies.
September 15 is the 11th annual World Lymphoma Awareness Day (WLAD) and the Leukaemia Foundation is using this global event to highlight the need for equitable access to treatments for people with lymphoma.
Historically, accordingly to the Leukaemia Foundation’s Head of Research & Advocacy, Dr Anna Williamson, two major issues have contributed to Australians with rare lymphoma subtypes not having equitable access to therapies: lymphoma has received limited funding for research; and an expensive, complex, and lengthy drug approval process.
“Clinical trials often provide access to potential new lymphoma therapies long before they become available to most Australians. So, if someone’s lymphoma is progressing, they should consider taking part in a clinical trial,” said Dr Williamson.
“There is no strategic process for setting priorities for conducting clinical trials in Australia, and there have been very few trials in lymphoma here compared to other cancer types. Considering lymphoma has worse survival outcomes than many of the other common cancers, and is the sixth most common form of cancer, this is not acceptable.
Source: The Leukaemia Foundation